The research vessel Polarstern is expected to enter its homeport with the early-morning high tide on Thursday, April 20, 2017, marking the end of a five-month season in the Antarctic for the icebreaker and its crew.
Many geoscientists in Bremerhaven can’t wait to see the samples that were collected during a six-week foray into the Amundsen Sea this February and March, which are expected to help decode the glacial history of West Antarctica and improve the accuracy of prognoses for future sea-level rises.
The scientists who took part in the Amundsen Sea expedition made it back home long before the fruits of their labours: the voyage to the Antarctic ended in Punta Arenas, Chile in mid-March, after which the Polarstern began a four-week return trip across the Atlantic.
The research vessel is expected to arrive in Bremerhaven with 57 metres of sediment cores and 750 kilogrammes of rock samples on board.
Once the samples have been unloaded, preparations will begin for the “Open Ship” event on April 22-23, when the Polarstern will open its doors to the public.
The oldest sediments that the expedition members extracted from the seafloor likely date back up to 70 million years. As Dr Karsten Gohl reports, “We’ve brought back the first samples of sedimentary rock from the time before the first Antarctic glaciation ever collected in this part of West Antarctica.” The geophysicist from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) was the scientific head of the expedition to the Amundsen Sea. His chief responsibility was to coordinate the sample drilling, sediment sonar sweeps, seismic and aeromagnetic measurements, geothermal temperature probing, and bathymetric and echographic sediment mapping so that all the researchers on board could successfully gather the samples and data they came for.