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Years ago I learned that the Columbia ice field was North America's triple divide point: water flowing from this ice field could drain into the Artic, the Pacific, and the Atlantic Ocean. Something I never questioned. Today I came upon this map, and was surprised to see that the triple point was actually further south, close to the USA/Canada border:

Major continental divides

I looked it up and found about Triple Divide Peak. The article has another, more precise map:

A map of North American drainage basins/divides

So it appears that there are actually two triple points. That led me to search which ocean Hudson Bay belongs to... and this is where it gets tricky. Citing various sources, Wikipedia says:

Hudson Bay is often considered part of the Arctic Ocean; the International Hydrographic Organization, in its 2002 working draft of Limits of Oceans and Seas defined the Hudson Bay, with its outlet extending from 62.5 to 66.5 degrees north (just a few miles south of the Arctic Circle) as being part of the Arctic Ocean, specifically "Arctic Ocean Subdivision 9.11." Other authorities include it in the Atlantic, in part because of its greater water budget connection with that ocean.

Some sources describe Hudson Bay as a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, or the Arctic Ocean.

So, my questions are: Which objective criterion could be used to settle this dispute? Considering this criterion, which ocean Hudson Bay belongs to?

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  • $\begingroup$ Unless there has been a ruling on it by an internationally recognised authority, which I doubt, you won't get a hard and fast answer, only an opinion. It's like the question of which is the longest river; there are several contenders. The Nile is generally considered the winner, but no one has ever made an internationally recognised decision on the matter. $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Feb 4 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ It's not really like the longest river question, because that does have a clear, defined, answer (subject to choice of route). But otherwise Michael is right - apart from the IHO answer that you quoted, I suspect you won't get a clear answer, because whether it's useful to consider it one way or the other will depend on one's purpose at the time. From some perspectives the world only has one ocean... $\endgroup$ – Semidiurnal Simon Feb 4 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ My problem with the quoted paragraph is that IHO says one thing, but we don't know which argument supports it, and "other authorities" (we don't know which) say another thing, this time with an argument (water budget). So I was curious to hear from people familiar with the topic. Is the water budget argument a good one? If not, what other arguments could be used to determine which ocean the bay belongs to? $\endgroup$ – Jean-Marie Prival Feb 4 at 16:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Semidiurnal Simon: Even the "longest river" question is just a matter of opinion. IIRC that might be the Mississippi-Missouri river, but popular opinion is that the Missouri is a different river, putting the "source" in Minnesota rather than Montana. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 4 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ It's more of an "Is Pluto a planet" question. $\endgroup$ – Keith McClary Feb 28 at 6:01

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