Polar expeditions with research ice breakers are the backbone of our field programs since over 30 years. They are performed in order to observe to improve our understanding of the polar sea ice zones. Here at AWI, we are mostly using our own ice breaker RV Polarstern, but we are also involved in expeditions by partner institutes with their vessels.
During these expeditions, we are performing visual ice observations from the vessel’s bridge (see box below), but the main focus is on ice station work and additional airborne measurements with helicopters. During ice stations, the ship is positioned alongside of an ice floe or it is moored to the ice for longer stations. Station times range from a few hours to several days, depending on the scientific focus of the expedition. Few exceptions have week-long drift stations with the same ice.
To support the work on and from the vessel, we are using various remote sensing and model results, e.g. to guide the vessel through the ice and/or to find representative and well-suited floes for our work. Our sea ice expeditions usually have a strong interdisciplinary aspect, involving biological or bio-geochemical work, also ranging from the atmosphere through snow and sea ice into the ocean.