Southern Ocean Facts

  • The Southern Ocean is the world’s fourth largest ocean. It stretches all the way round Antarctica, and has an area of 35,000,000 sq km.
  • It is the only ocean that stretches all around the world.
  • In winter over half the Southern Ocean is covered with ice and icebergs that break off the Antarctic ice sheet.
  • The East Wind Drift is a current that flows anticlockwise around Antarctica close to the coast.
  • Further out from the coast of Antarctica, the Antarctic circumpolar current flows in the opposite direction – clockwise from west to east.
  • The circumpolar current carries more water than any other current in the world.
  • Many penguins such as the Emperor, the world’s largest penguin, live on the ice floes of the Southern Ocean.
  • Beneath the surface of the Antarctic ice, the sea temperature reaches just -2°C. The freezing water is also a rich source of krill tiny shrimp-like creatures.
  • The ‘Roaring Forties’ is the band between 40° and 50° South latitude. Within this band strong westerly winds blow unobstructed around the world.
  • The waves in the ‘Roaring Forties’ are the biggest in the world, sometimes higher than a ten-storey building.
  • Sea ice forms in round pieces called pancake ice.
  • The circumpolar current could fill the Great Lakes in North America in just 48 hours.