Education and Training

RV Polarstern arrives in Cape Town

A Team of Young Scientists takes the Vital Signs of the Atlantic Ocean
[01. December 2015] 

The German research vessel Polarstern will arrive tomorrow in Cape Town after a five week voyage. During this training cruise from Bremerhaven to South Africa 32 international young scientists were trained in how to observe and measure the vital signs of the Atlantic Ocean.

The young people come from 19 different countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and America. They all were sponsored by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Nippon Foundation, the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) in a concerted effort to increase ocean going training and to build capacity for marine research.

The Atlantic Ocean with its definite biogeographical gradients in temperature and salinity as well as its zones of upwelling is an integral part of our planet´s climate system. “With the backdrop of climate change and an increasing El Niño signature it is imperative to know how our oceans function,” says Professor Karin Lochte, Director of the Alfred Wegener Institute. And Professor Karen Wiltshire, POGO Chair, adds: “We therefore need the ships, the instrumentation and, most importantly, well-educated scientists all over the world to secure the ocean’s future for our planet.”

On a dreary foggy 29 October the RV Polarstern left its homeport Bremerhaven (Germany) on the quest to train 32 young scientists in oceanographic measurements and sampling at sea. During the research cruise the students learned to take oceanographic measurements and to interpret the structure of the water masses. With nets plankton organisms were caught and identified under the microscope. Even a guide for identifying the main algal species was produced. Satellite data were analysed and compared to measurements at sea.

“We as young scientists need as much practical experience as possible, and ship board training on a professional vessel like the RV Polarstern is the perfect training method,” says Eleni Bintoudi, aquatic biology student from Greece.

Geography student Seán Lynch from Ireland adds: “This is an innovative ocean learning experience which includes team building, supervised by professionals. This will serve to increase the overall professionality of future ocean-going scientists”.

While all scientists are looking forward to being on land again and to bringing home their new found expertise in handling large bodies of ocean data from endless instrument casts into the deep, they also are really sad to leave the RV Polarstern and the vast ocean realm.

Amy Wright, marine biology student from Cape Town, says: “This was an awesome experience. I will never forget what I learnt on this cruise and we are all grateful to the crew and teachers for their time and patience”.

AWI Director Karin Lochte also draws a positive conclusion: “The young ocean scientists from all corners of the Earth did not only gain new experiences, but all have contributed with their measurements to the ocean data base required for Global Ocean Observation and advancement of climate modelling needed to secure our planet’s future.” 


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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.