Areas covered in compact sea ice are often assumed to prohibit upper ocean photosynthesis. Yet under-ice phytoplankton blooms (UIBs) have increasingly been observed in the Arctic, driven by anthropogenic changes to the optical properties of Arctic sea ice. Here we show the Southern Ocean can also support widespread UIBs. Using under ice-enabled BGC-Argo float data, we detail numerous high phytoplankton biomass events below compact sea ice preceding seasonal ice retreat, and classify 12 distinct UIB events. Using joint light, sea ice, and ocean conditions obtained from the ICESat-2 laser altimeter and 11 climate model contributions to CMIP6, we find that more than 4 million square kilometers of the compact-ice-covered Southern Ocean could support these events in late spring and early summer. Link.