The Southern Ocean is the expanse of ocean surrounding Antarctica. Although not a widely familiar name (due to the lack of any permanent population and the term's relatively recent introduction), it identifies a region that is distinct in many ways from the more hospitable Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans to the north. The Southern Ocean is formally defined as the waters south of 60°latitude, but is often broadened to include the waters containing various Subantarctic Islands south of 45°, islands with a distinctly Southern climate and geography (i.e. cold and rugged).
These islands within the Antarctic continental shelf are governed by the Antarctic Treaty.
- Bouvet Island (Norway)
- Falkland Islands (United Kingdom)
- French Southern and Antarctic Lands (France)
- Heard Island and McDonald Islands (Australia)
- Macquarie Island (Australia)
- New Zealand Subantarctic Islands (New Zealand)
- Prince Edward Islands (South Africa)
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (United Kingdom)
Visiting this area of the world generally requires careful planning and preparation. There are few, if any, permanent human inhabitants on these islands. Those that do inhabit this area of the world are often scientists and weather observers. Access to these destinations generally requires mounting an expedition. You may need permission to visit these destinations as many are wildlife sanctuaries or have unique environments. Special environmental conditions may be imposed. Travel is normally by ship as there are few landing strips for aircraft and most of the islands are beyond the range of helicopters.
The environment is extreme, with latitudes called the roaring forties, filthy fifties and screaming sixties for good reason. Storms sweeping off Antarctica, unobstructed by any land, bring cold strong winds, rain or snow and rough seas to the region. This part of the world is the preserve of deep sea fishing ships (not boats), warships on fisheries patrols, oceanographic research ships, round-the-world yachts and the occasional icebreaker on its way to Antarctica. If you get into trouble, you must be prepared to rescue yourself, as emergency rescue services may be thousands of miles and several days away.