The German research icebreaker FS POLARSTERN

07.03.2018 - Article
FS POLARSTERN© Picture Alliance

The German research icebreaker “Polarstern” (polar star) is the German polar research's most important tool and the Alfred-Wegener-Institute's flagship vessel. Without this ship, research at the institute's various stations would be impossible, and it ensures the continuing existence of the “Neumayer-Station III”  which is staffed all year round.

Between November and March, the ship traverses the Antarctic waters, while the Northern summer months are spent in the Arctic Sea. Easily capable of breaking through ice up to 1,5 m thick with its double-layered steel rump and propelled by 20 000 hp. The Polarstern is built to withstand temperatures of up to minus 50° Celcius and last during the icy polar winter season. The crew comprises over 40 staff and a maximum of 55 scientists and technicians. Nine scientific laboratories fitted with ample equipment to conduct biological, geological and geophysical as well glaciophysical, chemical, oceanographic and meteorological research to the international experts on board.

The vessel has a hanger spacious enough to accommodate two helicopters and several small rubber craft. The Polarstern, built in 1982, retains its status as one of the world's most effective polar research vessels, in no small part due to an intensive general  technical refurbishment she underwent between 1990 and 2001. The Polarstern III is due to be succeeded by  a new state-of-the-art vessel which is expected to be in service by 2019.

In 2019 the research vessel is going to embark on the biggest single Arctic research expedition ever planned. For one year the vessel will be stuck in the ice of the North Polar Sea so it can drift across the North Pole. The expedition aims to answer big unknowns about the Arctic, including why the region is warming faster than any other place on the planet. 

The project was presented to the public at the AAAS science conference in Boston in

February 2017. The research team led by the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Maritime Research (AWI) will disperse across the polar cap to take measurements and provide answers which have never been possible before. To date, data was only gathered in Arctic summers, not over the course of a whole year. The expedition, called MOSAiC- acronym for 'Multi-disciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate Development', was developed under the umbrella of the International Arctic Science Committee, it will cost around 50 million euro. Dozens of polar research institutions are participating.

You will find more detailed information on the German vessel FS Polarstern HERE

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