PS115.2 Wochenbericht Nr. 1 | 03.09. – 09.09.18

From Longyearbyen through the Northeast Passage towards the Siberian Arctic

[10. September 2018] 

Monday (03.09.18). Since early Monday morning “Polarstern“ is anchoring in the Isfjorden, directly off Longyearbyen, and waiting for the new crew and the new group of scientists, who will be embarked for the coming Leg.

A small group of scientists including the chief scientist, already arrived today, most of the people, however, will show up tomorrow.  As “Polarstern“ cannot enter the harbor pier directly, all people have to use the zodiac – certainly a rocking adventure for most of us (Fig.1).

Tuesday (04.09.18). It’s rainy, from time to time short periods with some sun shine. The main group of scientists has arrived in time, and the embarking procedure can start in the afternoon at 15:30. About one hour later, all people are onboard. Our departure is scheduled for tomorrow morning, Wednesday (05.09.18), at 10:00, more or less directly after the “Bullen Show” - a meeting with information about the life and rules onboard and safety instructions given by Captain Thomas Wunderlich and his officers, ending with a safety training. This was at least the plan, however, a plan that we had to revise next morning: A medical case of emergency required a visit in the Longyearbyen Hospital, we had to postpone our departure. On one hand regrettable, on the other hand also somehow soothing for everyone of us. This gives us the feeling of “safety and health of the single person first”! Around noontime, our doc Norbert Jaeger and his patient are back onboard with positive news – everything is fine, the patient can stay with us, joining the coming Arctic adventure. This final decision certainly takes a load off the patient’s mind.

We are complete now, ready to go – 44 crew members and 49 scientists, helicopter pilots, and technicians from a large number of different institutions in Germany, Canada and Russia. „Anker hoch“ (Hiev up the anchor) – at 16:00 we start steaming through the the Isfjorden towards the open Norwegian Sea, calm sea, slightly snow-covered mountainsides, small-sized retreated glaciers in deep trough valleys as traces of glacier advantages during past major glaciations. Although the few rays of sunshine have been replaced by some drizzle during the last about two hours, quite a large number of curious scientists persists staying on the peildeck, impressed by this fascinating scenery. Five days of transit are ahead of us, most of this transit through the Northeast Passage, the Russian Extended Economical Zone (EEZ), before we reach our main working area and can start with our research program. But even if we cannot do any research activities within the Russian EEZ, boredom does not show up.

Thursday and Friday (06./07.09.18). During these first days, all groups become active, working in the labs, testing or preparing instruments, down-loading software, having small and/or large meetings etc. These activities will certainly also continue beyond these days. Meanwhile we have entered the Arctic Ocean and changed our course toward the east. That means, we strictly follow this course along the continental margin towards the Siberian Arctic for the coming days, crossing several time zones. This requires to adjust our clocks to follow the daylight. Today during the night, we will start with this procedure.

Saturday/Sunday (08./09.09.18). Concerning research, a free weekend! At least early risers and revellers do realize first small and tiny ice floes passing the ship on Saturday early morning around 04:00. Towards noontime, these ice floes become bigger, scarring along the outside of “Polarstern”, a type of noise one probably never will forget. Shortly later, between 12:30 and 14:00, strong excitement for many people onboard, especially for the Arctic tyros, when they listen to the announcement via ship’s loudspeaker by our nautical officer Lutz Peine: “Polar bear at portside”. In this short time span, four large ice floes with polar bears are observed relatively close to the ship, one polar bear seems to sleep on the ice floe, one is running (Fig. 2), and another one, hidden behind an ice ridge, is staring at three walruses sitting at the same ice floe – is the latter the beginning of a feast or a tragedy? The outcome of this confrontation we never will find out as the ice floe and its passengers rapidly get out of our sight.

Also on Sunday it remains wintery, almost relating to Christmas: Outside the deck is covered by snow, inside we enjoy the lunch with roasted goose, red cabbage, dumplings and ice cream as dessert (delicious! – many thanks to our cook Jörg Meißner and his team). Finally, another fascinating scenery is observed by those who stay outside when “Polarstern“ slowly passes through a field of thicker pack ice, accompanied by a gorgeous sun set (Fig. 3).

Certainly, this weekly report is quite “wintery and research-free”. The transit through the Russian EEZ did not allow to do any research. On the other hand, however, this route under more or less ice-free conditions did allow a rapid and favorable (in terms of fuel consumption and costs) travel to our research area – at the end quite probably a significant advantage. Thus, we are still in a good mood, having in mind that our research will start quite soon, shortly after midnight when we have left the Russian EEZ. Our research will start in the Gakkel Deep, a more than 5000 m deep central rift valley of the Gakkel Ridge, the active volcanic mid-ocean ridge. And then? What will happen during the coming weeks after we have reached our main working area, the Lomonosov Ridge (Fig. 4)? What about the ice conditions? Do we reach the major research goals of our expedition? etc. The next weekly report will certainly deal more with the scientific background and goals of the expedition and hopefully also present some exiting news about our scientific work here onboard this wonderful ship “Polarstern”.


That’s it for today. We send our best wishes to all our families and friends at home.

Ruediger Stein

(Sep 09, 2018)



Rüdiger Stein

Scientific Coordination

Rainer Knust
Rainer Knust


Sanne Bochert
Sanne Bochert