History is no stranger to tales of entire ships being accidentally trapped in the ice of the artic, but usually, these tales end in heartbreak and disaster as entire crews are lost. More recently, the entire crew of the Polarstern has decided to maroon themselves on an ice sheet deep in the arctic circle, and they have decided to do it on purpose!
More than 390 scientists and crew onboard the legendary polar research icebreaker the Polarstern have made this tremendous sacrifice in order to help mankind and for scientists to better understand global warming and climate change. It is hoped that by purposefully lodging their 12,000-ton ship in a massive block of floating ice deep in the arctic circle, the scientists onboard will be able to monitor the atmosphere and weather patterns of the region during the winter months. Because of the rough seas and harsh winter weather, this is something that has never been done before.
The entire crew will now be trapped until summer when the ice melts enough to release the ship from its icy hold. During this time, the scientists on board will not only be monitoring the weather patterns but also the ice cap itself. They will measure heat absorption, ice loss, and temperature changes. Given that the ice caps are rapidly melting and increasing sea levels on a global scale, this research is vital for our understanding of global warming.
However, there is one big catch to the whole plan. Because the arctic icecaps are so far north, during the winter months these areas receive little to no sunlight. This means that the crew will have to last until summer without any sunlight. While presently the crew is stuck with just enough sunlight to resemble a perpetual twilight, by 2 November the skies will go completely dark.
So, for the next 150 days, the crew will be working in darkness and in freezing temperatures. While the ice caps are pretty much secluded during this time with all the shipping lanes closed, the crew’s only companions will be the polar bears and wind.
The team are determined to complete their mission and have put in years’ worth of planning to make it all possible. The researchers plan to establish camps and study sites all along the ice cap and a Russian icebreaker is scheduled to break through the ice nearby in January in order to help replenish supplies. This never-before-attempted expedition will prove invaluable as scientists hope to gather enough information to solve the problem of the ice caps melting.