Annual land-fast ice, particularly an unconsolidated layer or “platelet ice-like” layer (PLI), was sampled in spring 1995 to study the spatial and short-term variations of ice-associated diatoms. Under-ice water, a lead and small polynyas were also sampled. Along a 7 km seaward transect a geographical gradient was evident, with some rare diatom species present only in the offshore PLI, whereas others (mainly pennate diatoms) were ubiquitous. The dense microphytic PLI community as well as the phytoplankton was diatom-dominated, but, within these two communities, marked differences appeared. First, the sea-ice communities (PLI and solid bottom ice) were moderately diverse (36 species), mostly composed of pennate diatoms, of which many were chain forming or tube-dwelling. Dominant taxa were Navicula glaciei, Berkeleya adeliensis, Nitzschia stellata, Amphiprora kufferathii and Nitzschia lecointei. Some differences in the distribution of the most dominant species appeared within the bottom ice and the PLI, attesting to differences in the origin or/and growing capability of these diatoms in these two ice compartments. Under-ice water species composition was mixed with sea-ice communities only on the most coastal sites and during ice melt. Maximum cell numbers were mostly noticed in the PLI, reaching up to 1010 cells l−1 and very high Chl a concentrations (exceptionally up to 9.8 mg Chl a l−1 or 1.9 g Chl a m−2, from a 10 to 20 cm thick PLI layer, close to the continent). Secondly, the phytoplankton in the lead and small polynyas had a low diversity, very low standing stocks (on an average 0.69 μg Chl a l−1) and cell densities (2 × 104 cells l−1). Some species from the polynyas were similar to those of the PLI, such as Navicula glaciei, but others were typically planktonic, such as Chaetoceros cf. neglectus. The presence of encysted cells (Chaetoceros and Chrysophytes) was also noticeable in the polynya water. In early spring no seeding process was obvious from the PLI to polynya water. A comparison with similar fast-ice diatom communities in other parts of coastal Antarctica, is presented.