Americans are famously ignorant when it comes to world geography. I thought I was better than average, but then someone asked me a game show type question that seemed pretty easy:  What are all the world’s oceans?

Right off, I said Atlantic, Pacific, Indian – slight pause – Arctic. Nope, I was told. You are missing one. Many “seas” came to mind, but no more oceans.

Turns out that I can’t blame my failing memory of what I learned in seventh grade geography class. Ocean number five is the the Southern Ocean and it was only designated as such in 2000. Still, I was around in 2000 and somehow I missed it. Maybe you did too.

The Southern Ocean is a body of water that lies between 60 degrees south latitude and the Antarctica coastline. It is distinguished by the fact that it totally encircles the continent of Antarctica, and it encompasses 360 degrees of longitude. It is the fourth largest of the world’s five oceans. The Pacific Ocean is the biggest, followed by the Atlantic, Indian, Southern and then the Arctic Ocean.

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