International Celebration DayOceanographyScienceSouthern Ocean

Celebrating Southern Ocean Science on World Oceans Day

On World Oceans Day we celebrate the research done in the Southern Ocean within the South African National Antarctic Program(SANAP). South Africa has a comparative geographic advantage for conducting research in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. It is the closest African nation to the Austral Polar region, separated from the continent of Antarctica by approximately 4000 km of Open Ocean that contains a regionally unique configuration of ocean circulation, making the region key to understanding past, present and future evolution of global climate.

This distance is the greatest of all southern continents to the Antarctic continent, but most significantly it allows for a regionally unique configuration of ocean circulation to occur.

  • A line from Cape Town to the Prince Edward Islands and beyond transects this dynamic region where ecosystem shifts are commuted from the tropics to the temperate gyres of the South Atlantic via the Agulhas current and its leakage. It is also the region where nutrient-rich polar  waters  of  Antarctic  Circumpolar  Current converge;
  • The Atlantic–South West Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean encompasses some of the strongest pathways for CO2 exchange and storage. South Africa already partially capitalizes on its geographical advantage through established long-term observations programmes, including the atmospheric green-house gas observations at Cape Point;
  • The Southern Ocean is globally significant as it represents a region where polar marine living resources surpass that of all other oceans;
  • The Southern Ocean marks the intersection of the most important sources of deep and bottom water, which modulate both the heat and CO2 exchange with the atmosphere, and their storage in the ocean.                               (Figure above: The Southern Hemisphere showing major land-masses and ocean currents (Rintoul , S.R., C. Hughes, and D. Olbers. (2001).climate.)

                   Collection of images contributed to ALSA archive by Adriaan Dreyer of sunrises and sunsets over the ocean during the 2009 Takeover Voyage on the S.A. Agulhas II

The Social Media Campaign for World Oceans Day is “Together We Can #ProtectOurHome”. For 2020 World Oceans Day is uniting conservation action to grow the global movement calling on world leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. This critical need is called 30×30. By safeguarding at least 30% of our ocean through a network of highly protected areas we can help ensure a healthy home for all!

Another collection contributed to the ALSA archive is by Mardene de Villiers taken during the Scale cruise of 2019



The Earth Systems research theme within SANAP investigate the Southern Ocean in the Coupled Ocean – Atmosphere, Climate and Earth System and Large Scale Ocean Circulation and Global Climate. (The South African Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research Plan 2014 – 2024) These themes are covered with the following research projects in the current SANAP research cycle:

See article during 21 journey of Covid-19  featuring our oceans


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