RV "Polarstern" is a double-walled
icebreaker, which can work at outdoor temperatures down to -50°C and, if
necessary, over-winter in the ice of the polar seas. The ship is one of the
most powerful polar exploration vessels in the world.

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

On board there are, altogether, nine laboratories, 16 winches, four cranes, two on-board helicopters for scientific and logistic missions, and a multi-beam sonar system that measures the seabed morphology. Additional laboratory containers can be stowed on and below deck.

Work on an ice floe (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Since 1982, international teams of scientists on the German research icebreaker "Polarstern" have been investigating the atmosphere, sea ice, and ocean, as well as geology and geophysics of the seabed in the polar regions of our planet.

POLARSTERN during an Antarctic-Expedition (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The ship was brought into service on December 9, 1982. The first expedition took the scientists to Antarctica. Since then, the research icebreaker has been at sea almost 310 days a year. Between November and March, "Polarstern" is usually operating around Antarctica, and in the northern summer in Arctic waters.

Through the storm (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The sea - in turmoil. While the storm is raging outside, we sit in the warm chamber of our cruise leader and leaf through the guest books of "Polarstern" page by page. It is unbelievable what this ship has experienced since it was put into service in 1982.

From the guestbook of RV POLARSTERN (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Prominent "Polarstern" guests have also signed the book: a black and white photo shows former German Chancellor Helmut Schmid and his wife Loki. They were on board during a trip from Longyearbyen to Hamburg. Their entry of July 7, 1989: "We learned a lot of new things, met friendly people and felt at home.

Bridge of the Research Icebreakers "Polarstern (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

On every German research vessel, the guest books are a well-kept treasure. Every expedition is elaborately designed by the scientists on several pages with drawings, texts and photos - as a thank you to the captain and his crew. Our captain, Moritz Langhinrichs, is just bringing the very first "Polarstern" book. Thickly bound in brown leather, it is full of memories.

From the guestbook of RV POLARSTERN (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Far away from home, where people celebrate the opening of the Wall, ten men are sitting in the eternal ice of Antarctica. They work at the "Georg Forster" station, which was operated by the GDR. "When we left the old GDR for Antarctica on 17 October 1989, no one could even have imagined the historical events that led to reunification. Despite cold weather on the icy continent and strong political storms at home, we continued our scientific work undaunted," they write in the guest book. Their mission in Antarctica lasted three years, from 1989 to 1991. Then, three months after reunification, they had the chance to travel home: "The news of our return home on board "Polarstern" was received with joy by all. Entering the ship was our first contact with the "new" Germany. The warm and open welcome on board made it easier for us to settle in. Through many conversations we gained insights into the new life and the German research landscape. Many thanks for everything the Forsterians say", they said.

On the bridge of "Polarstern" (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

After 15 years of operation, the ship has been renovated and modernized with a midlife conversion. It was possible to perform the general overhaul during ongoing operations, with short stays in the shipyard, and the approach guaranteed the continuing high standard of the research icebreaker, which also supplies the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic once a year.

In the dry dock together (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

"Polarstern" belongs to the German federal research fleet. The owner is the Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It is operated by the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research. The ship management is the responsibility of the shipping company F. Laeisz. It provides the ship's crew and ensures smooth ship operation.

"Polarstern" in the dry dock (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Twice a year, the ship regularly goes to the shipyard.

"Polarstern" in the drydock (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In the shipyard "Polarstern" gets ready for the next expedition.

Emporer Penguins infront of "Polarstern" (2019/2019)Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Length: 118 m

Width: 25 m

Draft: 11 m

Research Area: Polar Regions

Home port: Bremerhaven

Credits: Story

PHOTOGRAPHY: Holger von Neuhoff
TEXT: Stephanie von Neuhoff

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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