Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

25 years of research in polar seas aboard the research vessel Polarstern

26.11.2007
On December 9, 2007, the ice-breaking research vessel Polarstern will celebrate her 25th anniversary of service: since 1982, the world's most powerful polar research vessel has been venturing to the Arctic and Antarctic on behalf of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, part of the Helmholtz Association.

7600 scientist from 36 nations have gained insights into the polar oceans aboard Polarstern, facilitating our current understanding of the earth as a system. Polarstern provides ideal working conditions for international and interdisciplinary research teams and offers safe transport in polar seas.

Currently, Polarstern is on her way to the Antarctic as part of the International Polar Year 2007/08. The birthday celebration for Polarstern will take place on November 28 at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, and will include a special address by Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel.

The international research community owes a vast amount of knowledge to the operation of Polarstern, e.g. concerning past climate and the largely unexplored deep sea. The largest German research vessel was funded by the then Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and is operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. "For 25 years, expeditions aboard Polarstern have been producing scientific results which have significantly advanced our understanding of important parts of the earth as a system", says Prof Dr Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Polarstern expeditions are designed as international and interdisciplinary ventures in order to enhance insights into the polar regions through optimal scientific exchange and data gain. Polarstern can accommodate up to 55 scientists, who, aside from being provided with a bunk, have access to modern laboratories, aquaria and measuring equipment, but are also able to bring their own instruments or work around the clock. During extended research voyages to the polar regions, Polarstern must be entirely self-sufficient, with the crew being able to carry out even complicated repairs independently. Polarstern not only represents a floating laboratory, it also supplies Neumayer Station in the Antarctic, which is operated year round, with food, materials and fuel.

Polar research is climate research
Despite the tremendous significance of polar regions for the climate and comprehensive research activities in the past, many questions about polar oceans remain unanswered. It takes a reliable logistical infrastructure to travel to and study such inhospitable regions. Polarstern is the only vessel in the world to enable directed research in polar oceans year round. "Only if we have long-term data from these limited-access regions, will we be able to recognise changes and make predictions for the future. The data collected from oceans, sea ice and from the atmosphere above, allows international teams of scientists to construct models which we will need to adapt to future living conditions on our planet", says Dr Eberhard Fahrbach, scientific coordinator of the Polarstern expeditions.

In order to facilitate participation by the general public and future young scientists in polar research, individual Polarstern voyages are occasionally accompanied by media representatives, teachers and artists. University students and PhD candidates regularly join Polarstern in order to get to know the practical aspects of polar research and to collect important data for diploma and doctoral research.

Results from 25 years of Polarstern expeditions
The 45 Polarstern expeditions to date have provided a major contribution to our understanding of the environment. Fascinating biological communities in the deep sea were investigated by means of robots, operated from Polarstern. After a 10,000 square kilometre section of the Larsen Ice Shelf in Antarctica broke away, marine biologists were able, for the very first time, to take a look at the previously entirely unknown habitat under the ice during the winter of 2006/2007.

Both anchored and drifting recording platforms, deployed during expeditions in the Arctic and Southern Oceans, have been providing multi-year data records of salinity, temperature and currents, including during winter and from below the sea ice. Oceanographers at the Alfred Wegener Institute have been using these data to examine the effects of current climate change on polar oceans and broader global climate developments. The operation of such observation systems requires continual maintenance and a reliable polar research programme.

The winter expeditions attracted particular attention. Usually, Polarstern travels to the Arctic during the European (i.e. Arctic) summer and spends her winters (austral summers) in the Antarctic. However, several research expeditions were also carried out during the polar winter seasons. These investigations pose very high technical demands, but are essential for observations of full annual cycles in polar environments. 2005/2006 was the last time Polarstern spent a full year in the Antarctic to explore the development of sea ice and associated species communities. One important component of polar animal life is the Antarctic krill. These crustaceans not only represent the most significant food source for many marine mammals, but also have much commercial potential.

Geoscientists owe their current knowledge about the origin of the polar oceans to seismic investigations aboard Polarstern. The opening and closing of ocean basins severely influenced the development of life, as well as climate, during the various geological periods on Earth. Sediment cores obtained from aboard Polarstern, provide insights into the climate history of the planet.

Polarstern during the International Polar Year 2007/08
Currently, Polarstern is on assignment as part of the International Polar Year which sees more than 50,000 scientists and technical staff in over 230 international research projects, addressing urgent questions of polar and climate research. Many of the research projects depend on Polarstern as their basis of operation.

On October 26, 2007, Polarstern left Bremerhaven for Cape Town. During this voyage, marine biologists have been studying the species composition and distribution of small animals drifting in the water, the so-called zooplankton. The microscopic organisms form the dietary basis of many fishes, thus representing an essential component of marine food webs in the ocean. Within the framework of the project 'Census of Marine Zooplankton', the marine biologists are expecting to discover numerous new species of plankton. After a brief stop in Cape Town, Polarstern will start heading towards Antarctica on November 28, 2007.

Polarstern - 25 years of research in Arctic and Antarctic
Marking the anniversary, a book "Polarstern - 25 Jahre Forschung in Arktis und Antarktis" (German language only) will be published by Delius Klasing Verlag (ISBN No 978-3-7688-2433-0). The two editors, scientists Dieter Karl Fütterer and Eberhard Fahrbach, have both led many expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. They have compiled contributions from more than 50 Polarstern travellers, including crew members and scientists, to capture the most beautiful, exciting but also difficult moments aboard Polarstern, using a backdrop of scientific results.

Review copies of the book "Polarstern - 25 Jahre Forschung in Arktis und Antarktis" are available from the publisher, Verlag Delius Klasing, attention Christian Ludewig (Tel: ++49-521-559902, email: c.ludewig@delius-klasing.de).

Technical Specifications for Polarstern
Construction: Howaldtswerke/Deutsche Werft (HDW), Kiel
Dockyard: Nobisburg, Rendsburg
Ice breaker design: Hamburgische Schiffbau-Versuchsanstalt
Overall length: 118 metres
Maximum beam: 25 metres
Height to main deck: 13.6 metres
Draught: max. 11.2 metres
Maximum displacement: 17,300 tonnes
Light weight: 11,820 tonnes
Engine power (4 engines): approx. 14,000 kW (20,000 bhp)
Cruising speed: 12 knots
Management of operations
Shipping Company Reederei F. Laeisz
Expedition data Polarstern
Construction costs (1982): 100 Mill. Euro
Daily costs of operation: 54,000 Euro
Crew: max. 44 persons
Scientific staff: max. 55 persons
Arctic expeditions: 22
Antarctic expeditions: 24 (the 24th Antarctic expedition began on October 26, 2007)
Travelled nautical miles: 1,252,330 upon arrival in Cape Town on Nov 26, 2007
Expedition participants: 7600 persons from 36 countries
The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in oceans of mid and high latitudes. The AWI coordinates polar research in Germany, and provides important infrastructure, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic, for international science organisations. The AWI is one of 15 research centres of the 'Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft' (Helmholtz Association), the largest scientific organisation in Germany.

Margarete Pauls | idw
Further information:
http://www.awi.de/de/infrastruktur/schiffe/polarstern/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht 558 million-year-old fat reveals earliest known animal
21.09.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control
20.09.2018 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE with over 60 Contributions at the European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition

21.09.2018 | Trade Fair News

558 million-year-old fat reveals earliest known animal

21.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Neutrons produce first direct 3D maps of water during cell membrane fusion

21.09.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>