Weekly Reports Polarstern

The Expedition PS117 Cape Town - Punta Arenas

Polarstern expedition PS117 seeks to provide contributions to scientific projects encompassing physical oceanography, marine biology and meteorology, with the general aim to better our understanding of the evolution of the Weddell Sea water masses and the ecological and chemical cycles of the Weddell Sea.  In addition to the immediate scientific program, this expedition also serves to resupply the German Neumayer Station, Antarctica to support the multifaceted scientific activities originating from there.  Specific scientific projects conducted throughout the expedition from aboard are:

HAFOS (Hybrid Antarctic Float Observing System), investigates the circulation and evolution of Warm Deep Water and Weddell Sea Bottom Water by means of oceanographic deep-sea moorings, hydrographic sections and autonomous floats, the latter of which also extend the international Argo Project to the polar seas.  Biological aspects of HAFOS concern the acoustic ecology of the Weddell Sea and its fauna, for which moorings are equipped with autonomous recorders.

FePhyrus will investigate the sources and sinks of trace metals and isotopes in the Weddell Sea and Lazarev Sea and the interaction between iron and the microbial foodweb.

SOCCOM (Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modelling) is observing and modelling the biogeochemical cycles of the Southern Ocean as a means of improving climate modelling; observations are made using biogeochemical profiling floats (BGC-Argo) that are being distributed throughout the Southern Ocean. UK PICCOLO (Processes Influencing Carbon Cycling: Observations of the Lower Limb of the Antarctic Overturning) scientists study the key processes controlling the rate of Southern Ocean carbon uptake, via the release of Argo floats and carbonate chemistry data collection on the Greenwich Meridian section in the Weddell Sea.

The project Microplastics will explore the occurrence and distribution of microplastics in water and biota in the Southern Ocean.

SIPES 2 (Sea Ice Production and Ecology Study) investigates the ecological importance of sea ice for the pelagic food web and carbon supply to top predators (birds and mammals).

ALGENOM-2 investigates the molecular evolutionary and ecological dynamics of unicellular eukaryotic assemblages and of selected taxa thereof.

CombiBac aims for a better understanding of bacterial remineralization processes in the Weddell Sea with emphasis on their  dependence on water temperature and substrate concentration. For this purpose, parameters of bacterial activity, the composition of bacterioplankton communities and concentrations of organic matter will be determined in field samples and during on-board experiments.

The project “Molecular ecology, physiology and life history tools to monitor the population of Dissostichus mawsoni over time and in relation to protection measures in the Weddell Sea” aims at catching alive Antarctic toothfish and other endemic Notothenioids by means of baited traps to investigate their physiology, genetics, population structure and dynamics.

The project "Piloting vertical longlines in support of the conservation and sustainable management of Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the Weddell Sea under CCAMLR" explores a novel, targeted approach to catch a limited amount (max. 5 tonnes) of toothfish for biological, genomic and ecophysiological research.

AWImet-PS will, as contribution to the „Year of Polar Prediction“ (YOPP) increase the rate of radiosoundings on board Polarstern  from 1 or 2 to 4 launches per day.

To realize these projects, the research vessel Polarstern will depart from Cape Town, South Africa, on 15 December 2018 for the expedition PS117, taking us across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica and back, to end on 7 February in Punta Arenas, Chile.  Cape Town will be left in the evening on a southwesterly course, heading for the Greenwich Meridian, which we will reach several days later at about 51°S.  Sailing straight south until reaching the Antarctic continent, we will then veer west for the Atka Seaport, to refurbish the German Antarctic Station Neumayer III shortly after New Year.  Thereafter we will zigzag across the Weddell Sea from Kaap Norvegia to the northern tip of Antarctic Peninsula, to finally cross Drake Passage and enter Magellan Strait to call port in Punta Arenas, Chile, the final destination of this expedition, on 7 February 2019.

PS117 - Weekly Report Nro. 3 | 6 - 12 January 2019

On the way to Neumayer Station III

[14. January 2019] 

Having refurbished all oceanographic moorings of the eastern Weddell Sea (Fig. 1), the ship can finally shifts its attention to the biological projects aboard. 

PS117 - Weekly Report No. 2 | 21 December 2018 - 5 January 2019


[07. January 2019] 

After nearly a week at sea, the oceanographic station work falls into routine: CTD (conductivity – temperature – pressure probe) in the water – lowering to the bottom – hoisting – CTD aboard.  This is frequently followed by the deployment of an Argo float, freely drifting profiling probes which will regularly provide the oceanographic key parameters, temperature and salt, from within the upper 2000m of the ocean for the next 5 years.

PS 117 - Weekly Report No 1 | 15 – 20 December 2018

A full loaded vessel

[21. December 2018] 

As planned, Polarstern pushes away from the pier in Cape Town on 15 December at 4pm, taking off for her 117th expedition to the Antarctic. 

PS116 - Weekly Report No. 3 | 26 November - 7 December 2018

Satellite orbits and laser beams

[07. December 2018] 

On our way further south, we sailed on various courses and with different speeds.

PS116 - Weekly Report No. 2 | 19 - 25 November 2018

Polarstern in 3D

[28. November 2018] 

The arrival of Polarstern in the port of Las Palmas took a little longer, because the dedicated berth was occupied by another vessel. She drifted some miles away from the breakwater to wait for the pilot to come on board and the required permission to go alongside.