Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1090, on the Agulhas Ridge in the South Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean, is ideally located to capture changes in Southern Ocean circulation patterns. Using samples taken from cored sediments, we construct multiproxy records of productivity (biogenic barium (Baex), opal, and CaCO3 mass accumulation rates (MARs)), nutrient and organic carbon burial (reactive phosphorus (Pr) MARs), and redox conditions (U and Mn enrichments) to investigate hydrographic conditions associated with climatic shifts from the Oligocene through the early Miocene. Orbitally induced cyclicity in U and Mn enrichments (100 kyr) suggests shifts in deepwater characteristics. However, CaCO3 dissolution coincident with low U and Mn enrichments does not indicate low-oxygen, corrosive waters similar to modern conditions. These observations indicate that a well-developed “modern-type” Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) did not yet exist over the period from 30 to 20 Ma, with two potential consequences: The Southern Ocean was not functioning as a silica trap, permitting a broader distribution of silica that may have facilitated organic carbon burial in the ocean in general, and the lack of a deeply mixing ACC may have facilitated organic carbon burial in the Southern Ocean. Both the relative (high opal MARs coincident with low CaCO3 MARs) and absolute (high Pr MARs) burial of organic carbon suggest a powerful mechanism for pCO2 drawdown.