A total of sixty five taxa of marine phytoplankton (diatoms, dinoflagellates, silicoflagellates and cyanoprokaryotes) were recorded in the transect from the cold region of the Antarctic (Weddell Sea) up to La Plata Bay, Argentine in the late austral summer (March 1989). Diatoms were the dominant group in a south-north transect from the Seal-Bay (Princess Martha Land, the Antarctic). Most of the phytoplankton species of the cold Antarctic region disappeared around 50°S where there is a steep water temperature gradient. The diatom flora declined in the regions of increasing temperature, i.e. between 60° and 50° S and was replaced by dinoflagellates of the genus Ceratium. Large centric diatom genera Corethron, Rhizosolenia, Chaetoceros and Dactyliosolen represented the most apparent phytoplankton part. The most common of the small centric diatom genera were Thalassiosira, Asteromphalus, Actinocyclus and Coscinodiscus, while several species of Navicula and Nitzschia were the most abundant pennate forms. The presence of a considerable number of freshwater pennate diatoms, characterized as indifferent in the halobion spectrum and mostly periphytic, might be attributed to survival strategies during their development on the floating coastal ice.
Altogether 105 algal taxa were identified including 101 diatom species. Chaetoceros criophilus was dominant in the western part of the study area influenced by waters from the Bellingshausen Sea. Corethron criophilum was abundant in the Weddcll Sea water mass found to the east of 53.5°W meridian. Nitzschia cylindrus common in the ice-melt samples was dominant in only two net phytoplankton collections obtained at the ice-edge zone. Additional samples from Admiralty Bay, at King George Island revealed the dominance of Chaetoceros socialis and the presence of many tychoplankton species. Very few diatom cells were found in the open waters of the Bransfield Strait which combined with the presence of krill, suggested intensive grazing by herbivores. The unstable waters of the Weddell-Scotia Confluence area contained little phytoplankton except for a station dominated by Phaeocystis pouchetii. Greater cell densities were related to warm, lower salinity Weddell Sea water of summer modification found in the surface layer east from 49°W.
At the northern border of pack ice the study on chlorophyll a content, density of cells, species composition and domination in samples from the drifting ice floes and from brash ice was carried out. 102 taxa of algae were found in the pack ice. In the study area algal taxa were rather uniformly distributed. In different ice layers the qualitative composition of diatom assemblages was similar and usually the diatom Nitzschia cylindrus was dominant and most frequent. Chlorophyll a content (from 0.12 to 334.5 mg m-3) and the density of cells (from 0.3 to 362 x l0 6 cm) varied strongly in various habitats. Ice floes near the northern pack ice border contained low values of chlorophyll a (mean value 0.50 ±0.28 mg m-3) . However, brash sea ice originating from ice floes, contained 142.4 ±117.5 mg m-3 of chlorophyll α in visibly discoloured and 30.1 ±24.3 mg m~3 of chlorophyll α in not visibly discoloured parts on average. The range of chlorophyll α content and the presence of characteristic species allow to distinguish brash sea ice infiltration assemblage of diatoms.
A sequence of glacial deposits up to 4 m thick unconformably overlies the Eocene La Meseta Formation on the Seymour Island plateau (meseta) and forms a lithostratigraphically distinct unit in the succession of the James Ross Basin, which is formally named here as the Weddell Sea Formation. The formation is thus far known only from Seymour Island. This is a terrestrial melt-out till which contains abundant erratics and also reworked Cretaceous–Tertiary micro- and macrofossils within a silty clay matrix. The terrestrial origin of this till is shown by glacial striations at the base of the unit. The largest erratics (up to 3 m in diameter) are composed of plutonic (granitoids) and metamorphic (gneiss and crystalline schist) rocks of the Antarctic Peninsula provenance. Smaller in size and much more numerous are erratics of volcanic rocks, represented by andesite, basalt and corresponding pyroclastics of the James Ross Island Volcanic Group. Less common are erratics of sedimentary rocks, sometimes bearing fossils derived from the underlying Tertiary and Cretaceous strata. A few erratics from the top of the studied sequence are conglomerates of the Cockburn Island Formation with a foraminifer fauna. These are the youngest clasts within the Weddell Sea Formation. The presence of the Pliocene index fossil Ammoelphidiella antarctica Conato et Segre, 1974 indicates a lower age limit of latest Pliocene or earliest Pleistocene age. The upper age limit of the formation has not been established. An encrusting, unilamellar, colony of the bryozoan Escharella Gray, 1848 has been found on the one of erratics from the Weddell Sea Formation. This is the first fossil record of this genus in Antarctica.