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The Cosmonaut Sea

Prince Harald Coast, Prince Olav Coast, and Enderby Land. (Photo: NASA)

The Cosmonaut Sea (including Lazarev- and Riiser-Larsen Seas) is located between Weddell Sea and Cooperation Sea along the eastern Antarctic coastline. The shelf is much narrower as compared to e.g. those of the Weddell- and Ross Seas, and steeply breaks towards the adjacent abyssal plain.


The western part of the sea area is influenced by the current-gyre of the adjacent Weddell Sea. The Cosmonaut Sea is close to freezing throughout the year, mostly covered by ice and shows stranded or drifting icebergs. Offshore navigation is difficult due to poor charting and volcanic activity, which created shoals and shallows.


In 1927 to 1928, the Norwegian sailor Haakon Mosby conducted a scientific cruise to the Lazarev Sea and discovered the Bouvet Island. In the following years, the Norwegians tried to establish research stations on the coast of Antarctica. In the years 1929 and 1930 Mosby circum-navigated the Antarctic continent with his vessel Norvegia.


Bouvet Island can be considered the most remote island on earth. In recent days that sealing and whaling have ceased in the Southern Ocean, it is only rarely visited by man. Bouvet Island is covered by an ice sheet roughly 100m thick, and steep ice cliffs as high as 500m fall vertically towards black beaches formed of volcanic sand. The island is of volcanic origin and numerous eruptions were reported in history. More islands are located in the vicinity of Bouvet, such as Lindsay and Thompson Island. However, the latter was probably destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1895.


As one might imagine, the weather in this sea area is rather inhospitable. Fair weather is extremely rare, and the mean temperature is extremely low.


Scientific findings interesting for human and technical use result from research on the marine live of the Lazarev Sea. Accordingly, different Antarctic fish species contain antifreeze glycol-molecules in order to avoid freezing of their organisms in water masses with temperatures significantly below 0°C. In the scientific studies, antifreeze molecules were isolated from ca. 40 species of different Antarctic fish families. The investigations indicate that few fish species permanently contain antifreeze, while others even may synthesize these molecules. Additionally, a novel glycol-molecule comprised of carbohydrate and different amino acids was isolated and characterized from a certain fish species. The level of antifreeze concentration in the fish species generally depends on the ambient water temperature, the depth of catch and the life cycle of the species. Once fully understood, the natural technique of antifreeze-molecule formation may open-up a potential way for industrial production of environment-friendly technical antifreeze.



Main islands and island groups

Bouvet Island



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