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’. In search of new locations to persecute seal stocks, Weddell sailed to 74°15’S; 34°16’45”W – a position further south than any vessel previously. At the time Weddell assumed that the sea continued to the South Pole.
Additional early expeditions to the area included the Scottish Antarctic Expedition led by the biologist William S. Bruce, which in 1903 reached Coats Land on the eastern side of the Weddell Sea.
In 1911/12 the Second German Antarctic Expedition under Wilhelm Filchner was able to prove the southern limits of the Weddell Sea. The intended construction of a station building failed, as the construction area near the ice shelf edge broke off and drifted away. Filchner’s vessel overwintered in the central part of the Weddell Sea captured in densely packed sea ice. Observatory buildings as well as stables for horses and dogs were erected on sea ice nearby. By tracking the ship’s drift, the team got a first hint of the large current system now known as the Weddell Sea Gyre.
The interwar period was mainly marked by activities of huge European whaling fleets which extended into the Weddell Sea. Only in 1947 did the American Finn Ronne (1899-1980) manage to survey the full southern limits of the Weddell Sea though by aircraft. U.S. American activities after World War II resulted in a first comprehensive description of the whole Antarctic Continent, but it was not until 1949/52 that a Norwegian-British-Swedish scientific overwintering took place in Weddell Sea region in the area of the present German Neumayer Station.
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.