The research ship POLARSTERN sets off in the early morning hours of 27 October 2012 for an unusual expedition to the Antarctic. This time the ship will not be returning to Bremerhaven as usual at the end of the Antarctic summer, but will be spending the winter in the South Polar Sea for research purposes. There are only a few ships throughout the world with which scientists can risk a winter expedition of this type in the Antarctic.
Route of POLARSTERN's winter experiment, scheduled from 8 June until 12 August 2013
© Alfred Wegener Institute
The so-called winter experiment is the climax of an 18-month long expedition in the southern hemisphere and will take the ship, its crew and the 54 scientists on board from Cape Town, South Africa to the Antarctic Weddell Sea. “We wish to investigate two fundamental research questions during this trip. The first one is which mechanisms bring the ecosystem of the South Polar Sea back to life after the long, cold and extremely dark winter? And secondly, why does the spread of the Antarctic sea ice increase slightly whilst the sea ice cover in the Arctic is constantly on the retreat?“, explains the chief scientist Prof. Dr. Peter Lemke from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association.
Up to now scientists have not had enough data to answer these questions because the winter in the Weddell Sea is one of persistently long darkness, very strong winds and temperatures of up to minus 40 degrees Celsius. “Several severe storms per week are not rare at this time of year and are, of course, one of the reasons why hardly no ships stay in the Antarctic in winter“, explains Peter Lemke.
The physicist and climate expert has already led one winter experiment of the POLARSTERN in 1992. During its fourth winter cruise in total, 21 years later, the ship will follow virtually the same route. However, the research approach this time is far more interdisciplinary: “During this expedition we will have scientists from all major scientific disciplines on board because we wish to tackle our two main questions in close cooperation and be able to answer the questions as comprehensively as possible at the end of the expedition“, according to Peter Lemke.
For the research icebreaker POLARSTERN the coming winter cruise will be the fifth of this type. The last time the ship spent the winter months of 2006 in the Weddell Sea. “During the expedition at that time we learned that the biology in the sea and ice is already in full swing in September and October, i.e. in the middle of the Antarctic winter, and the question to arise was what exactly causes the start of the ecosystem into the new season?“, says Peter Lemke.
This time the scientists are travelling earlier to the frozen Weddell Sea: “We wish to use the darkness of the polar night so as to travel into the spring from the south more or less with the rising sun and to see how the ecosystem starts the new season“, explains Peter Lemke.
However, before Polarstern starts out on its winter experiment on 8 June 2013 in Cape Town, the ship has five other cruise legs. On the first leg, the transfer from Bremerhaven to Cape Town, some 30 young scientists from eleven different universities and research institutes will have the opportunity to collect data and samples for an interdisciplinary research and training programme called “Pelagic Biodiversity of the Atlantic Ocean“. Following this the ship will head for the Atka Bay in the Weddell Sea to unload new snow vehicles, spare parts and the annual rations of food and fuel for the Neumayer III research station.
A so-called ice digger is on board for the first time which is to be used for research on huge ice floes. Contrary to traditional construction vehicles, the machine measuring around one times two metres does not have an excavator bucket but is equipped with an ice drill. The ice digger is to drill around 80 centimetre wide holes in the ice which then serve the research divers as starting point for investigations below the ice.
Notes for Editors:
The 18-month expedition is divided into ten cruise legs. A complete schedule is available on the internet at http://www.awi.de/en/infrastructure/ships/polarstern/schedule_rv_polarstern/. Excerpts from a lengthy video interview (in German language) with Professor Dr Peter Lemke is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCTlz8P--XM&feature=plcp. Please find printable images in the online version of this press release at http://www.awi.de/en/news/press_releases/.
Your contact person at the Alfred Wegener Institute is Sina Löschke, Dept. of Communications and Media Relations (phone: +49 (0)471 4831-2008, e-mail: Sina.Loeschke@awi.de).
Follow the Alfred Wegener Institute on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AWI_de) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AlfredWegenerInstitut) for all current news items and information on small everyday stories from the life of the Institute (in German language).
The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and in the high and mid-latitude oceans. The Institute coordinates German polar research and provides important infrastructure such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctic to the international scientific world. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the 18 research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.
Ralf Röchert | idw
Volcanoes and glaciers combine as powerful methane producers
20.11.2018 | Lancaster University
Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen
Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.
Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences
21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.11.2018 | Life Sciences