The Weddell Sea Expedition faces considerable challenges operating in one of the most remote and harshest marine environments on the planet. The sea ice conditions vary considerably from year to year, and the concentration of ice fluctuates significantly. Other expeditions have tried to reach the Larsen C ice shelf, and have been beaten back by the thick ice, which is sometimes insurmountable even for the most powerful modern ice-breakers.
The expedition will be using remote sea ice sensor and satellite data from several different sources to assist the expedition vessel to navigate through the ice by the most efficient route, identifying areas where the ice is thinnest or where there is open water. Drones will also be used to assist the ship’s navigating officers in finding suitable passages through the Weddell Sea.
However, if the conditions are especially bad, it may not be possible to reach the target locations, including the Larsen C ice shelf and the site of the Shackleton shipwreck. The expedition is driven by science and a desire to contribute to the better understanding of the Weddell Sea and its marine environment. Therefore, whilst the expedition will make best endeavours to reach the target locations, the scientific team is making contingency plans in case the sea ice is simply too powerful.
These include conducting the AUV surveys under other ice shelves such as the Fimbul. An alternative site for marine archaeology would be the wreck of the Swedish explorer Otto Nordenskjöld’s ship ‘Antarctic’ which was claimed by the sea ice near Paulet Island in 1903, and which is on the expedition’s proposed routing south along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Whilst Nordenskjöld’s expedition is less well known than Shackleton’s, it too is a saga of heroism and survival in arduous circumstances.
Further information about Nordenskjöld’s ship and his voyage can be found here.
As part of the expedition to one of the most remote areas on the globe, the team have contingency plans in place. Please see the Initial Environmental Evaluation for more details.
The Weddell Sea was first discovered in 1823 by British sailor and seal hunter James Weddell who, at the time, was commanding the brig ‘Jane’.
More than a century ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition ship, ‘Endurance’, was crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea and sank 3000 metres below the surface.
The Weddell Sea Expedition faces considerable challenges operating in one of the most remote and harshest marine environments on the planet.