On 4 October 2019, following a fairly brief but intensive search, the participants in the MOSAiC expedition allowed their ship to freeze to the floe where they would subsequently erect their research camp for the drift through the Arctic Ocean. Finding the right floe proved to be an enormous challenge, since, after the warmest Arctic summer to date, there were very few floes in the expedition’s starting region that were suitably thick. The one they ultimately chose was formed – as they subsequently discovered – near the New Siberian Islands in December 2018, and had already covered a distance of 2,222 kilometres, following a zigzagging course. Above all, the team valued one exceptionally stable area of the floe, which proved to offer a good location for the research camp. At the same time, other parts of the floe were relatively thin and dynamic, making them good representatives of the ‘new Arctic’; it was precisely this combination that made the floe an outstanding candidate for the planned scientific projects. In the course of the year, storms repeatedly produced new leads and pressure ridges, which at times made the expedition participants’ work much harder. But generally speaking, the floe remained stable to the very end – even during the melting season, when neighbouring ice sheets broke up, one after the other.
“Last autumn we looked for, found, scouted, colonised and investigated our floe from every possible perspective. Ever since, it has been a steadfast, stable basis for our research camp. Over the many months the ice floe has become our home, and we’ll always remember it fondly. But now it becomes water again. The time has come to bid it farewell and head north for the final phase of the expedition,” says Markus Rex.