Weddell Sea

Weddell Sea

[wed-l, wuh-del]
Weddell Sea, arm of the Atlantic Ocean, W Antarctica, SE of South America, bordered by the Antarctic Peninsula and Coats Land. The vast Ronne and Filchner ice shelves are at the head of the sea. Named for James Weddell, a British navigator who claimed to have discovered the sea in 1823, it was investigated by the Scottish explorer William Bruce from 1902 to 1904. It was studied fully during the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) and has since been a site of continuing investigation.
The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. Much of the southern part of the sea, up to Elephant Island, is permanent ice, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. The sea is contained within the two overlapping Antarctic territorial claims of Argentina, (Argentine Antarctica) and Britain (British Antarctic Territory), and also resides partially within the territorial claim of Chile (Antarctic Chilean Territory). At its widest the sea is around 2,000 km across, in area it is around 2.8 million km².

The sea is named after the British sailor James Weddell who entered the sea in 1823 as far as 74° S. It was first widely explored by the Scot William S. Bruce over 1902-04.

It was in this sea that Shackleton's ship, the Endurance was trapped and crushed by ice in 1915.

The ice shelves which used to extend roughly 3900 square miles (10,000 km²) over the Weddell Sea have completely disappeared by 2002.

It is believed that the break-up of Gondwana started in the Weddell Sea.

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