Are you ready to explore the ocean? Join us on the research icebreaker "Polarstern" and explore what the scientists experience during their first stormy weeks at sea from Punta Arenas to South Georgia before heading further south.

"Polarstern" at the Pier in Punta Arenas (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Preparations in the port of Punta Arenas

14,000 kilometers from home, as the crow flies, "Polarstern" is located at the pier in Punta Arenas and is prepared for the expedition PS 119. Only a few days are left before the expedition starts. 51 scientists from Germany, the USA, Costa Rica, Austria, Great Britain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Taiwan, France, India, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland will embark on Saturday, April 13, 2019. RV "Polarstern" – she is the largest ship of the German research fleet and will be our home for the next seven weeks. Captain Moritz Langhinrichs and his crew welcome us. The officers give a first briefing about everyday life on the ship. Life and work aboard a research vessel is regulated by firm rules that everyone has to obey.

Watch in the Port (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Anyone who wants to go ashore before departure will be registered in a logbook and must of course report on their return. This ensures that all expedition participants are really on board when "Polarstern" leaves the port.

At the Pier (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

Last view of Punta Arenas (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The expedition starts

Monday, 15 April 2019. One last look at Punta Arenas. We lie in the roadstead and are waiting for two important scientific instruments which had been sent by airfreight. The equipment arrives at about noon, and the pilot for the passage through Magellan Strait comes on board. At 13:48 local time we leave anchorage C in the roadstead and head to our research area.

Safety Drill (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


During the safety drill, we learn how to react in an emergency.

The on-board speakers sound seven short blasts and one long blast – the general alarm. Now it's time to move: find and put on your lifejacket, put a hat on your head, and assemble at the muster station on the helicopter deck.

The instructions of the officers are short, concise and urgent. In an emergency, they will save our lives.

At Sea with RV "Polarstern" (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Interview with Chief Scientist Gerhard Bohrmann (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Chief Scientist Gerhard Bohrmann, one of the world's most renowned gas hydrate researchers, explains the research goals and why our field of research is unique.

Stormy Sea (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In the Research Area

After the first calm days at sea we caught a heavy storm on Maundy Thursday. “Polarstern” pitches and rolls neatly through the night. The waves pile up to 7 meters. We reach our first sampling station on Good Friday south of South Georgia. We don't spot the island yet. From this position we can only see it on the digital nautical chart.

Moving Plates (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Our field of research is extremely active and dynamic. Earth’s tectonic plates collide with tremendous forces here.

The focus of the scientists is the South Sandwich plate.

With 350 kilometers West to East and about 550 kilometers North to South, it is a relatively small plate, but between the great South American and Antarctic plates, it is the most active crustal area.

The South Sandwich Plate is created by spreading and volcanism on the East Scotia Ridge. It is moving to the East, where it collides with the South American plate.

A deep-sea trench up to eight kilometers deep and a chain of active volcanoes, some forming islands, are the result.

In this area, unique chemosynthetic ecosystems are located at the hot vents on both the spreading ridge and on underwater volcanoes on the arc of the South Sandwich Island.

In addition, the researchers suspect there may be cold seeps here. Both hot vents and cold seeps release fluids and gases; the goal of the expedition is to examine both systems more closely and to compare them.

At Sea close to the sub-antarctic Island South Georgia (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

What a sight! 

What a sight! For days we only have seen the eternal rise and fall of the waves. Water as far as the eye can see - and then, out of nowhere, the snow-capped mountains of South Georgia rise from the sea. The rugged rocky slopes rise up majestically. South Georgia, the island that James Cook claimed for England in 1775.

Bathymetrie-Flight South Georgia (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


The "flight" over the seafloor shows the island, 160 kilometers long and about 30 kilometers wide, protruding from the deep sea about 2,000 kilometers east of South America, isolated in the Southern Ocean. It is surrounded by flat shelf areas that are five times larger and these, together with the island, form a microcontinent.

Our chief scientist, Gerhard Bohrmann, and his team have previously measured the glacial troughs of the shelf and had discovered for the first time amazingly numerous methane emission sites. During their earlier expedition, the team gave names to these troughs from the names of their associated fjords.

Researchers from MARUM, Bremen created this "flight" combining the multibeam sonar data of different groups and their own hydro-acoustic measurements from "Polarstern" and "Meteor" cruises (marked in color).


It is Easter Sunday. The tables in the mess room are festively set. It is snowing outside and the wind is bracing. The sea state is too rough to deploy our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), so our chief scientist Gerhard Bohrmann decides to steam quickly to the next station inside the Drygalski Fjord.

The fjord is 11 kilometers long, located on the southeastern coast of South Georgia. It was discovered during the "Second German Antarctic Expedition" (1911–1912) under the leadership of the German polar explorer Wilhelm Filchner on the ship "Germany" and named after Erich von Drygalski, who lead the "First German Antarctic Expedition" on the “Gauß” from 1901 to 1903.

The fjord is notorious because of its downwind. Tense silence on the bridge. "Polarstern" sails slowly into the fjord at 5 knots and takes her position on station.

Deckscrew with the Gravity Corer (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The decks crew and the scientist deploy the gravity corer, and manage to pull a 5 meter long sediment core from the Drygalski Fjord and bring it on board.

Stormy Sea (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Storm and heavy waves on our way.

Icebergs at Sight (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Off Cooper Island we encounter stranded table icebergs.

Icebergs around us (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Climatically, we have been in the antarctic for days. Politically, Antarctica begins only at 60° South latitude - in the area defined by the Antarctic Treaty.

At Sea near South Georgia (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

It's time to say goodbye to South Georgia. We steam east to our research area on the East Scotia Ridge in the back-arc of the South Sandwich Islands.

Credits: Story

UNDERWATER FOOTAGE: MARUM-QUEST 4000, MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen

DRONE: MARUM-QUEST-Team, Volker Ratmeyer

MAPS AND ANIMATION: Paul Wintersteller, MARUM University of Bremen (Bathymetrischer Datensatz: BAS, AWI, MARUM, GEBCO)

VIDEO: Christopher von Deylen und Holger von Neuhoff

PHOTOGRAPHY: Holger von Neuhoff

TEXT: Stephanie von Neuhoff


AWI – Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

BAS – British Antarctic Survey

Ce-Nak – Centrum für Naturkunde, Universität Hamburg

CEOAS – College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University

DWD – Deutscher Wetterdienst

GeoB – Department of Geoscience, University of Bremen

HeliService – Heli Service International GmbH

IGG-UG – Institut für Geography und Geologie der Universität Greifswald

IPGP – Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris Sorbonne Paris Cité, Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise

MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Science, University of Bremen

MPI – Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

NOCS – National Oceanography Center Southampton

OkState – Boone Pickens School of Geology, Oklahoma State University

QUB-QML – Queen’s University Belfast Marine Laboratory

SEE-UL – School of Earth and Environment, Leeds University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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