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In 2000, member states of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) decided to delimit the waters within the Antarctic Convergence as a fifth ocean - the Southern Ocean - by combining the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean.

The sea floor topography of the Southern Ocean is largely unknown or predicted. Survey activities of modern icebreaking vessels during the last decade using multibeam and other systems have increased the data availability, making it possible for compilations of new bathymetric charts around Antarctica.

Transition from analogue IBCs of the 1980s to digital methods started in 1997 with the northern equivalent of IBCSO the International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (IBCAO). Following the success of the IBCAO, the IBCSO was initiated in 2006. The objective of the IBCSO program is the design and implementation of an enhanced digital database that contains bathymetric data available south of 60S latitude. Based on this data container a consistent bathymetric chart of the Southern Ocean is designed.

The IBCSO program is endorsed by international organizations such as the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

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