Tundra Travel

Destinations

Weddell SeaTundra Travel

The flora and fauna in the Weddell Sea is different from that of the north-west coast of the Peninsula. Vegetation is even scarcer and high-Antarctic animal species such as the Adélie and Emperor Penguins slowly replace their more low-Antarctic cousins,

Weddell Sea

General Information.

 

The huge Weddell Sea, at its widest it is more than 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) across, is located on the south-east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Sea is considered high-Antarctic in contrast to the north-west coast of the Peninsula, which is low-Antarctic. The Sea extents so far south that it is under the direct influence of the very cold Antarctic Continental Climate. The south-western and southern borders of the sea are formed by the Larsen and the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelves. These shelves produce the huge tabular ice-bergs that are so abundant in the Weddell Sea.

 

The Weddell Sea was discovered in 1823 by the British sealer James Weddell. It was in this sea that Shackleton´s ship, the Endurance was trapped and crushed by ice in 1915. After 15 months on the pack-ice Shackleton and his men managed to reach Elephant Island and finally returned safely. Another story of survival in the Weddell Sea is less famous, but no less remarkable. It happened even before Shackleton´s epic survival story, in 1902 when Otto Nordenskiöld was the leader of the 1901-1904 Swedish Antarctic Expedition. Nordenskiöld´s team of four men wintered at Snowhill Island to do scientific explorations, while their expedition ship Antarctic returned to the Falklands. The following summer the ship sailed back into the Weddell Sea, intending to relieve the team, but became beset in the ice and was finally crushed. The crew managed to reach Paulet Island where they wintered in a primitive hut. Nordenskiöld and the others finally rendezvoused at Hope Bay where they were picked up by the Argentine Navy. All but one survived.

 

 

Climate.

 

As the Weddell Sea is under the direct influence of the harsh Antarctic Continental climate temperatures are on the average lower than on the north-west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, around 1ºC (34ºF). In February - March, at the end of the Austral summer, temperatures can even drop slightly below zero. The north-west corner of the Weddell Sea, the area to which our Weddell Sea voyages are limited, is protected fairly well from the prevailing western winds. The weather therefore is often good and fairly stable in this area. Strong katabatic winds can occur at any time though and may have an influence on our programme.

 

Please note that the pack-ice is formed in the Weddell Sea early in the winter season and can stay there until late summer. Although we do expect to be able to penetrate into the north-west part of the Weddell Sea, nature does not give us a guarantee. Pack-ice is unpredictable and may prevent our ships from completing the planned itinerary.

 

 

Flora & Fauna.

 

The flora and fauna in the Weddell Sea is different from that of the north-west coast of the Peninsula. Vegetation is even scarcer and high-Antarctic animal species such as the Adélie and Emperor Penguins slowly replace their more low-Antarctic cousins, the Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins. The Weddell Sea is locked-in by pack-ice for many months in the year; it therefore can be difficult or even impossible for certain species to reach their breading grounds in time. Species such as the Adélie and Emperor Penguins have adapted well to these difficult circumstances and are the dominant penguin species further south. A big colony of tens of thousands of Adélie Penguins can be found on Paulet Island. Only a couple of years ago an unknown Emperor Penguin colony was found just south of Snowhill Island. Although the colony itself is often unreachable because of the thick pack-ice, stray Emperors are sometimes seen on ice-flows. Sea mammals such as Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Leopard Seals, Crabeater Seals and Weddell Seals are frequently seen during our Weddell Sea voyages.

 

 

Frequently visited places:

 

The Antarctic Sound. Named after the expedition ship of Otto Nordenskiöld. The sound that separates the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from Dundee Island is also named "Ice-berg Alley", because of the huge ice-bergs that are often seen here.

 

Brown Bluff, located on the Antarctic Peninsula, at the west side of the Antarctic Sound. Below the steep cliffs Adélie and Gentoo Penguins breed. Leopard Seals, in search of penguins, often patrol the shore.

 

Paulet Island, a volcanic island, located just 5 kilometres (3 miles) south-east of Dundee Island. The island has a diameter of about 3 kilometres (1,8 miles) and the summit crater is 353 metres (660 feet) high. Geothermal heat keeps the island ice-free. The island is home to a colony of over 100,000 pairs of Adélie Penguins. Remains of the primitive hut in which 22 men of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition wintered in 1903 can still be seen.

 

Snowhill Island, located east of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is almost completely snow-capped, hence its name. In 1902 the Swedish Antarctic Expedition under Otto Nordenskiöld built a cabin on the island. Nordenskiöld and three members of the expedition had to spent two winters here, the first planned, the second unplanned.

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