The chapter begins with an overview of the exploratory work done in the Arctic Ocean from the mid nineteenth century to 1980, when its main features became known and a systematic study of the Arctic Ocean evolved. The following section concentrates on the decade between 1980 and 1990, when the first scientific icebreaker expeditions penetrated into the Arctic Ocean, when large international programme were launched, and the understanding of the circulation and of the processes active in the Arctic Ocean deepened. The main third section deals with the studies and the advances made during the ACSYS decade. The section has three headings: the circulation and the transformation of water masses; the changes that have been observed in the Arctic Ocean, especially during the last decades; and the transports between the Arctic Ocean and the surrounding world ocean through the different passages, Fram Strait, Barents Sea, Bering Strait and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. In section four, the Arctic Ocean is considered as a part of the Arctic Mediterranean Sea, and the impacts of possible climatic changes on the circulation in the Arctic Mediterranean and on the exchanges with the world ocean are discussed.