Rescue ships depart Bremerhaven for "Polarstern" stranded in Arctic

Hamburg university co-ordinating mission to aid 100 researchers and crew
18 May 2020
Mara S. Merian research ship

The "Sonne" and "Maria S. Merian" were due to depart Bremerhaven Monday (May 18, 2020) to bring urgently-needed supplies to the "Polarstern" research vessel which has been stranded in the Arctic Ocean amid the corona crisis. Most regional ports and aircrafts remain shut making deliveries almost impossible. The University of Hamburg is co-ordinating their mission to the research vessel, which is normally supplied by icebreakers and aircraft when the crew changes every two months. The "Polarstern" sailed to the Arctic last autumn on the largest-ever German mission originally set to last until autumn 2020. 

One-time mission for rescue vessels

"Never before has there been such a deployment and meeting of three German research vessels at sea," said Prof. Dr. Christian Betzler, Director of the German Research Vessels Control Centre at the University of Hamburg. The two research vessels will bring equipment and food to Polarstern and 104 new expedition members to replace the crew and scientists on board. The Polarstern is operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research. Eight seaworthy containers were mounted on various decks of the Maria S. Merian for the mission.

Meeting point south of the ice edge

Neither the "Sonne" nor "Maria S. Merian" are icebreakers and will therefore meet the "Polarstern" south of the ice edge. The ships will lie alongside each other to deliver supplies at sea rather than in a port. Board cranes will be used to load heavier equipment. The "Polarstern" is due to resume its previous position in the Arctic Ocean between  June 4-7, 2020. The rescue ships are then expected back in Germany.