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An aerial view of Antarctica. Weddell Sea is the 'bay' in the top left corner.

The Weddell Sea is part of the Southern Ocean. Its land boundaries are defined by the bay formed from the coasts of Coats Land and the Antarctic Peninsula. Much of the southern part of the sea, up to Elephant Island, is permanent ice, the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. The sea is contained within the two overlapping Antarctic territorial claims of Argentina, (Argentine Antarctica) and Britain (British Antarctic Territory), and also resides partially within the territorial claim of Chile (Antarctic Chilean Territory). At its widest the sea is around 2,000 km across, in area it is around 2.8 million km².

In his 1950 book The White Continent, historian Thomas R. Henry writes, "The Weddell Sea is, according to the testimony of all who have sailed through its berg-filled waters, the most treacherous and dismal region on earth. The Ross Sea is the relatively peaceful, predictable, and safe." He continues on for an entire chapter, relating myths of the green-haired merman sighted in the sea's icy waters, the inability of crews to navigate a path to the coast until 1949, and treacherous "flash freezes" that left ships, such as Ernest Shackleton's Endurance, at the mercy of the ice flows.

The sea is named after the British sailor James Weddell who entered the sea in 1823 as far as 74° S. That same year the American sealing captain Benjamin Morrell claimed to have seen land some 10–12° east of the sea's actual eastern boundary. He called this New South Greenland, but its existence was disproved when the sea was more fully explored in the early 20th century. The furthest southern penetration since Weddell was made by the Scot William Speirs Bruce in 1903.

The ice shelves which used to extend roughly 3900 square miles (10,000 km²) over the Weddell Sea had completely disappeared by 2002.

It is believed that the break-up of Gondwana started in the Weddell Sea.

See also

Coordinates: 75°02′58″S 47°15′46″W / 75.04944°S 47.26278°W / -75.04944; -47.26278

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