How do we explore the oceans? Germany has a large and
internationally renowned research fleet. Over 3000 people work in marine
research in Germany. They are participating in international teams in all
oceans. Researchers, their ships and the ocean – brief snapshots.

Rare Summit (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

A rare summit meeting at sea

The research vessel "Meteor" encounters the research icebreaker "Polarstern" on her way to the Antarctic, at the equator during an expedition on climate research in the tropical Atlantic Ocean .

It is the sailors, the captains and their crews that form the backbone of German marine research. Their knowledge, their experience, their sense for the ocean.

They steer the research vessels safely across the oceans, and always give us a piece of home at sea during the expeditions. They enable missions that serve research, without which we could not explore the ocean. It's their job - and yet they deserve our thanks. Acting on this thank you . . .

Captain of RV POLARSTERN Thomas Wunderlich (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

POLARSTERN captain Thomas Wunderlich

Captains's Chamber (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

POLARSTERN captain Moritz Langhinrichs

Captain of RV POLARSTERN Stefan Schwarze (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

POLARSTERN captain Stefan Schwarze

RV METEOR in Recife (Brasil) (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

METEOR captain Rainer Hammacher

Research Vessel METEOR (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


The research vessel "Meteor" combines cutting-edge research with tradition and history. The ship's name is legendary and world famous. When the first "Meteor" was launched in 1915 by the Imperial Shipyard in Gdansk, she was intended to serve as a gunboat, but was never used. After World War I, she was rebuilt and launched in 1924, under the same name, as the first research ship of the Imperial Navy - with 120 crew members, laboratories, drawing room, library and scientific equipment. Her "German Atlantic Expedition" in the years 1925 to 1927 made "Meteor" and German marine research known far beyond Germany's borders. For the first time, an ocean was measured systematically. The data are still of great value today. The second "Meteor" then explored the oceans from 1964 to 1985. Since 1986, the third "Meteor" has been away to almost all oceans. Here, she has just moored in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands.

Tauchroboter MARUM-SQUID on RV METEOR (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

On board "Meteor", the ROV MARUM-SQUID 2000, from the high-tech lab at MARUM in Bremen, awaits its deployment.

ROV MARUM-SQUID 2000 (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

This ROV can work in water depths of up to 2,000 meters and is used on this "Meteor" cruise in the shelf areas around South Georgia.

Water Sampler at Night (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The water sampling rosette – a standard device of marine researchers.

RV METEOR at the equator (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

"Meteor" on an expedition in the tropical Atlantic. The tropical oceans play a key role in global climate variability.

Oceanographer Prof. Dr. Peter Brandt (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Chief Scientist Peter Brandt, Professor of Experimental Oceanography at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Kiel, during an expedition off the coast of West Africa.

Cold, nutrient-rich water from the depths reaches the sea surface, here in the upwelling areas off the coast. "We are investigating if and how the currents and properties of water masses, such as temperature, salinity and oxygen, will change, and what impact these changes will have on climate or biological productivity and fishing off the West African coast."

For West African countries, these data are of great importance, since fishing is often the main source of food and income.

"But the data are also important because global climate models for this part of the world’s oceans still have significant gaps. So if we want to make reliable climate predictions, we need observational programs that provide us with high-resolution, long-term data," said Brandt.

Glider-Mission (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The scientists deploy "Glider", small measuring robots that, once programmed, fly through the ocean on their own and send all the data they collect to the scientists' home computers via satellite.

With RV METEOR near Namibia (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In order to deploy the gliders, the scientists and members of the crew have to leave the ship and take a rubber dinghy to a previously determined position.

Scanfish-Test (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

"Scanfish" test in the experimental tank aboard "Meteor". The device is utilized for complex oceanographic measurements. The “Scanfish” is equipped with a central control unit and several sensors, which measure temperature, pressure, salinity, oxygen, as well as chlorophyll and turbidity. The data are recorded online. Data transmission and power supply are carried through the tow cable.

Scanfish-Test on RV METEOR (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Recovering of a mooring (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The dynamics of the ocean is the focus of this expedition. The oceanographers are looking for turbulence, internal waves, to understand how layers of water merge, and in the vastness of the ocean they can even detect tiny water vortices of only a few centimeters.

They need high-tech equipment that can be deployed for weeks, months or even up to one year, for a measurement series. These measuring instruments are stationary, anchored to the seafloor with steel cables up to several thousand meters long, and kept in the water column by buoyant floats. Here, they are taking one of these anchorages back aboard.

Measuring Oxygene (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In the laboratory on board "Meteor", the oxygen concentration of the water samples is measured.

In the Lab on RV METEOR (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Learning from and with each other: The "Meteor" expedition in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa should also strengthen German-African cooperation. Chief Scientist Peter Brandt has invited scientists from the African partner institutes to take part in the research cruise.

Huge Media Interest (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Great media interest in Luanda, Angola

Together with the German Ambassador, Chief Scientist Peter Brandt answers questions from journalists. In the evening, there will be a reception on board, with the Minister of Fisheries Ms. Victoria de Barros, thanking the German Government for their support in the exploration of the Angolan marine ecosystem. In her speech, she also emphasizes that climate change poses a huge challenge to Angola's socio-economic development. In recent years, the marine ecosystem has been confronted with the consequences of the El Niño phenomenon and a global increase in temperature.

Pilot on Board (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

METEOR captain Rainer Hammacher and the Angolan pilot. After the stay in Luanda, the research cruise continues to the upwelling areas off Namibia. After five weeks at sea, the expedition ends in Walvis Bay.

RV METEOR at Sea (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The good old "Meteor" continues to steam to unlock the secrets of the ocean so that we all better understand our world.

On the 30th anniversary of the ship in 2016, we asked Captain Rainer Hammacher whether 30 years are old or young for a research vessel.

His answer: "The Meteor is still an impressive research platform. A ship with a history rich in tradition, which represents Germany and its excellent marine research outstandingly all over the world".

FS MARIA S. MERIAN at the MARNET-Plattform (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Position 54° 53' N, 13° 52' E: "Maria S. Merian" is approaching the MARNET measuring platform in the Arkona Sea, which performs a dual function: First, observations at this point provide information on distant impacts of saltwater influx from the North Sea into the central area of the Baltic Sea. Second, continuous measurements in this sea area help track the pollutant input from the river water, which can penetrate into this area under certain oceanographic conditions.

In the Baltic Sea with RV MARIA S. MERIAN (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

It is the 50th cruise of the research vessel "Maria S. Merian". A jubilee trip with a tight work program: After the expedition began under heavy snowfall in Bremerhaven, the route leads to the Kattegat from the North Sea through the Skagerrak.

Nightshift on RV MARIA S. MERIAN (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Among other things, this expedition investigates how winter looks on the seafloor. "What happens in winter in the boundary layer between sediment and water is actually largely unknown. The samples and data we collect on this trip are therefore particularly valuable. Their evaluation will contribute significantly to our understanding of the material flows in North and Baltic Sea," said the chief scientist and IOW Director Prof. Dr. Ulrich Bathmann.

Work on RV MARIA S.MERIAN (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The physicists’ winch is iced. For months, oceanographers have been preparing to use their microstructure probe, but now the orange kevlar line, which has the sensitive gauge attached to it, cannot move, forward or backwards. The boatswain has a simple but vital idea: Thaw the winch with warm water.

Sometimes it is just these small, but clever ideas that determine the success of an expedition, even on a high-tech ship like the "Maria S. Merian", one of the most powerful research platforms at sea.

Research in stormy sea (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

At 31 stations, the marine researchers of the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW) deploy their measuring equipment even in force 9 winds and freezing temperatures, working hand-in-hand with the ship's crew.

Research Vessel SONNE (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


The deep-sea research vessel "Sonne" is the youngest member of the German research fleet. A high-tech ship. "It's the best-equipped ship in the world for this type of research. Only in Japan and the US do we have similarly excellent infrastructure for deep-sea research," said Prof. Dr. Karin Lochte from the German Marine Research Consortium, shortly before German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially named and launched the ship at Warnemünde Neptun shipyard.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In her speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the ship as a "floating marvel" and "new star in the research sky.

The Chancellor said: "The English physicist Isaac Newton once said: ‘What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean.’ The human thirst for knowledge will thus always remain insatiable. And yet we have every reason to rejoice that with “Sonne” a new star - to also claim the sky over the oceans - has risen in the research firmament.

We hope that "Sonne" will help us to understand what is going on in the dark depths of the ocean, and what that means to mankind. That's why I say today: All my good wishes accompany "Sonne", her team, and the scientists on their research cruises. May they bring home many insights to the benefit of all of us."

Research Vessel SONNE (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

With a length of 116 meters, "Sonne" belongs to the large ships in the German research fleet. The “Sonne” is mainly used in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Meeting of two Icebreakers (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

A rare encounter

During a regular shipyard stay, tradition and modernity lie together in one dock: The research icebreaker "Polarstern" and the historic icebreaker "Wal". History is at the front of our minds, when shaping ideas for the future - also in marine research.

Credits: Story

Holger und Stephanie von Neuhoff

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