PS120 - Weekly Report No. 4 | 23 - 27 June 2019

The Scent of the Ocean

[01. July 2019] 

Over the past few days, one could smell a scent of ocean, again. It is also interesting that as one get closer to the European shelf on board a ship, one notices that the water is no longer has the hue of the deep ocean blue or the shimmering turquoise of tropical waters. The waters are less clear and they have the same gleam as dark green glass.

The air smells of the sea. This scent is probably so poignant and familiar and even nostalgic as it reminds holidays at the coast or walks along the beach. For many of us on board the POLARSTERN, who live at the sea or who spend a lot of time in Bremerhaven, this is the scent of home.

This week we saw the deep water of the Mediterranean in our CDT off the coats of Gibralter and at the shelf edge we noted a gradual increase in microalgae, measured as Chlorophyll (the green Pigment of plants) in our samples. The ubiquitous Herring gulls from our northern seas also began to cruise along in front of the ship and the sea surface was graced by jellyfish and schools of dolphin.

The creature, which was most beautiful and very abundant, was the little free-floating hydrozoan Velella velella. This ingenious animal, commonly known as “Sea Raft” lives on the surface of the open ocean.

It basically consists of a tiny sail on a blue oval-shaped platform under which are tentacles. These tentacles are used to capture its plankton prey. They are up to 4 cm long, 2 cm wide and up to 2 cm in height. When the animal is alive the little raft is a stunning shade of blue. The day when we encountered the Sea Rafts was the last time the ocean was deep blue. Actually, the animals and the sea were perfectly matched with the deep blue colour of the paint of the POLARSTERN.

Now we have entered the North Sea again and the water smells of fresh seaweed and sea creatures. The ocean is choppy with short waves and natty little white caps. POLARSTERN is just cruising along and we, with our sea legs from the Atlantic hardly notice the movements. The sun glistens off the Cliffs of Dover in the far distance and we are busy packing. Our boxes with sampling bottles are empty and our last chocolate reserves and “Gummibears” are eaten.

This evening everybody has chipped in for a collection with items, which they no longer need and which, will be auctioned off for a Charity. We are already excited about bidding for the last bar of Chilli Chocolate and the water colours which some of our artistic colleagues on board have drawn.

We will soon be back in Bremerhaven and will have many tales to tell about our successful and wonderful expedition.

Best wishes from POLARSTERN to all Families, Friends and Colleagues at home.


Karen Wiltshire



Karen Helen Wiltshire

Scientific Coordination

Rainer Knust
Rainer Knust


Sanne Bochert
Sanne Bochert