The Weddell Sea is one of the most remote regions of the Antarctic and is a fantastic place to visit as part of an Antarctic cruise. Although it is difficult to reach, it is well worth the effort as there is such a wide variety of things to see in the area.
A bit about the Weddell Sea …
The Weddell Sea is around 2.8 million sq km and is part of the Southern Ocean. At its widest point, it is around 2,000 km across. Large sections of the sea are permanently frozen, so it is not possible to sail around its entire area.
It is also incredibly rich in life, particularly in krill (a kind of small shrimp), which allows it to support a diverse array of creatures, including fish, marine mammals and birds.
Travelling around the Weddell Sea can be tricky if the weather turns, and this can easily affect the route your Antarctic expedition will take. It’s worth remembering that any itinerary for a trip to the region won’t be set in stone, due to the changeable nature of the environment.
Companies like Explore Worldwide, which runs trips to the Weddell Sea, will provide you with an outline of the cruise route before you set off, as well as suggesting alternative options should it be difficult to reach some of the stops.
Excursions in the Weddell Sea …
One of the main reasons why people travel to the Weddell Sea is for the unrivalled wildlife-watching opportunities, as well as the chance to see the amazing Antarctic landscape at its best.
Weather and sea conditions permitting, there will be several opportunities for you to head ashore during your trip, but one of the most memorable will undoubtedly be the excursion to view the emperor penguin rookery. To reach it, you’ll need to get a helicopter flight from your boat into the heart of the Antarctic wilderness.
In order to avoid disturbing the penguins unnecessarily, the helicopter will touchdown some distance from the birds, so you will continue on foot until you are close enough to see these beautiful animals and their chicks.
The sheer volume of penguins in one place is astounding, never mind the fact that these are creatures that most people will never be lucky enough to see in their natural environment.
Wildlife in the Weddell Sea …
Aside from the emperor penguins, there is a wide array of other varieties to look out for while you’re cruising the Weddell Sea. King, macaroni, gentoo, chinstrap and adelie penguins can also be spotted in the Antarctic region, and you may come across these during your tour.
Other birds to keep an eye open for include albatrosses – beautiful birds that live on the wing and only land to nest – in addition to skuas, snow petrels and two kinds of cormorant.
Many marine mammals thrive within the waters of the Weddell Sea thanks to its plentiful food sources, so you are likely to see whales and seals as you travel around. Among the species that are found here are minke, humpback and sperm whales, hourglass dolphins, and crabeater and Weddell seals.
Leopard seals, which are ferocious hunters, are other inhabitants of the Antarctic’s waters. They can grow up to 3.5 m long and predominantly prey on other seals and penguins.
Scenery in the Weddell Sea …
Amazing though the wildlife in this part of the Antarctic is, the landscape all these creatures live in is equally impressive. Vast ice fields and sometimes sheer ice cliffs comprise much of the scenery, while icebergs are often seen floating around the edge of the pack ice.
The glistening white snow and ice is beautiful to behold when it stretches out seemingly indefinitely before you and this is certainly one view you will never replicate anywhere else in the world.