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Bottom Configuration of the Arctic and Antarctic Regions

Fig. 3 has been prepared to show the submarine topography of the North Polar regions, which cannot be properly visualized from the interrupted projection used in chart I. The figure is based on a chart by Stocks (1938) and incorporates all of the available data. Because of the larger scale it is possible to show the contours for the shallower depths that form such a large part of this area. The conspicuous topographic

features are the deep, partially isolated basins and the very wide shelf from which rise the large islands of the Canadian Archipelago, Greenland, and most of the islands to the north of Europe and Asia.

Very little is known of the topography of the North Polar Basin, and the form of the contours is largely hypothetical. Soundings greater than 3000 m are fairly numerous to the north of Europe, and there are some to the north of Alaska. A line of soundings also extends from the Pole and parallels the east coast of Greenland. These soundings were obtained by the Russian expedition which landed on the ice from planes and, in 1937–1938, drifted with the pack ice until picked up off the east coast of Greenland. Within 100 km of the Pole, this party obtained a sounding of 4300 m. The 5000-m contour is inserted on the basis of a single sounding of 5440 m obtained in 1927 by Sir Hubert Wilkins, who flew out by plane from Alaska, landed on the ice, and measured the depth with a portable sonic sounding instrument. The correctness of this sounding appears doubtful, however. In April, 1941, the Russian aviator Cherevichny, who landed on the ice in three different localities to the north of Wrangel Island and spent from three and a half to six days in each place, obtained much smaller depths (unpublished data communicated through the American Russian Institute, San Francisco, California). Cherevichny's soundings are as follows:

Latitude, north Longitude Depth, m
81°02ʹ 180°00ʹE 2647
78 30 176 40 E 1856
80 00 170 00 W 3430

These soundings were not available when the bathymetric chart of the Arctic region (fig. 3) was prepared.

The more or less elliptical North Polar Basin is connected with the Norwegian Basin by a fairly deep channel between Greenland and Spitsbergen, in which the sill depth is about 1500 m (table 6). The Norwegian Basin, in which there are two depressions with depths exceeding 3000 m, is separated from the open Atlantic by a ridge extending from Greenland to Scotland, from which Iceland and the Faeroe Islands rise above sea level. The sill depths in Denmark Strait, between Greenland and Iceland, and over the Wyville Thomson Ridge, between the Faeroes and Scotland, are about 500 m. Rising from the floor of the Norwegian Basin is an isolated elevation that extends above the surface as Jan Mayen Island.

Another depression of considerable magnitude that does not appear on chart I is in Baffin Basin between Baffin Island and Greenland, where the depths exceed 2000 m. This basin is separated from the open Atlantic by a ridge in Davis Strait between Baffin Island and Greenland, where the sill depth is about 700 m.


Interesting topographic features which are well developed in the Arctic regions are the “troughs” that cut across the shelf. These U-shaped furrows were apparently cut by glaciers at a period when the sea surface stood at a lower level. One such trough extends around the southern tip of Norway, and others may be traced by the irregularities of the 200-m contour to the north of Russia and between the islands of the Canadian Archipelago. Nansen (1928), in a discussion of the topography of the North Polar Basin, has described these features.


Polar projection showing the generalized sea-bottom topography of the Antarctic regions. Depths less than 4000 m shaded. Heavy dotted lines show the location of the elevations which separate the various basins. Contours at depths of 3000 m and more Correspond to those in chart I.

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Fig. 4 is a polar projection of the Antarctic regions which shows the relationships between the major features of the submarine topography that cannot be visualized from chart I. The topography is based on the same data used for the preparation of chart I supplemented from other sources. All major depressions are also shown in the world map, but it has been possible to enter in this figure the contours above 3000 m. There are many striking differences between the topography of the North

and the South Polar regions. The semi-isolated basins that are so prominent in the North Polar region are lacking in the South. The shelf, with depths less than 200 m, is extensive only off the east coast of the southern part of South America, where the Falkland Islands rise from the shelf.

The deep basins extend close to the continent of Antarctica, and the slopes are relatively steep. Joining South America to Antarctica is the South Antilles Arc, upon which are located South Georgia, South Sandwich, South Orkney, and South Shetland Islands. The ridge is continuous at 4000 m, and at 3000 m there are only relatively narrow openings. The Atlantic Ridge does not extend as far south as Antarctica, but is terminated in the vicinity of Bouvet Island. The ridge to the south of Africa and Madagascar is known as the Crozet Ridge, after the island of that name that rises from it. Forming a part of the Indian Ridge is the conspicuous elevation surrounding Kerguelen Island known as the Kerguelen Ridge. The ridge extending from Australia to Antarctica supports Macquarie Island and is known as the Macquarie Ridge. The importance of these ridges in determining the distribution of properties and the character of the circulation around Antarctica is discussed in chapter XV, p. 610 et seq. The greatest depths found in the region shown in fig. 4 are in the Byrd Deep to the south of New Zealand and in the South Sandwich Trench on the convex side of the South Antilles Arc.

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