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MOTOREX Magazine 2003 70 EN

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R eport Photos: Klaus

R eport Photos: Klaus Andrews, Hamburg R eport 10 For the polar researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, the arctic wilderness is the ideal place to collect valuable environmental information. To get there, they use the most modern research vessel in the world – the “Polarstern” (Polar Star). To the polar ice caps and back This is where the Polarstern is steered on its course using a combination of ultramodern aids, years of experience and a lot of skill. Scientists skillfully drill out a sample of sea ice. Shortly afterwards these will be tested in one of the Polarstern’s laboratories. Photo: H.Baesmann (AWI) 6:31 a.m.: the four marine diesel engines throb as their combined 20,000 hp propels the Polarstern at a steady five knots through the frozen sea around the Spitzbergen archipelago off Norway. The ice, which can be up to 1.5 meters thick, shatters like glass under the force of the ship’s bow. Among the party on board are a group of scientists from the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA). They are the people that make ice breakers like the Polarstern fit for their jobs. The Polarstern has successfully completed 32 arctic missions since it was commissioned in 1982. In the service of humanity The chief goal of the Polarstern’s scientific work is to improve our understanding of the relationships between the ocean, ice and atmosphere, the flora and fauna of the Arctic and Antarctic, and the story of how the polar ice caps and seas came to be as they are today. Since these regions have an enormous impact on our earth’s climate, the AWI is keenly interested in the changes taking place there. However, our group of shipbuilders is interested in the composition of the various ice layers. Sea ice research, and particularly the work that has to be done on the ice, requires a large amount of logistical preparation. With the exception of coastal Antarctic stations, ice breakers are the only way of getting through a sea made of ice. But even these hugely powerful ships often have to admit defeat when faced with meter-thick pack ice. This being said, the steel colossus is more often slowed down by momentum-sapping snow than by ice. Should this happen, the ship has a helicopter which researchers can use to get where they want to go. But this time everything is fine and the researchers descend to the ice by the gangway. Drilling and sawing in ice Most samples are taken using a drill, which cuts two cylindrical cores from the ice. Motorized drills are generally used, but the scientists frequently have to resort to hand drills. Immediately after they have been drilled out, the samples are sawn up, packed in plastic boxes and deep frozen so that they can be analyzed in original condition. If there is enough time, this work can be done on ship, or even on the ice. For most biological and chemical tests, however, the samples have to be allowed to melt first, since many measurements (organism population, nutrients, salt content and chlorophyll) can only be performed with water and not with ice. However, the sea ice is not just directly examined by scientists. A number of indirect methods, such as remote satellite exploration, radar, under-ice sonar and air assisted explorations from helicopters and aircraft, are also used. Nature and technology – two worlds collide Anyone who sees the Polarstern cutting a path through the ice cannot help but notice the crass collision of two worlds, as the arctic – at first glimpse a wasteland, yet still teeming with life in so many forms – encounters the technological marvel that is the research vessel. With nine laboratories, the Polarstern is perfectly equipped for biological, geological, geophysical, glaciological, chemical, oceanographic and meteorological research. Additional lab containers can be stowed on or under the deck. Refrigerated stores and aquariums mean that samples and live marine creatures can be transported back to Bremerhaven. Cranes and winches bring research and measurement equipment up from the hold and lower them to great depths. It goes without saying that a wide variety of lubricants are needed and that these do their duty reliably. Technical data of the Polarstern Built by Ice breaking design Overall length Maximum beam Height to main deck Maximum draught Displacement at maximum draught Weight of empty ship Engine output (4 engines) Maximum speed Special echosounding equipment that can measure depths of up to 10,000 meters and penetrate up to 150 meters into the sea bed is available for scientific investigations. The on-board computer system is constantly recording and storing meteorological, oceanographic and any other data that might be required. As a double-hulled ice breaker, the Polarstern can operate even when outside temperatures are as low as – 50° C and can overwinter in the ice of the polar seas if required. The vessel has a maximum crew of 44 and also offers working facilities for up to 50 scientists and technicians. With their ice samples in the refrigerated store and the first results on their laptops, the HSVA researchers start to make their way back home and to warmer waters. Interesting links: and Howaldtswerke/Deutsche Werft, Kiel Werft Nobisburg, Rendsburg (Germany), 1982 Hamburg Ship Model Basin 118 m max. 25 m 13.6 m max. 11.21 m 17,300 t 11,820 t approx. 14,000 kW (20,000 hp) 16 knots “Fishing” for ice: it takes skill to hoist a block of slippery pack ice on board of the Polarstern. If neither the Polarstern nor the ski-doos can get any further, it’s time to call in the helicopter. Although apparently barren, the arctic ice desert occasionally produces big surprises close to the Polarstern. 11



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