Weddell Sea exploration from ice station



On January 18, 1915, the Endurance and Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew were stranded in the ice of the Weddell Sea and began one of the most famous drifts in polar exploration. Shackleton turned a failure into a triumph by leading all of his team to safety [Shackleton, 1919]. The drift track of the Endurance and the ice floe occupied by her stranded crew after the ship was lost on November 21, 1915, at 68°38.5′S and 52°26.5′W, carried the group along the western rim of the Weddell Gyre, representing a rare human presence in this region of perennial sea-ice cover.

Seventy-seven years later, in 1992, the first intentional scientific Southern Ocean ice drift station, Ice Station Weddell-1 (ISW-1), was established in the western Weddell Sea by a joint effort of the United States and Russia. ISW-1 followed the track of the Endurance closely (Figure 1) and gathered an impressive array of data in this largely unexplored corner of the Southern Ocean, the western edge of the Weddell Gyre.