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How many major oceans are there on earth?
Although seamen of long ago are popularly known to have stated, "I've sailed the seven seas," there has not been a consistent definition of those seas. Today, however, the seven seas could be viewed to be the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, Southern, and Arctic Oceans.
For some time, those in geographic circles have debated whether there are four or five oceans on earth. Some consider the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific to be the world's four oceans. In the late 1990s, momentum began to build for recognition of a fifth ocean. This ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees South latitude and is commonly referred to as the Southern Ocean. A variant name for Southern Ocean is the Antarctic Ocean.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the official standardizing body of geographic names for the U.S. and for Federal use, adopted the name “Southern Ocean” in 1999 to describe this body of water in all applicable Federal products. NOAA, as well as all Federal agencies under Public Law 80-242, complies with the decisions of the U.S. Board in the usage of the term “Southern Ocean.” Whether or not the term is actually applied to maps and charts throughout the Federal Government is the decision of the map editor based on context and space.
Member States of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) have previously expressed support for the name “Southern Ocean” in its draft revisions to the 1953 edition of Special Publication 23, “Limits of the Oceans and Seas.” In accordance with the Antarctic Treaty, the northern limit of this ocean extends to 60 degrees South latitude. The IHO web site can be found at http://www.iho.int/
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