Weddell Sea Expedition ANtarctica

(Weddell Sea Expedition)

SA crews explore “one of the most remote parts” of Antarctica [photos]

In Antarctica, the Weddell Sea Expedition has made it to one of the most treacherous stretches of land and ocean on Earth. It looks other-wordly…

Weddell Sea Expedition ANtarctica

(Weddell Sea Expedition)

A group of hardy souls have made their way down to a vicious area of ice, frozen seas and punishingly-cold temperatures in Antarctica as part of a research mission in the Weddell Sea – the infamous location where the Shackleton Expedition met its bone-chilling end.

Charting Antarctica

The ship sank in 1915, killing all of those on board. Now, a team featuring South African researchers and their international counterparts are braving an area that author Thomas R Hardy once called “the most treacherous and dismal on Earth”.

Marine biologists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) are all on board, as is Thapi Makgabutlane, who is helping to implement more accurate weather reading devices on behalf of the South African Weather Service.

South Africans on board

  • Katherine Hutchinson, UCT PhD Graduate.
  • Dr Thomas Borman, research associate at the Nelson Mandela University.
  • Dr Sarah Fawcett, Lecturer in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Cape Town.
  • Captain Knowledge Bengu and Freddie Lighthelm, Masters of SA Agulhas II.
  • Annie Bekker, Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at StelIenbosch University.
  • James-John Mathee, mechanical engineer who graduated from Stellenbosch University in 2018.
  • Jessica Burger, PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
weddell sea expedition antarctica
  • Raquel Flynn, oceanography PhD Student at the University of Cape Town.
  • Riesna Audh, Masters student at the University of Cape Town, specialising in Polar Oceanography.
  • Hermann Luyt, PhD student at the University of Cape Town’s Oceanography Department.
  • Kurt Spence, Masters student in the oceanography department at the University of Cape Town.
  • Shantelle Smith, MSc student from the University of Cape Town.
  • Christof van Zijl, second year masters student from Stellenbosch University.
  • Thalia Henry, trained sea-going technician with a MSc in Physical Oceanography from Nelson Mandela University.
(Wayfairer Travel)

Where is the Weddell Sea?

Located between the east and west territories of Antarctica, the sea sits between almost 2,000km of land. The area is famous for being home to the Weddell Seals, and sightings of killer whales and penguins have been reported there.

Current location of the SA Agulhas II (Kevin Rupp)

Why Weddell is so important

The frozen tundra is being explored for a number of reasons. First of all, very little is known about the formation of the ice sheets in this region – unlocking these secrets can help us understand the mass balance and stability of Antarctica’s giant ice sheets, too.

They also aim to document the rich and little-studied marine life of the western Weddell Sea ecosystem, and to attempt to locate and survey the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship ‘Endurance’. According to their website, the are excited about breaking new ground that could eventually inspire the next generation of scientists:

“By uncovering vital new scientific data, the expedition hopes to improve our understanding of the Weddell Sea, and to use that knowledge to contribute towards the protection of the region and to inspire young people about science, engineering and technology. “

What next for the crew in Antarctica?

The crew have another few weeks left at the Larsen C Ice Shelf before beginning their arduous journey home. An extremely limited amount of people have been able to see what they’ve seen, and they’re bringing back some vital secrets of the Antarctic with them.

We wish the whole expedition crew the very best for the rest of their mission, and a safe journey home. You’ll be pleased to know you can still make it back to South Africa in time for the last few weeks of summer.

Weddell Sea Expedition ANtarctica
(Weddell Sea Expedition, Antarctica)