Hydrological conditions in the region between the King George and Elephant Islands were defined on the basis of 24 STD measurements and 20 XBT profiles made in the time period from 26 October to 16 November 1986. In the entire investigated region the surface water temperature was below zero, often close to freezing point. The presence of summer modification of surface water with its characteristic thermal minimum was not found. Between the Scotia Front and the relatively well pronounced stream of geostrophic currents the anticyclonic meander was observed above the edge of the shelf at the depth of 100 m. Its spread was about 10 nM and within this meander the downwelling of surface water was noticed. As a compensating water movement, the upwelling of warmer waters was observed in the Drake Passage at 400 m.
In the examined area three types of waters have been recorded: Surface Waters of winter modification, Warm Deep Waters and East Bransfield Strait Waters. Geographical location of Scotia Front is similar to that observed in previous years. The dynamics of waters within the examined area is high. It is reflected not only in physical and chemical parameters but also in the distribution of chlorophyll α. In the Front its total amount in a water column is greater than outside.
Coarse-scale studies on chlorophyll a distribution in a region covering the Scotia Front zone showed an increased chlorophyll content and its deeper distribution at stations situated in the frontal zone. The sources of chlorophyll α were probably both the phytoplankton released from melting ice as well as spring bloom.
Total count (TC) of bacteria in drifting annual pack-ice in austral spring fluctuated between 2.8-106 and 2,09-109 dm3. TC of bacteria was lowest in the upper layer of a large pack-ice fragment, emersed above water surface and almost completely free of diatoms; it was comparable to TC of bacteria in surrounding sea water, which was very low at this time (1,92- 106 — 5.8-106 dm -3). TC of bacteria increased in the deeper layers of pack-ice, attaining a maximum in the middle layer characterized by a high count of diatoms. TC of bacteria was highest in small pack-ice pieces 10—20 kg in being and densely overgrown with diatoms. Bacterial population in pack-ice was dominated by rods (62%), and it contained filamentous bacteria (2.4%) and prosthecate forms (4,8%), rarely present in deep sea. Mean volume of bacterial cell (0,206/μm3) was small, only slightly exceeding that of cells of free-living bacteria in sea water in summer.
Chlorophyll a content and the density and species composition of algae were determined in drifting sea ice north of the Elephant Island (between 54-56°W and 60°30'—61°00'S) at the end of October 1986. In yellow-brownish pieces of brash ice the amount of chlorophyll α was on average 203.5 ± 149.9 mg m-3 at the density of algal cells of 255.7+137.8-103 in cm3. In not visibly discoloured ice the respective values were about 80 times lower, and in surface water about 700 times lower. 69 algal taxa were recorded in the samples, almost all of which were diatoms. Nitzschia cylindrus dominated in all the samples. A comparison of species composition in the investigated habitats revealed that the highest species similarities occurred between samples collected in discoloured ice, lower in the uncoloured ice and the lowest ones in water.
Low concentrations of phytoplankton (average 2.5 x 104 to б.0 х 105 cells l-1) were found at ten stations surveyed in the region of the Weddell-Scotia Confluence. Phytoflagellates represented mainly by 1—3 μm picoplankton were prevalent among the algae, contributing 65—100% to the total numbers: this group is observed to dominate over diatoms in areas of intensive water mixing. Maximum concentrations of phytoplankton at one station, reaching down to 200 m, were due to a physical aggregation of cells by confluencing and downwelling waters. The average for the water column quantities of the same algal groups were nearly identical at most stations, but peak numbers occurred in the 0—75 m surface layer. Differences in diatom assemblages were associated with the complex hydrography of the WSC region.
Net phytoplankton was studied in 10 stations situated west of Elephant Island along three transects located in the Scotia Front zone and in 2 stations situated in the eastern Bransfield Strait. Altogether 70 algal taxa were identified. Phytoplankton density and seston biomass were the highest in stations neighbouring the Scotia Front from the south. In the Scotia Front region Corethron criophilum was a dominant species. Phytoplankton community of the region is rather uniform, however the closer comparison of the phytoplankton species composition allowed to distinguish 4 stations groups. This division is concordant with the hydrological one. A different phytoplankton community was recorded in the eastern part of the Bransfield Strait.