Where's the Southern Ocean?

Hello all. I’m brand new here but have been a professional seafarer since I was 16 in the Royal Australian Navy and since as master of a square rigged sail training ship in Australia.
I refer to the recent topic in the gCaptain daily news of a man overboard from a Volvo yacht “in the Southern Ocean”.
It seems yachties love to say they are sailing the Southern Ocean because it sounds so much more remote, rough and dangerous than the more-precise South Pacific.
It may seem picky but we probably don’t need a Southern Ocean, but it has nevertheless been named as such and defined as being the ocean to the south of 60 degrees surrounding Antarctica and touching no other land. Australians like to think is touches our shores but this hasn’t been accepted by the world authorities who cogitate long and hard about such weighty matters.
So this yacht wasn’t in the Southern Ocean but the press release said it was. A professional mariner forum might have corrected it.
Dit it want to sound scary?

a lot may depend on where the author is from and his reach of history. I’m guessing here but I think “southern ocean” may be from the grain trade. (the roaring 40’s, 50’s — from the days of sail) ??

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Southern Ocean, also called Antarctic Ocean, the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans and their tributary seas surrounding Antarctica. Unbroken by any other continental landmass, the Southern Ocean’s narrowest constriction is the Drake Passage, 600 miles (about 1,000 km) wide, between South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.”


Thanks for the responses, but under any definitions of the Southern Ocean (there are many and none officially accepted by all nations), this yacht was NOT in it. That’s my point.
Oceans are big places, so this error is akin to saying New Zealand is in the Southern Ocean - and we know it’s not.

The CCAMLR Convention Area may be as good definition of the term Southern Ocean as any?:

Again, the yacht was not in that area either.
It was in the Pacific Ocean, not the Southern Ocean by any definition.
Surely navigation nowadays is precise enough to determine which ocean a vessel is in.

What differences does it make?

1 Like

Wondering the same thing. A person died at sea. I don’t think it matters where it happened. It’s a shame either way.

1 Like

Surely you aren’t enough of a dick to nitpick an article written for general population about the tragic loss of a husband and father.

Oh wait…

1 Like

I agree that this seems to be a bad time to bring it up but broadly speaking it is actually an interesting subject. I’ll start a new thread.

I didn’t comment in any derogatory manner whatsoever on the “tragic loss …” and you’ll note I said “It may seem picky” in my original post.
I was commenting on a so-called “Professional Mariner’s” forum about a matter of navigational interest to professional mariners. By your standards any and all such inaccuracies are justified by the main message.
Stop changing the subject.

Not many Americans would know where the “Western Ocean” is.

Ok, what was the lat and long of the yacht when the man overboard occurred? The article I read said she was 1400 miles west of Cape Horn, which by some definitions marks the northern boundary of the Southern Ocean.

I don’t understand why you’re being so pedantic about this - is it an Aussie thing? I mean, if you ask the Koreans where the Sea of Japan is or the Iranians where the Arabian Gulf is they’ll lose their minds, so is it a nationalistic thing for you guys? Honest question.

I would be surprised if the exact coordinates will ever be released?

Its discomfiting to hear the navigators say location doesn’t matter. Its always sunny in the basement, but only because we trust that someone is keeping track of what’s going on outside.

Huh? I was commenting on the shiftiness of the OP caring more about the ‘yachties’ misunderstanding which ocean they were in versus the loss of a life.

1 Like

He wasn’t commenting about “the yachties’ misunderstanding” but about the incorrect reporting that gCaptain republished.

When the old Europeans passed the Tropics of Cancer, there was a strange phenomenon: During the European winter, there, the sun was always in the South, as usual at home, but during the summer, the sun was in the North! A strange thing… may be the end of the world…
When they passed the Tropics of Capricorn, the sun was always in the north; and the world continued.
Hence, they must have called this region the southern oceans.

Later, when the spherical earth and Great Circle sailing became state of the art, they discovered that exact GC sailing, could lead into dangerous waters. From Capetown to Cape Leeuwin, they would go down to 45.5° South, into the Roaring Forties. From the Bass Strait to Cape Hoorn, they would even meet land on the (then unknown?) Antarctic continent.
Hence, they sailed composite routes with latitudes not to cross. The oceans south of these limits were then probably the southern oceans.

Today it is accepted, that the waters around Antarctica are the Antarctic Ocean; with an ill defined northern limit. It makes sense to use the northern limit of the Antarctic Treaty System at 60° south. This includes all of the continent and the surrounding islands, but not the British ‘South Sandwich Islands’.

The body responsible for the names and limits of oceans and seas is the ‘International Hydrographic Organization’:

Their latest edition is from 1953/1971, where the southern limit of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans is still the Antarctic continent. They were unable to include the Antarctic Ocean.

There are some local problems still open, to forbid a vote by unanimity; like the Persian or Arabian Gulf, Korea seeing the Japan Sea as his Sea or the South China Sea, having nothing to do, south of the Manila latitude, with China (it is rather a Sea South of the China Seas).

From what it looks like they were not South of 60° S although I cant confirm the accuracy of all this. Note: my arrow on the R/S of the image.

Does anybody know anything about the race ice inclusion zone parameters?

You said, “I don’t understand why you’re being so pedantic about this - is it an Aussie thing? I mean, if you ask the Koreans where the Sea of Japan is or the Iranians where the Arabian Gulf is they’ll lose their minds, so is it a nationalistic thing for you guys? Honest question.”
OK. Here’s precisely the same question put differently.
Where’s the Pacific Ocean?
And, no it’s not an Aussie thing. In fact it’s not anything to do with any sea or strait named after any country such as in your examples. There’s no national sensitivities at all. It’s not a matter of tragedies at sea. It’s not being pedantic. It’s just a matter of interest.