The National Geographic Society is changing the world map.
The 130-year-old exploration and education non-profit marked World Oceans Day on Tuesday by declaring that the waters around Antarctica will now be known as the Southern Ocean — the planet’s fifth ocean.
“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 said. “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.”
National Geographic cartographers have listed four oceans on Earth since the society began making maps in 1915 — the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans.
Historically, the massive waters surrounding the southern-most continent were viewed as an extension of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
But in recent years scientists have honed in on the unique nature of the Antarctic waters, largely due to unique currents that flow there — known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, National Geographic magazine said.
The current makes the waters colder and slightly less salty, which helps store carbon deep in the ocean and has a critical impact on the Earth’s climate.
“Anyone who has been there will struggle to explain what’s so mesmerizing about it, but they’ll agree that the glaciers are bluer, the air colder, the mountains more intimidating, and the landscape more captivating than anywhere else you can go,” said marine scientist Seth Sykora-Bodie, a National Geographic Explorer.