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.

PS111 – Weekly Report No. 1 | 19 - 26 January 2018

Temperature Changes

[30. January 2018] 

We just escaped from the snowstorm in Germany. Since our plane had to be de-iced and then re-fueled twice, we started our flight to South Africa with a 3-hour delay. Between the Bavarian slush and the Antarctic sea ice, we enjoy a short warm-up period with wonderful 26 °C while having a ‘farewell beer’ at Cape Town’s Waterfront.


PS110 - Weekly Report No. 2 | 3 - 11 January 2018

From the Equator to the Cape-Basin

[12. January 2018] 

Also along the second part of our journey, the top priority remains to reach our destination on time in order to avoid delays in the tight schedules of the forthcoming Antarctic expeditions. Thus, during one of the shortest transits from Bremerhaven to Cape Town, there is very little time for station work.


PS110 - Weekly Report No. 1 | 20 December 2017 - 3 January 2018

From Advent into the New Year

[05. January 2018] 

According to the schedule Polarstern left Bremerhaven at high tide and in tight fog on 20th December, 2017. On board are 44 crew members and 9 scientists. There are also 2 inspectors of Laeisz Shipping Company and 4 engineers and technicians from companies in duty of last jobs left over from the ship-yard time of the vessel.


PS109 - Weekly Report No. 3 | 2 - 8 October 2017

On the outer shelf

[10. October 2017] 

In the beginning of the week we left the coast of Greenland. Leaving icebergs and sea ice behind us, we steamed in a south-easterly direction along the axis of Norske Trough toward the mid-shelf, where both a sill can be found in the trough and the northern slope toward the shallow Belgica Bank is particularly steep. In this location we expected to find the inflow of the Atlantic Water to be particularly focussed as a boundary current.


PS109 - Weekly Report No. 3 | 25 September - 1 October 2017

Between Ile-de-France and Norske Oer

[05. October 2017] 

This week started with a disappointment. As a result of very dense sea ice coverage we were unable to recover 3 moorings deployed near the northern edge of the embayment of the 79°N Glacier, in order to observe the circulation at the transition from Norske Trough in the south to Westwind Trough in the north.


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