After 389 days, the largest Arctic research expedition of all time comes to a successful end in Bremerhaven

Published on
October 19, 2020

After more than a year in the Central Arctic, on Monday 12 October, the research icebreaker Polarstern returned to her homeport in Bremerhaven. Accompanied by a ‘welcome committee’ of ships that came to greet, the ship entered the North Lock with the morning high tide, at ca. 9:00 am CEST. At port, expedition leader Markus Rex, Captain Thomas Wunderlich and the entire team from the final leg of the expedition were welcomed by e.g. the German Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek and the Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Antje Boetius.

The event marked the end of a record-breaking expedition: never before had an icebreaker ventured so far north during the Arctic winter, and never before could international researchers comprehensively gather such urgently needed climate data in the region of the world hardest hit by climate change. Drifting with the ice, they endured the extreme cold, Arctic storms, a constantly changing floe – and the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Participation Wageningen Marine Research

Serdar Sakinan of Wageningen Marine Research was one of the researchers on board the Polarstern. He went on the third leg of the MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) expedition, which aims to map the effect of melting polar ice. Sakinan unexpectedly went with the expedition because his colleague Fokje Schaafsma was pregnant and she could not go. On board, Sakinan conducted research on the Arctic cod in harsh conditions.

Schaafsma has already visited the Arctic a number of times during the summer months to investigate these fish. Previous research by her and her colleagues at the Alfred Wegener Institute showed that juvenile Arctic cod are close to the ice and may even drift with the sea ice. This expedition gave Schaafsma a unique opportunity to know where the Arctic cod migrate in the other seasons. She wonders whether they stay close to the ice or go to greater depths? And what do they eat there? These kinds of questions are interesting because the fish species plays an important role in the ecosystem of the polar region. Schaafsma and Sakinan are currently inventarizing and analyzing all samples and collected data.

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