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RV Polarstern set off on 27th Antarctic Expedition

Research vessel Polarstern launches expedition to Antarctic summer – focus on impacts of climate change on oceanic currents, animal and plant world

The research vessel Polarstern sets off on its 27th Antarctic expedition on coming Monday, 25 October. The voyage will consist of four legs separated by port calls in Cape Town (South Africa), Punta Arenas (Chile) and back to Cape Town.

The scientific focal points of the expedition are atmospheric research, oceanography and biology. In addition, the ship will bring supplies to Neumayer Station III, the Dallmann laboratory and the British Rothera station during the expedition. Over 180 researchers from institutes in 15 countries are taking part in the expedition, which will end in Bremerhaven in mid-May 2011.

From Bremerhaven the vessel will first set course for Cape Town, South Africa. The team headed by chief scientist Dr. Karl Bumke from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IfM-Geomar) will take advantage of the voyage across the Atlantic to carry out measurements of atmospheric and oceanic properties, determine energy and material fluxes between the ocean and atmosphere and conduct chemical investigations. To study the energy and material fluxes, the scientists will again use instruments installed in the container of the Oceanet project, which was specially developed for applications on freight and research vessels under the management of IfM-Geomar with the Institute of Tropospheric Research in Leipzig.

Furthermore, the scientific team will test an updated system for measuring the seafloor that was installed on board during the dry dock overhaul in Bremerhaven. Dr. Hans-Werner Schenke of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association has been using the so-called Hydrosweep echo sounder for many years, among other things, to draw up nautical charts. Such mapping of the seafloor forms the basis for many other kinds of research work on board. Biologists, for instance, want to put out fish traps on the third leg of the expedition and can determine the most favourable places to do so on the basis of bathymetric data.

The largest living creatures on our planet, the whales, also play a role on the expedition. Researchers of the Oceanic Acoustics working group of the Alfred Wegener Institute want to anchor an acoustic recorder at a depth of around 900 metres at the northern end of the Walvis Ridge west of Namibia shortly before calling at Cape Town. It will record the songs of whales in an area where presumably many species give birth to their young. Since little is known about the migration and breeding grounds of many whales at present, this acoustic method will supply new information on the threatened marine mammals.

In Cape Town a new team of scientists and technicians will put to sea, setting course for the Southern Ocean at the end of November. Among other things, the team predominantly consisting of oceanographers and biologists will study how the Antarctic Ocean changes. Polarstern will additionally bring supplies to Neumayer Station III, the Dallmann laboratory and the British Rothera station and is scheduled to return to Bremerhaven on 20 May 2011.

Notes for Editors: Your contact person at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Folke Mehrtens, Department of Communications and Media Relations (phone: +49 471 4831-2007, email: Please find printable images on our website

The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the sixteen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Margarete Pauls | idw
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