Weddell Sea

The Weddell Sea is the largest of about 14 marginal seas of the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic continent. Its boundaries are defined by the coasts of Coats Land in the east and in the west Graham Land. The easternmost point is the coastal Norvegia - cape on the Crown Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land, the 18 ' West forms the northern point of the Larsen Ice Shelf Riiser at 12 °. East of the King Haakon VII - Lake joins. As northern boundary of the Weddell Sea is considered the Atlantic- Indian ridge, an underwater mountain range. The southern part is of a large ice shelf as a floating part of the Antarctic ice sheet covers ( Filchner - Ronne Ice Shelf ), smaller ice shelves limiting the coast in the east ( Riiser -Larsen Ice Shelf ) and west ( Larsen Ice Shelf ).

The western part of the Weddell Sea is to the height of Elephant Iceland permanently covered by ice, the rest of Weddell Sea ice cover goes back in the summer for about three months.

Total covered the Weddell Sea covers an area of 2.8 million km ²; the maximum expansion in the width is 2150 km from Cape Norvegia to Elephant Iceland. It is between 500 and 5000 meters deep.

Great Britain, Chile, and Argentina claim ownership of parts of that territory (see also: Political status of Antarctica ).


The name of the sea comes from the British sailor James Weddell, who invaded in 1823 to 74 degrees south latitude in the almost unschiffbare bay. Apparently, the weather conditions were particularly favorable this year, the route that Weddell had taken, is only passable icebreaker since records began.


Until the Mesozoic Antarctica formed the central part of the super-continent Gondwana, which began to split about 180 million years ago in several parts. Geologists now believe that this disintegration of Gondwana emanating from the region around the Weddell Sea.

On the Western side, the Weddell Sea is bounded by the Antarctic Peninsula, a substantially Mesozoic magmatic arc that was formed by subduction of the Pacific and proto- Pacific Ocean. To the south the Weddell Sea continues to the continental shelf. This area is called the Filchner - Ronne Ice Shelf.

The current knowledge of the geological and tectonic structures of the Weddell Sea are mainly based on the interpretation seeseismischer data which have been obtained, for example, during test runs with the icebreaker and research vessel Polarstern.

The Weddell Sea is inhabited by a variety of different creatures such as crabs and sea cucumbers, about their lifestyles and habits to now partially nothing is known, and therefore draw a major research interest. The best known is probably named after the Weddell Sea.

To the west of the sea caused by freezing of floating ice with salt enriched, cold bottom water, which affects the temperature and salinity in large areas of the deep sea. Therefore, the Weddell Sea is among other things a priority in the polar marine research.

2012 noted scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, that the ice shelf of the Weddell Sea, which was thought to be invulnerable, in the wake of climate change is melting faster than previously thought.

Special flow situation

Between the southern tip of South America ( Tierra del Fuego ) and the long, reaching to the North Antarctic Peninsula ( Graham Land, see map) existing around the Antarctic east-west flows are constrained. Therefore, on the northern tip of Graham Lands it comes to vortex shedding; these can result in the lying behind the Weddell Sea to a rotating flow in a clockwise direction. In order for the pack ice in the shadow of Graham Lands reaches much further north than in the north-eastern part of the Weddell Sea. This flow shut the Shackleton expedition first in the pack ice and offset it further south. The pack ice has been further compressed and gradually drifted to the west and then north until the hull ice pressure was no longer held and about 7 degrees of latitude ( about 800 miles) to the north burst. The drift directly to the north led to the pack ice edge. In the boats, the expedition had to fight against some of the flow to the Elephant Iceland.

Icebergs are still substantially driven further from the pack ice of the Weddell Sea in the west to the north. The older ice in the satellite image on the right appear green, young smooth black ice. Dark blue is the warmer waters to the north (top).