A scientific team and crew on the second leg of the scientific expedition visit Polarstern after arriving at the MOSAiC ice floe this week. Photo: Esther Horvath/AWI

MOSAiC international science expedition completes crew transfer in Central Arctic

A one year, international Arctic science expedition started its second leg this week with approximately 100 people switching places between German research icebreaker Polarstern and the Russian resupply icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn, all taking place in the middle of the Central Arctic sea ice.
December 19, 2019


By Eilís Quinn

The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition was launched on the RV Polarstern in October in the Siberian region of the Arctic to study climate systems in the Central Arctic. The project is led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

The icebreaker will drift with the sea ice in the Central Arctic for one year until the expedition wraps up in 2020.

Icebreakers from Russia, China and Sweden will resupply the expedition during the year, including both fuel and exchanging personnel as happened this week.

“The first phase of the expedition wasn’t easy,” said Markus Rex, MOSAiC expedition leader from AWI in a news release this week.

“The ice, at less than a metre, is unusually thin, highly dynamic and constantly in motion. We very often saw new cracks and channels in the ice, or the formation of several-metre-tall pack ice hummocks: jagged piles of ice, formed when rising pressures cause the ice floes to press against one another and stack up. The force of this crashing ice impressively demonstrates the power of nature, in whose hands we now find ourselves. In addition, newly formed hummocks often buried our equipment, which we then had to retrieve and set up all over again – not to mention the cracks in the ice, which are dangerous for the team and instruments alike.”

Work and safety briefings 

The “Polarstern” and the “Kaptain Dranitsyn” at the MOSAiC ice floe during the Leg 1 and Leg 2 exchange this week. Photo: Esther Horvath and Jakob Stark/AWI



During the five-day crew handover, the new MOSAiC team was briefed on everything from the upcoming working conditions to polar bear safety on research sites. 

“A major challenge for us ‘newbies’ is the fact that we’re now on an ice floe that we’ve never seen by the light of day, and as a result, we have no idea where we actually are,” Christian Haas, a sea-ice geophysicist at the AWI and leader for the second leg of the expedition, said in the news release. “So we have to learn how to perceive our surroundings using means other than our eyes.”

This week’s handover between the Polarstern to the  Kapitan Dranitsyn was completed on Wednesday at 12:30 CET.

Canada participating in project 

The budget for the project is 140 million euros.

More than 300 experts from 16 different countries, including Canada, will work on the Polarstern at some point during the expedition. 


Leg 2 team members Adela Dumitrascu and Partic Simoes Pereira (l)) at a coring site on the MOSAiC ice floe as a part of the scientific handover this week. Photo: Esther Horvath/AWI


As of Thursday, the expedition was currently approximately 270 km from the North Pole.

The Polarstern can be tracked in real time on the MOSAiC web app


This story is posted on Independent Barents Observer as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.



The Barents Observer Newsletter

After confirming you're a real person, you can write your email below and we include you to the subscription list.

Privacy policy