Mawson Coast and Prydz Bay

Mawson Coast and Prydz Bay

Emperor Penguins, with Indian Affinities

I. Map Boundaries: 60 to 70 degrees South, 60 to 80 degrees East

II. Country: Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (Stations operated by Australia, China, and Russia; India plans to open a research station in the Larsemann Hills by 2012)

III. Overview

Prydz Bay and the Amery Ice Shelf are one of the most prominent bays or indentations in the solid wall of icy land and mountains that is East Antarctica. Prydz Bay is in a rift valley, which matches another rift valley in present-day eastern India, and an indication of the long journey of India since the breakup of Gondwana. The rift valley in India that is matched is either Godavari or Mahanadi. The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research in India thinks it is the Mahanadi Rift. Prydz Bay formed in the Late Paleozoic Era during early Gondwana rifting and was adjacent to either the Godavari or Mahanadi rift of northeastern India. India started moving away from Antarctica in the early Cretaceous Period. Sediments under the bay contain coal, which formed when the area was covered with southern conifer rainforest from the late Cretaceous to the Late Eocene. In the Oligocene, the area went underwater and transitioned to a glacial environment in the Late Eocene. By the Middle Miocene, a polar ice sheet was established.

Mawson Coast is noted for prominent monoliths which rise out of the Southern Ocean and for emperor and adelie penguin rookeries. Emperors are the largest of the 17 penguin species and are noted as the only species that breeds through the Antarctic winter. Males court, mate, and incubate an egg for 115 days in wind chills down to -60 degrees C. At the beginning of the emperor breeding season, Antarctic Sea Ice extends 900 km offshore of the Mawson Coast. By February, the sea ice is gone and seawater extends to the shore of the Antarctic Coast.

The Ingrid Christensen Coast, east of Prydz Bay, is known for meromictic lakes, which are permanently stratified and do not mix like temperate-zone lakes. Below the ice of the Amery Ice Shelf, a marine community thrives underneath 700 m of ice and over 1200 m of sea water. Drilling during 2005 into the ice shelf by the Census of Antarctic Marine Life indicates that sponges, fan worms, urchins, and sea snails are abundant.

IV. Terrestrial Ecoregions

AN 1102, Maudlandia Antarctic Desert. Consists of the ice-free coastal fringes. Lichens and moss cushions grow on soil, with some algae on snow. Mean monthly temperatures exceed freezing for a month or less in the summer.

V. Marine Ecoregions

Southern Ocean Realm, Continental High Antarctic Province

224. East Antarctic Wilkes Land

VI. Points of Interest

Amanda Bay, Ingrid Christensen Coast. Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 169. Noted for breeding emperor penguins and Weddell seals.

Fram Bank. A relatively shallow bank where iceburgs ground

Hawker Island, Prydz Bay, off Ingrid Christensen Coast. Antarctic Specially Protected Area no. 167. Noted as a breeding area for southern giant petrels.

Larsemann Hills, Ingrid Christensen Coast. Antarctic Specially Managed Area 6. An ice-free ‘oasis’ and site of the stations of China, Russia, and India (by 2012).

Marine Plain, Vestfold Hills, Ingrid Christensen Coast. Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 143. An ice-free area of glacial debris and ponds, with outstanding cetacean fossil fauna that predates the breakup of Gondwana.

Rookery Islands, Mawson Coast, Macpherson Robertson Land. Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 102. Breeding colonies of southern giant petrel, cape petrel, adelie penguin, snow petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, and Antarctic skua.

Scullin and Murray Monoliths, Mawson Coast, Macpherson Robertson Land. Antarctic Specially Protected Area 164. Murray monolith is a box-shaped rock that rises to 243 m, while the Scullin Monolith is a crescent-shaped rock that rises to 419 m. The rocks are breeding grounds for Antarctic petrels.

Taylor Rookery, Mawson Coast, Macpherson Robertson Land. Antarctic Specially Protected Area No. 101. The largest known colony of emperor penguins found on land is protected. Almost all other colonies are found on sea ice.

VII. References

Amery region Map, ed. 2. 2003. Australian Antarctic Division, Data Centre, Map no. 13004. Scale 1:1,000,000.

Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. Antarctic Protected Areas Database. (Accessed March 7, 2010).

Australian Antarctic Division. Missives from the Aurora Australis. (Accessed 5/14/10).

Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Census of Marine Life Discoveries. Amery Ice Shelf. (accessed 5/15/10)

Cooper, Alan, Howard Stagg and Eric Geist. 1991. Seismic Stratigraphy and Structure of Prydz Bay, Antarctica: implications from Leg 119 Drilling. Volume 119 Scientific Results. Proceedings Ocean Drilling Program, Kerguelen Plateau-Prydz Bay, Sites 736-746. Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, College Station.

Cooper, A.K., O’Brien, P.E., and C. Richter, eds. 2003. Leg 188 Synthesis: Transitions in the Glacial history of the Prydz Bay Region, East Antarctica, from ODP Drilling. Proceedings Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific Results, Volume 188. Prydz Bay-Cooperation Sea, Antarctica: Glacial History ad Paleoceanography, Sites 1165-1167.

Golynsky, D. A. and A.V. Golynsky. 2007. Gaussberg Rift—Illusion or Reality? Extended Abstract 168 from 10th International Symposium on Antarctic Earth Sciences. USGS Open File Report 2007-1047. US Geological Survey and the National Academies.

Ocean Drilling Program FinalTechnical Report 1983-2007. Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Inc., Washington, DC, Texas A&M University, College Station, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY.

Olson, David M., et al., 2001. Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth. BioScience 51:933-938. Ecoregion map at

Spalding, Mark D. and 14 others. 2007. Marine Ecoregions of the World: A Bioregionalization of Coastal and Shelf Areas. Bioscience 57:573-583.

Tiwari, Anju, Dhananjai Pandey and S. Rajan. Phanerozoic History of Antarctic and India: An Insight from Conjugate Rift Basins. National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, India. (Accessed 5/15/10).

Turner, Brian R. and Dianne Padley. 1991. Lower Cretaceous Coall-Bearing Sediments from Prydz Bay, East Antarctica. In Volume 119, Scientific Results. Proceedings Ocean Drilling Program. Kerguelen Plateaul-Prydz Bay, Sites 736-746. Ocean Drilling Program, Texas A&M University, College Station.

Wienecke, Barbara and Graham Robertson. Emperor Penguins: Winter Survivors. (Accessed 5/15/10).

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