The Weddell Sea lies to the east of the Antarctic Peninsula. Beautiful yet treacherous, it is home to awe-inspiring tabular icebergs, massive ice shelf fields, and what scientists have deemed the clearest water of any sea in the world.
From a historical perspective, the Weddell Sea is well-known as the location in which Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was trapped and crushed in the ice in 1915. This prompted one of the greatest stories of survival ever recorded, as Shackleton and his men made their way across the perilous pack ice for 15 months before reaching safety on Elephant Island.
The sea remains no less perilous, but cruises do make their way into the ice-choked waters at certain times of the year, normally from November to March. These voyages pass by various small islands, including Paulet Island, home to more than 100,000 pairs of Adélie penguins. Other large penguin rookeries, including chinstrap and gentoo penguins, can be seen on Gourdin Island and Half Moon Island, where you’ll also spot many species of seabirds, elephant seals and Weddell seals. During any voyage, there’s a good chance you’ll see some iconic ocean dwellers such as killer whales, humpback whales and minke whales.
The Weddell Sea is also the most northerly breeding ground of the emperor penguin. Reaching up to 48 inches in height, these are the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species, and are endemic to Antarctica. Getting to the emperor penguin rookery south of Snow Hill Island is an adventure in itself. Traveling from your ship by helicopter, you’ll reach an area near the rookery, from where you’ll walk for 45 minutes to see these spectacular penguins in their natural environment.
Learn more about this destination on Wikipedia.