Arctic Expedition

Polarstern returns from geo-expedition in the Arctic

Rock samples from the ocean floor, likely several million years old, recovered
[16. October 2018] 

This morning, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) research icebreaker Polarstern returned to her homeport in Bremerhaven. Over the previous six weeks, nearly 100 contributing researchers and crewmembers had engaged in geoscientific fieldwork, sea-ice experiments and meteorological research in the Central Arctic. In addition, students from the German-Canadian graduate training programme ArcTrain were on board.

AWI geologist and expedition head Prof. Rüdiger Stein is particularly excited about the rock samples collected from the seafloor, which are estimated to be 20 to 45 million years old – at least on the basis of the preliminary palaeomagnetic data. As Stein explains, “We were able to use the dredge to gather extremely old samples from a seamount-like elevation that we discovered.” If right, this represents a true highlight of the expedition, as the sediments offer an unprecedented chance to look far back into the Earth’s history, i.e., into remote times when the Arctic Ocean was far warmer, and free of ice in the summer. According to Stein: “If we now find certain index fossils – in other words, the shells of tiny microfossils like diatoms or dinoflagellates – in our samples, we’ll be able to gauge how old the stone is, and have a better idea of how old the basement is. In turn, this will tell us more about the formation history of the Eurasian Basin.” In addition, he claims, organic-geochemical testing will allow his team to make much more precise statements regarding the surface water temperature and sea-ice distribution during the transitional phase from a greenhouse to an icehouse climate. Furthermore, the researchers were able to collect numerous additional sediment cores from the Central Arctic, which reflect glacial-interglacial cycles in the course of the Quaternary Period (from 2.6 million years ago to the present). The geologists hope to gain valuable new information on climate fluctuations during this period from the upcoming laboratory measurements on these Quaternary sediments.

For the next three and a half weeks, the Polarstern will remain at the Lloyd Werft shipyards in Bremerhaven for routine maintenance and repairs. Once they have been completed, she’ll begin the Antarctic season with a resupply mission to the Neumayer III station, and is expected to reach the Larsen C ice shelf – which a massive iceberg calved from last year – by spring.


The Arctic will be the focus of global science policy in October

"Co-operation in Arctic Science – Challenges and Joint Actions ". Under this motto, science ministers from around the world will come together on 25 and 26 October 2018 for the 2nd Arctic Science Ministerial in Berlin. Representatives from 30 nations will then discuss the arctic research of the future. The indigenous peoples of the Arctic are also represented. The aim is to strengthen international scientific cooperation in the Arctic region. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the patron of the conference. Germany invites to the meeting together with the European Commission and Finland.

More Informationon the conference:



Rüdiger Stein

Press Office

Folke Mehrtens