Filchner Ice Shelf

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Fishner and Ronne ice shelves shown in blue
Rapid sea ice breakup along the ice shelf
Some named Antarctic iceshelves

The Filchner Ice Shelf is an ice-shelf covering the southeast part of the Weddell Sea within the British Antarctic Territory, at 79°0’0"S, 40°0’0"W. It adjoins the larger Ronne Ice Shelf which lies to the west, the two often known together as the "Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf" or "Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf".

The two shelves are contiguous but separated by Berkner Island, the largest island of the Weddell Sea, and together they cover some 166,000 square miles, so if taken together they would be the largest ice shelf in Antarctica after the Ross Ice Shelf.

South of the twin shelves is Queen Elizabeth Land, part of the Antarctic continent.

Description and name

The shelf is not static: it grows perpetually fed by the slow flow of inland ice sheets. From time to time, when the shearing stresses exceed the strength of the ice, cracks form and large parts of the ice sheet separate from the ice shelf and continue as icebergs; a process known as calving.

The Filchner Ice Shelf is the eastern part of the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. It is bounded on the west by Berkner Island and on the east by Coats Land. The east part of this shelf was discovered in January–February 1912 by the German Antarctic Expedition under Wilhelm Filchner, who named the feature for Kaiser Wilhelm, but the Emperor requested that it be named for its discoverer. The shelf is nourished primarily by the Slessor Glacier, the Recovery Glacier, and the Support Force Glacier, all located east of Berkner Island.

Monitoring the shelf

The ice of the Filchner and Ronne ice shelves can be as thick as 2,000 feet the water below is about 4,600 feet deep at the deepest point.

The international Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf Programme (FRISP) was initiated in 1973 to study the ice shelf.[1]

Outside links


  1. 6.2.1. Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf Programme. WAIS: The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Initiative.