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The Bellingshausen Sea

Bellingshausen Sea is located between Thurston Island on the West and the Antarctic Peninsula on the East. In 1819, the sea was discovered by the name giving Russian admiral Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. (Photo: NASA)

Bellingshausen Sea is located between Thurston Island on the West and the Antarctic Peninsula on the East. In 1819, the sea was discovered by the name giving Russian admiral Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. The Bellingshausen Sea further includes several large islands and the Ronne- and Marguerite Bays. The De Gerlache Seamounts steeply rise more than 1,500 meters over the deep ocean bottom north of the shelf-sea. Like the adjacent seas, most of the Bellingshausen shelf is covered perennially by floating glacier ice.

 

Environmental changes in the history of the continental margin off West Antarctica have influenced the sedimentary record of this area. The period of glacial/interglacial cycles is of special interest due to the questions of climatic history, which is reflected by significant changes in the sediment structure.

 

Strong cyclone activity occurs in the portion of Antarctica that faces the South Pacific Ocean. Near the Antarctic Peninsula, the average diameter of cyclones is about 370 kilometers over the Bellingshausen Sea. Slightly higher cyclonic activity was found here than e.g. in the adjacent Weddell Sea. Storm trajectories show that many cyclones move northeastward from the Bellingshausen Sea towards the Drake Passage and bring severe weather conditions to that area (see: Drake Passage).

 

On contrary, during El Niño (see: Pacific and Indian Oceans) the atmospheric pressure over the Bellingshausen Sea is abnormally high. This results in an enhanced northerly flow over the western Bellingshausen Sea and an increased thermal gradient in the Antarctic coastal region. This leads to the development of low-pressure systems, which track towards the southern Antarctic Peninsula.

 

In younger history, the ice extent in the Bellingshausen Sea decreased at a rate of roughly 8 percent per decade. On the other hand, an almost equal ice-increase of roughly 7 percent per decade was observed in the Ross Sea. This may suggest that the ice cover lost in the Bellingshausen Sea has actually migrated to the Ross Sea and reflects the large changes in the physical characteristics of the ice cover in this region.

 

Besides elephant seals, the Adelie Penguins are one of the most common species in the Bellingshausen Sea. Two distinct Adelie populations occur in the Antarctic Peninsula region. One winters on the Bellingshausen Sea pack ice, while the other one lives in the Weddel Sea.

 

 

Main islands and island groups

Alexander I. Island, Charcot Island, Peter I. Island, Latady Island, Rothschild Island

 

 

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