In the years that followed, the AWI established a time series in the Weddell Sea that offers insights e.g. into deep-water formation, a process that drives global ocean currents. How warm water flows below the massive ice sheets of the Antarctic, melting them from below, was also studied on Polarstern expeditions. The AWI is currently working on an Antarctic strategy that will place even greater focus on researching the Southern Ocean in international cooperation with a multidisciplinary approach. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Polarstern helped the AWI to construct the world’s first and only long-term observatory in the Arctic deep sea: the AWI Hausgarten, first planned more than 20 years ago. Having since been supplemented with mobile components like ROVs, AUVs, ice buoys and gliders, together with a network of deep-sea moorings in the Arctic it forms the FRAM infrastructure, which allows data to be gathered year-round.
The ship is currently northeast of the Islas Georgias del Sur / Island of South Georgia, where an international team led by AWI geochemist Prof Sabine Kasten recently investigated biogeochemical material flows from the island’s glaciers into fjords and the open ocean. “We’re very pleased that, thanks to the Polarstern, we were able to weather the adverse conditions produced by the ‘furious fifties’ in the Southern Ocean and, in just two weeks, to successfully visit more than 50 sites in our study area,” says the expedition leader. “Together with the crew from Reederei Laeisz under Captain Moritz Langhinrichs, we’re celebrating the Polarstern’s 40th birthday with a festive reception and get-together in the ship’s Blue Saloon,” reports Sabine Kasten. “On behalf of the entire research team, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Captain Langhinrichs and the ship’s crew for their impeccable support and the wonderful atmosphere they created on board.”
As of today, Polarstern has travelled more than 1.8 million nautical miles (nearly 3.5 million kilometres) – mathematically speaking, the equivalent of circling the Earth at the Equator nearly 86 times. Her next destination is Cape Town, South Africa, where shortly before Christmas a new research team will depart on a geoscientific expedition to the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas, resupplying the Neumayer Station III along the way. The Polarstern is expected to return to her home port, Bremerhaven, in mid-April 2023.
On the occasion of the birthday there is an animated 3-D ship tour for Polarstern fans: https://polarstern-3d.awi.eventfive.de/?lang=en