Readers of a certain age may recall 2006 with a degree of bittersweet loss—it was, after all, the year Pluto officially ceased being a planet according to the International Astronomical Union, permanently shrinking our solar system family to eight and giving grade school textbook publishers across the world a massive headache. Many even still scoff at the distant rock’s new “dwarf planet” classification, which is kind of understandable, since they drummed that “My Very Educated Mother” shit into our heads for multiple years’ worth of general science classes.
But time, much like the planets’ (and dwarf planet’s) celestial path, continues unabated. Considering how anyone born in 2006 is now heading into their latter years of high school, there is an entire generation out there who aren’t familiar with the sensation of a seemingly immutable fact of the universe suddenly becoming a moot point... to whom we say, in our best Nelson Muntz laugh, “Ha, ha!”
(To these same teenagers: Nelson Muntz is a character from that show your parents and/or older siblings once loved but now have mixed feelings about, The Simpsons, and is most known for his iconic guffaw)
According to the National Geographic Society, Earth no longer has a mere four oceanic bodies of water, but a whopping five! Everyone, say hello to your newest environmental wonder in the process of being ruined by human wastefulness: The Southern Ocean.
With a range stretching the circumference of Antarctica to the 60-degrees South latitudinal line, the Southern Ocean “encompasses unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to wonderful marine life such as whales, penguins, and seals,” explains National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Enric Sala. The region includes such creatures migrating humpback whales and sea birds, and is presumably very damn cold.
As BoingBoing brings to our attention, many oceanographers and other scientists have referred to the area as the Southern Ocean for years (without telling anyone else, apparently), with the US Board on Geographic Names having designated the separate region as such over two decades ago. Still, the National Geographic Society’s new designation will hopefully raise awareness to conservation efforts in the region. This seems like a far better line of reasoning than just breaking our juvenile, impressionable hearts by suddenly informing us that Pluto is a goddamn lie, because men’s hearts are as black, cold, and empty as the void of space itself.
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