National Geographic announced that there is a new ocean joining the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic Oceans. The new Southern Ocean begins at the coast of Antarctica and extends north to 60 degrees south latitude, which is just above the tip of South America.
The new ocean excludes the Drake Passage and the Scotia Sea and is now the second smallest, behind the Arctic Ocean.
It is the first time in over a century that the Oceanic maps have been updated. National Geographic, which began making ocean maps in 1915, explained that scientists have considered that body of water an ocean for years.
"The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but because there was never agreement internationally, we never officially recognized it," National Geographic Society geographer Alex Tait said.
"It's sort of geographic nerdiness in some ways," Tait added. "We've always labeled it, but we labeled it slightly differently [than other oceans]. This change was taking the last step and saying we want to recognize it because of its ecological separation."
While other oceans are defined by the continents around them, the Southern Ocean is defined by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which extends from the seafloor and transports more water than any other ocean current.
The current helps keep Antarctica cold and ecologically distinct from the rest of the planet. The water around Antarctica is colder and less salty and home to thousands of species of marine life that don't live anywhere else.
The Southern Ocean "encompasses unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to wonderful marine life such as whales, penguins, and seals," National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala explained.