The Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is a key feature of the Southern Ocean. Its development may have helped cool Antarctica and initiate Southern Hemisphere glaciation. The deep circulation of the ACC must have been established after both the Tasman gateway (between Antarctica and Australia) and the Drake Passage (between South America and Antarctica) opened. However, estimates for ACC initiation range over 20 m.y., from the middle Eocene to early Miocene. A new piston core of upper Oligocene to Holocene sediments from the South Pacific has allowed us to delimit the formation of the ACC to the late Oligocene (ca. 25–23 Ma). Upper Oligocene, current-worked sediments and a hiatus to the upper Miocene result from the beginning of the modern ACC flow; i.e., when strong currents and mixing throughout the water column were established. Previously published Nd isotope data date the first intrusion of Pacific water into the Atlantic much earlier. The discrepancy with our results can be reconciled by the different methods measuring different flow regimes. Tracer methods such as Nd are sensitive to relatively small and shallow incursions of water, whereas pelagic erosional regimes require vigorous deep flow.