A Massive Icebreaker Ship Will Trap Itself in Arctic Sea Ice on Purpose. Here’s Why.

From Live Science

By Tom Metcalfe – Live Science Contributor 3 days ago Planet Earth

It’s studying the interactions between the Arctic and the global climate.


The RV Polarstern will soon set sail and deliberately trap itself in Arctic sea ice. Hundreds of scientists from 17 countries will study the ice, oceans, and atmosphere during the expedition across the Arctic Ocean.

(Image credit: Stefan Hendricks/Alfred Wegener Institute)


The German icebreaker RV Polarstern will spend about a year adrift in the Arctic Ocean, surrounded by thick floating sea ice.

The Polarstern is the most advanced research icebreaker in the world, and the expedition leaders calculate it will be unharmed by being stuck in the Arctic sea ice.

(Image credit: Mario Hoppmann/Alfred Wegener Institute)

One of the world’s most indestructible ships will depart Norway in a few weeks, bound for the Arctic Ocean, where it will spend the winter deliberately trapped in sea ice, drifting wherever the winds take it.

The powerful icebreaker, called the RV Polarstern, has an ambitious goal: to determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic. The 13-month-long, $130 million expedition, called Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAIC), has been planned for years and will require more than 600 scientists and technical staff.

The ship sets sail Sept. 20 from Tromsø, in northern Norway, and it will head eastward along the coast of Russia. Expedition leader Markus Rex, of the Alfred-Wegener Institute (which operates the Polarstern), said the ship will likely enter floating sea ice in mid-October, and then will drift across the Arctic, surrounded by ice, until next summer, before returning to its home port in Bremerhaven, Germany, in the fall.

Getting stuck in floating sea ice would spell the end for most ships, but Rex said the Polarstern is tough enough to handle it.

Related: Images of Melt: Earth’s Vanishing Ice

“Our ship is one of the most powerful and most capable research icebreakers that exist,” Rex told Live Science.”There could be huge pressure from the ice … but we know the strength of our vessel. We are not in danger of losing our ship.”

Full article here.


194 thoughts on “A Massive Icebreaker Ship Will Trap Itself in Arctic Sea Ice on Purpose. Here’s Why.

    • Nansen’s Fram expedition 1893-96 comes to mind. Modern technology allows us to repeat that triumph. May there be always enough Schnapps on board!

      • One of the world’s most indestructible ships will depart Norway in a few weeks, bound for the Arctic Ocean, where it will spend the winter deliberately trapped in sea ice, drifting wherever the winds take it.

        Didn’t they say the same thing back in Apr 10 1912 about a certain unsinkable ship built in Belfast

        Perhaps they’ll screen season 1 of The Terror while they hang out Ice-Fasted over the long dark winter

          • So thin that a Norwegian Ice Breaker traveling north from Svalbard had to turn around as it couldn’t get through that meager 1st year ice scrim.

            15 July 2019 – The Norwegian icebreaker “Kronprins Haakon” (Crown Prince Haakon), on a mission to the North Pole for the Institute of Marine Research, was forced to turn back north of Svalbard after meeting considerably thicker and more massive ice masses than expected, which the vessel was not capable of breaking through.

            We had expected more melting and that the ice was more disintegrating, says Captain Johnny Peder Hansen at “Crown Prince Haakon”.

            Thick one-year ice combined with large batches of multi-year ice joined together into powerful helmets, and several of these are impenetrable to us, said Captain Johnny Peder Hansen.

            The ice is up to three meters (almost 10 feet) thick in the middle of July, and not even the researchers’ long special-purpose chainsaws were able to penetrate the ice.

      • If you read the linked article all the way through it does reference the Fram expedition, starting shortly after the part quoted here. Nonetheless, my attention was drawn first to this:

        …determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic.”

        How can anyone determine something is “…reshaping…” something is if one knows what it was like before the event in question. And if this proposed expedition is taking “Measurements […] at depths down to 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) below the surface and at altitudes of more than 114,000 feet (35,000 m).” much (most?) of that was outside the range of 1890s instruments. Furthermore, all climate is cyclical, do we know for sure where on the cycle(s) the Arctic was in 1893-6? My first guess would be No.

        But maybe this is way too much detail, from the 30,000 foot perspective, can you imagine how many ways this could go wrong? What if the hull isn’t strong enough? If the late 19th century ship builders could do it, maybe modern ships can do it? Though we’re certainly talking about different materials. The planners say summertime next year will set them free, but what if it doesn’t? The Fram expedition needed 3 summers before they could sail home.

        But concerns aside I applaud the data gathering, even if I’m certain this is establishing the baseline, rather than providing any evidence of “reshaping”.

        • Climate change reshaping the Arctic! Good point. Shouldnt we start by seeing IF it is ‘shaping’ it at all? All these research projects start with a foregone conclusion to support, sometimes going through Excel’s bundle of stat tricks to squeeze out the answer they want. Some resort to inventing “novel” stat manipulations when Excel fails to produce their hockeystick.

          • They are setting out to quantify what they already believe. The question of “if” doesn’t arise.

            They are spending $130m so they have to come back with something. If they cannot find something they will find something.

          • here are some questions

            “What are the causes and consequences of an evolving and diminished Arctic sea ice cover?

            What are the seasonally-varying energy sources, mixing processes, and interfacial fluxes that affect the heat and momentum budgets of sea ice?

            How does sea ice move and deform over its first year of existence?

            Which processes contribute to the formation, properties, precipitation, and maintenance of Arctic clouds and their interactions with aerosols and boundary-layer structure?

            How do interfacial exchange rates, biology, and chemistry couple to regulate ecosystems and the major elemental cycles in the high Arctic sea ice?

            How do ongoing changes in the Arctic ice-ocean-atmosphere system impact larger-scale heat and mass transfers of importance to climate and ecosystems?”

          • Like most climate science, they “know” the answers and are setting out to find the proof. The acronym MOSAIC is revelatory. A mosiac is technique to construct a preconceived image by collecting fragments and assembling them at will.

            A great metaphor for what has been going on in climatology for the last 40 years.

          • Steven – the science is settled. Answers to all your questions are already known (not to me, I’m afraid). No need for a scientific expedition. 🙂

          • @Steven Mosher September 6, 2019 at 9:28 pm

            All very good questions, and ones to which I hope the researchers are seeking answers! My point remains, how can they tell if some force (real or mythical) is “reshaping” anything if you don’t know what shape it was beforehand? So I guess you could says we, or at least I, aren’t panning the expedition so much as panning the over-the-top hubristic press release to announce it. I wish them well, and of course if anything goes wrong I’m sure no one, government, NGO or private individual would spare any expense trying to help them.

            My next question, though, will they release raw data? Or will it have to be “homogenized” first? I guess the answer to that tells us whether they are really researchers or merely headline seeking activists.

          • Is climate change reshaping the Arctic? Of COURSE it is – trust us! In fact, climate change is happening twice as fast in the Arctic as anywhere else… or is it three times? I keep forgetting, and it changes every week; could be up to four times by now.

            To quote Bernie Sanders on a related matter, “Duh”.

        • Today reanalysis models and climate models have certain data holes.
          Fill those holes and you have a better idea of what may happen in the future.
          Example: there is a huge spread in the prediction of ice loss.

          here is more you wont understand

          The Arctic sea-ice is changing dramatically, with rapid declines in summer sea-ice extent and a shift toward relatively more first year ice and less multi-year ice. Ultimately sea-ice decline is linked to broader global climate change, but at a regional scale many interdependent processes and feedbacks within the atmosphere, ocean, and sea-ice contribute to the broader observed changes.

          The primary objective of MOSAiC is to develop a better understanding of these important coupled-system processes so they can be more accurately represented in regional- and global-scale models. Such enhancements will contribute to improved modeling of global climate and weather, and Arctic sea-ice predictive capabilities.

          • ‘Fill those holes and you have a better idea of what may happen in the future.’

            This “better idea” being of what value? We can’t predict the future. Speculation as to “what may happen” is still just speculation.

            “Today reanalysis models and climate models have certain data holes.”

            Ignoring the bigger problem: we don’t know enough about the atmosphere/sun/oceans to codify their behavior. Modelling what you don’t understand IS NOT MODELLING. The problem is the software, not just the data.

            But it is refreshing to hear “if we only had better data” than the monotonous “if we only had bigger computers.”

          • “The Arctic sea-ice is changing dramatically, with rapid declines in summer sea-ice extent and a shift toward relatively more first year ice and less multi-year ice. ”

            No. It has been remarkably stable for the last 12 years since 2007.

        • Fram and Sedov both took 3 years (1893-96, 1937-40), but they drifted all the way across the Arctic ocean from the New Siberian Islands to the Fram Passage.

    • where it will spend the winter deliberately trapped in sea ice….murphy

      How are they going to see how global warming is reshaping the Arctic…when no one has done this before?

      • Latitude,
        Never done before so compare to what? Good one. But still meritorious. As you imply they’ll need more funding to do it again….often.

        • maybe not….we’ll see…I firmly believe in Murphy

          ..and it seems every time they think the ice is gone…it’s worse than we though

      • Would any real Scientist draw any overall far reaching world climate conclusions by taking data at ONE stranded location for ONE winter and assume this applies worldwide?
        They are just measuring WEATHER which even changes dramatically from year to year.

      • “How are they going to see how global warming is reshaping the Arctic…when no one has done this before?”

        It has been done, before, twice. By Fram (1893-96) and Sedov (1937-40)

  1. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men…
    Here’s to the men of the Franklin expedition, may this venture be more fortunate.

    • Funny, I had the SAME idea reading this story. The Franklin Expedition has food supplies for 3 years. No one counted on the tinned meat being tainted.

        • Are they taking canned foods?
          Or are they bringing frozen and fresh frozen foods.

          And supposedly water, fuel and sufficient food for 600 scientists.

          Will they be allowed one minute of water for showers? Or none?
          They could scare the polar bears away; or at least put them off eating for months.

    • They ‘estimate’ the hull can withstand the pressure of the moving ice !
      Because this has worked before ?
      Being stuck for a week in Baltic ice wont even come near what they will face.

      I hope they dont ‘extrapolate’ the standard hull strength computer models because they believe models can predict anything ?

      • Pack ice pressure ridges get REALLY thick and strong. They better hope they get lucky and don’t happen to be in the middle of one. These ridges can push a big ship up out of the ice and lay it on its side. Good Luck and hope the rescue helicopters can fly and have somewhere to land nearby.

        • Quick check. Fram had a retractable propeller. It had a round bottom with no chines, meaning that under pressure of sea ice it was pushed up.
          Can’t see that on the Polarstern. Lovely flat sides to start with.

          Please publish follow up.

  2. I foresee a meme next spring with polar bears surrounding a sinking ship. The text reading:

    Go to the Arctic and Study the Sea Ice, They Said
    We are Not in Danger of Losing Our Ship, They Said.

    Wish I was a cartoonist.


    • Or how about a banner over the sinking ship …
      “Join the Rex Expedition!
      Explore the Arctic!
      See the Sea Ice!
      Feed the Bears!”

      • I could see these people trying to take a selfie with a few polar bears. After all, there are “pictures” of Russians feeding a mother bear and her cubs with condensed milk, because everyone knows that polar bears will forgo hundreds of pounds of meat for 8 oz. of condensed milk.

  3. Of course , if events mean that it doesn’t break free from the ice in a years time, no one will laugh. Snigger.

  4. “Ship will trap itself on purpose in Arctic sea ice. Here´s why.”, and, in a related story, I will smash my thumb with a hammer on purpose and I have no idea why.

  5. “The Polarstern is the most advanced research icebreaker in the world, and the expedition leaders calculate it will be unharmed by being stuck in the Arctic sea ice.”

    Expedition Leaders calculated this ?

    What could possibly go wrong ?

    • If it sinks they’ll blame it on climate change. The warming planet made the ice thicker.

      I wonder if they have a spill management plan.

    • I suggest that the owners have confidence that the vessel will survive, otherwise they would not have signed the charter party. I think the owners have a better idea than the “Expedition Leaders”, whatever that means.
      I would be interested to see what the Underwriters had to say about the whole thing, though, always assuming the vessel is insured. Many shipowners carry their own insurance.

      • Oldseadog September 6, 2019 at 1:42 pm
        It looks like the Institute that is sending the expedition is the owner of the ship.
        deep pockets, they are also building a second icebreaker bigger and better, to a cost of 650,000 euros. Before overruns. Probably includes a lovely Ball Room.


        • Michael, I looked at the Intitute web site and it looks as if they have a good idea of what they are doing. As you say, though, deep pockets.
          I guess the Master will have more problems with the scientists doing what they are told than with the ice, and unlike the one in Antactica a couple of years ago he will have the advantage of Plar Bears to help him maintain discipline.

  6. Ah. THIS time it’s on purpose.

    Can they turn anything into a publicity stunt, or what?

    Hope they don’t burn any fossil fuels while they’re up there.

  7. I have a question: Do they mean just plain old ordinary climate change – or do they mean AGW climate change?

    • Yes, they mean AGW climate change.

      CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) is a better description, since the AGW they are talking about is claimed to change the weather and climate in unprecedented ways, that will result in one catastrophy or another, therefore CAGW describes it perfectly.

      People who predict climate catastrophies are called alarmists because they spread alarm. Just thought I would throw that in there. 🙂

  8. “….ambitious goal: to determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic….” Not “if” but “how”. Whatever they find out I’m sure it will be catastrophic.

  9. How’s that? . . . I have it on the authority of Nobel Prizer winner Al Gore that there should be no ice in the Arctic to trap anything, much less an icebreaker ship.

    • One of the deserving Nobel (peace) Prize winners, Fred Nansen, did the same thing with his ship, on purpose, 125 years ago.

      Compare Nansen with Gore. What the hell happened to the Nobel Peace Prize.

  10. Hmmmm… There was another ship, can’t recall its name that was supposed to be “unsinkable” and that “God himself could not sink this ship!” Had some sort of argument with an iceberg, and lost.
    But that was then, this is now. Right?

    • That ship had a fire in one of the coal bunkers before it left northern Ireland. Most of the stoker’s left the ship in England before it sailed the Atlantic.

      • A quick internet search does not show that to be true, although one stoker jumped ship at the last stop before leaving for the Atlantic crossing.

        If you have anything definitive regarding the stokers, please post it. Just curious.

  11. Nansen did the same thing in a wooden schooner 125 years ago.

    He wasn’t successful, as he didn’t float to the north pole, but the ship and crew came out fine … a few years later.

    (Amundson applied to be part of the expedition, but his mom wouldn’t let him go)

  12. They probably have already written the conclusion to the report. They need to go up there looking for data that is ‘worse than we thought’ to support the thesis that we only have 11 1/2 years to turn the great thermostat knob in the sky back to a cooler time in history.

  13. how climate change is reshaping the Arctic

    Assertion, assumption, consensus.

    How climate change reshapes the Arctic in a limited frame of reference (i.e. scientific).

    • The climate in the arctic IS changing. It always has, and always will. More ice less ice, slightly warmer, slightly cooler.

      • That’s right. Climate change is not reshaping, but rather shapes the Arctic on a regular (e.g. seasonal) and recurring (e.g. decadal) basis. The claim that climate change is “reshaping” the Arctic is a bit of disinformation distributed by proponents of anthropogenic carbon dioxide as a first-order forcing of global warming a.k.a. climate change.

        • Climate change. Were any other two words every rendered so stupid when put next to each other as these two? It changes. Of course. Otherwise it would not change. So the climate by definition changes. Yet we are supposed to take it as activation codes for a complete apocalyptic freakout. I blame Twitter.

  14. It doesn’t say how it is powered. I assume it is a diesel. I hope it can carry enough fuel for a year or more stuck in ice or they will do a ‘Franklin’.

  15. Do they grow vegetables on board? As you know, a real Green does not eat meat!
    Fun aside, I worked fora short while on a frigate intended for 200 men staff. One day I was asked to check the alarm system for the cooler and freezer compartment. It was two empty rooms behind one another, about the size of a small apartment. After the check, I asked one of the officers how long supply would last,if totally filled. As I recall he said 2 month.
    On this expedition they are 3 times more people, and they need supply for 6 times longer. This gives a cooler and freezer size like 18 apartments. – I am baffled.

  16. I just looked at the ship’s specs. and saw this:

    Range 19,000 nautical miles /
    80 days

    Doesn’t that seem a bit odd if they are planning on spending 365 days+ frozen in the ice? How are they going to get refueled? They should be using a Russian nuclear icebreaker.

    • Should just be running their generator so they’ll get more than 80 days. The big question is will they have enough diesel to run the generator for 13 months. While I assume the planners say yes, I bet there’s a lot of assumptions in that calculation they may not work out the way they think.

      • The way the ice moves, stability may be a bigger issue if the ice piles up on one side and it can heel over? Once they are locked in the ice they cant adjust the direction of the bow – stern.
        This was one of the issues with the Fram during its drifting .

        The main result maybe that the idea of an ice free arctic can be demolished for good…not that they will say that.

    • Four other ice breakers are committed to meeting up with them and transferring supplies fuel and people.
      Also a couple of aircraft are suppose to be dedicated for support.

      Their plan is to complex, to many vessels and planes that most be ready and able to meet up with them.

      This is not a climate conference were weather is nice with the finest of food and drink.


      • so those other icebreakers would be breaking ice to get TO them
        thereby negating any truth about how the ice reacts when left alone around a stuck ship
        instant FAIL!

      • Four other ice breakers are committed to meeting up with them

        Tinfoil Hat Time
        Let’s say you’re a climate alarmist trying to convince people that the Arctic ice is going away. But, it’s not. What better hack than to send up a whole bunch of icebreakers to the Arctic “for research”. In the process you cut up the icepack into pieces and set the ice fragments to float south, and melt. See… I told you the icepack was disappearing!

        Maybe we should require environmental impact statements and approvals for these missions. How much CO2 will all the ships and aircraft emit? How much impact on the sea ice will the icebreakers have?

  17. From the article: “The powerful icebreaker, called the RV Polarstern, has an ambitious goal: to determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic.”

    More properly, that should be: To determine *if* climate change (CAGW) is reshaping the Arctic. They went one assumption too far here.

  18. What is the betting that the data collected will never be released because it would contradict their political agenda.

  19. $130,000,000…that’s $216,667 per scientist involved.

    And what’s the point again? To spread as much soot and break up as much winter ice as possible?

  20. Because there is such a good track on claiming to have unsinkable/indestructible ships. Almost staggering arrogance…
    At least no polar bears or walruses will be hurt in the making of the movie.
    Why didn’t they just throw some large yellow plastic ducks into the water instead – a lot cheaper?

    • When the Fram tried this 125 years ago they harmed one bear. It was a scientific expedition so they opened it up to see what it had been eating; they found a single piece of paper that they had dropped (and it blew away) the day before. Other than that the bear hadn’t eaten anything.

  21. expedition leaders calculate it will be unharmed by being stuck in the Arctic sea ice

    Umm… that didn’t go too well for the Shackleton Expedition to Antarctica. Should be a fun show. Pass the popcorn.

    • But they know the strength of their ship! Who needs to know the force of the stresses in shifting winter sea ice when you already know your ship won’t sink – signed crew of the Titanic.

  22. I don’t think they are going to get any answers to their questions.

    “The powerful icebreaker, called the RV Polarstern, has an ambitious goal: to determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic.”

    Unless they have old data from some previous locked in ice ship expedition their data will have no real value. All it can do is provide data to compare to some future expedition.

  23. Seems to me that one could do this with setting instruments out on the ice and uploading the data for a great deal less money.

    Or is this a stunt? We could not find any ice to get stuck in! One might navigate away from anywhere they might get stuck, and then claim matters in the Artic are “worth than we thought!”

  24. I expect they will have helicopter crew changes once per fortnight, food drops, fuel drops etc.

    A very expensive way of doing things when automated buoys could do the same with less cost and risk.

  25. Creeping ice is an irresistable force however strong the ship’s hull. The crew will rely on the ship’s powerful engines to get themselves out of a pickle. If they have enough time that is. I have the sneaking suspicion that they count on a backup in the form of one of Russia’s nuclear powered breakers.

    • Wind blown ice can exert a lot pressure. Just freezing in place can create 30,000psi pressure. Thats getting into tensile strength of steels territory especially with the steel very cold. The ship’s hull can be treated as a beam and differential pressures can create bending of the hull.

      Also wind or current driven thick ice striking the hull causes point loads. The calculations aren’t difficult but they are theoretical and depend on welds/rivets being up to spec as well as uniform quality of the steel and insignificant metal fatigue, a factor that simple repeated bending of the hull in riding rough swells (sagging in troughs and “hogging” on crests) can create over time. I’d hope that a good safety margin was included in the calculations.

  26. The icebreaker will get frozen in, but the public trough of bounty will never freeze.
    Nor will the imagination needed to dream up such predatory schemes.
    This one–a $130million “sciencey” boondoggle.

  27. It is nothing more than a very expensive stunt, with the patina of “science” laid on top. Whatever data they gather will be fed into the “Climate Change” regurgitator, designed to spit out the “conclusions” they desire.

  28. 600+ scientists on a vessel that has a capacity of 124 persons and a crew of 44.. so they’re not all going together then, I expect they’ll be helicoptering people to and from the vessel 2 or 3 times a day, plus running the generators 24/7 for a year or more. To establish what, exactly? That ice forms in winter and melts in summer? Guys, I think I can save you some money..

  29. Capt. J. E. Bernier stayed in the Arctic ice for the winter of 1905 I think. It was Sept. till following July
    before they could sail again………….. and they used coal for heat???? They did not have to worry their engines would malfunction.

  30. Funny how it always takes lots of fossil fuel to try to prove to the world that fossil fuel should not be used.

  31. I saw nothing on who decided to underwrite the $130M cost of the expedition. Did I miss something? I do see that 17 countries are “sponsoring” the expedition. But, to what degree? And, to what end value equation?

  32. If the risk was accepted what is the Lloyds of London insurance premium on this?. No sane underwriter would accept the risk. I hazard a guess that this voyage is uninsured.
    And if it sinks won’t that pollute the Arctic Ocean?

  33. This trip by the Polarstern is just another publicity stunt disguised as ‘science’. I look forward to it being crushed by a savage ice build up over winter and seeing the crew being forced to walk home over the ice.

  34. They will soon find out if their modelling to do with the strength of the ship is correct. I suspect the sustained cold could make the steel hull brittle. The predictions would then be as accurate as the climate predictions based on the models- totally and catastrophically inaccurate.

    • The vessel, as is to be expected from an icebreaker, is built to ‘Ice Class’ and incorporates very ductile steels in its hull, precisely because of the recognised phenomenon of low-temperature embrittlement.

      NO practical navigable vessel can be built to withstand the crushing pressure of accumulated pack ice, but the crew would be perfectly aware of this and break up the ice around the vessel as required. This is standard practice.

      Barring misadventure, it is highly likely that this expedition is well-planned, adequately resourced and will last the distance. The ultimate usefulness of the research is another matter.

  35. Before you can determine how something has changed, don’t you have to first determine what conditions were like before?

  36. “leaders calculate it will be unharmed by being stuck in the Arctic sea ice.”

    I’m predicting another very cold winter this year in Canada like we have had the last two years. Hey we’ve had a cool summer and now the coldest early September in years is upon us. At a cottage eastern Ontario in early August it was dipping down 10-12C (10C is 50F) for the week. The Fram took along a load of timbers to brace the hull. I would take some steel beams along. These guys don’t use error bars in their calculations!

  37. To see how the climate is changing is easy
    take a boat with . . . .
    lots of warm people on board
    lots of hot meals every day
    lots of hot water every day
    lots of space heating every day
    lots of electrical power every day
    I guess they even have an ice cube maker in the galley
    My uneducated guess is the micro climate of the air and the water around the ship will be warmer than before,the cry of `the arctic is warming` should be followed by `and our boat did most of it !
    they should be prosecuted for intentional damage to such an apparently incredibly delicate ecosystem hovering on the edge of a tipping point or two.

    • But but, Do they have enough bananas and peanut butter?
      Or a blender that survives 650,000 banana and peanut butter blendings.

      Bet they throw their trash overboard, including empty Jiff peanut butter jars.

  38. The top-most photo is very hard-rock, IMO. Maybe they’ll get a few more like that to make the trip worthwhile. 😉

  39. Sounds like fun.
    They must have lost out on that grant, the one that funded the study to determine how bikini coverage has evolved since climate change started.

  40. It is very possible for all of them to burn through that much money, time and effort and produce nothing but useless conjecture.

  41. “A massive icebreaker will trap itself deliberately in Arctic ice. Here’s why”- To determine how Climate Change is reshaping the Arctic. Brilliant!
    Of course they cannot do this with satellite imagery, they need to deliberately get a multi million dollar icebreaker stuck in the sea ice along with millions of other dollars to do this.
    Perhaps the only thing they will determine is whether their ship will survive the sea ice.
    Apparently icebreakers remain safe by breaking up the ice around them and not getting stuck. Ice is weak in shear strength but enormously strong in compression. Let’s see who wins this battle

    • The real reason is ‘the ship’ can have social media team on board and internet connections.
      Satellites cant have the immediacy and social connection that apparently is required these days for serious science

  42. FWIW: As I remember from my marine architecture course from many, many years ago, icebreaker hulls are, or were, designed to ride up over the ice if they were stuck in pack ice. That’s why they have the rounded hulls. So, how does that work if the water intakes are now above water, Hmmm….

  43. I recall that one of the ships frozen in, had a specially built rounded bottom,
    so as the ice thickened it “”Rode “” up and was quite safe. No pressure
    on the hull.


  44. ““Our ship is one of the most powerful and most capable research icebreakers that exist,”

    Don’t they teach scientists about hubris anymore?

    Can we vote for the 600 who get to spend all year on a metal boat stuck in ice?
    A friend once described showering on a boat in winter as burning hot water hitting your head, while standing in ice water.

    Based upon their description and planned length of stay, it does sound like they plan to be within easy flight distance of Norway so that they can receive plentiful shipments of morale boosting vodka and Aquavit.

    And to send AGW scientists bordering psychotic back to Norway for months of spa treatments. Not that it will change their psychoses.

  45. 600 people makes that “massive” icebreaker a very very small ship and would turn nasty in a short time. Infections in confined areas, food poisoning etc etc. Food, water, cleaning and the waste of 600 people, how is that going to be managed? Daily air lifts? How will a tiny ship handle billions of tonnes of moving ice?


  46. “Our ship is one of the most powerful and most capable research icebreakers that exist,” Rex told Live Science.”There could be huge pressure from the ice … but we know the strength of our vessel. We are not in danger of losing our ship.”

    We’ll see.

        • Submarines face static pressure evenly around the hull and they can and are tested to a safe depth. Crush depth is greater. This vessel?
          Artic pack ice is nothing like that as it’s largely wind driven. Think of the difference between the differences on waves on a beach and a tsunami.

          • If you are on a ship that weighs say 100,000 tonnes and trapped in a mass of ice that weighs millions and blown in random directions by the wind, what do you think will survive? We do have actual historical records of ships being lost to ice.

            I say before that happens there will be icebreakers available to break it free, so, they won’t lose the ship not because of the ship but because it will be broken free.

  47. https://www.mosaic-expedition.org/

    “The heritage for MOSAiC is Fridtjof Nansen’s famous Fram expedition during 1893-1896, which demonstrated the feasibility of letting a research vessel drift across the polar cap, driven by the natural drift of the sea ice. While Nansen has demonstrated the basic concept of such an expedition, the scientific measurements at that time were extremely limited.

    The backbone of MOSAiC will be the year round operation of RV Polarstern, drifting with the sea ice across the central Arctic during the years 2019 to 2020. During the set-up phase RV Polarstern will enter the Siberian sector of the Arctic in thin sea ice conditions in late summer. A distributed regional network of observational sites will be set up on the sea ice in an area of up to ~50km distance from RV Polarstern. The ship and the surrounding network will drift with the natural ice drift across the polar cap towards the Atlantic, while the sea ice thickens during winter (red dotted line in Figure 3).

    Large scale research facilities addressing key aspects of the coupled Arctic climate system will be set up on board of RV Polarstern and on the sea ice next to it. The distributed regional network further around the central observatory will be comprised of autonomous and remotely-operated sensors, characterizing the heterogeneity of key processes in an area representing a typical grid box of modern climate models and providing invaluable data for the development of parametrizations for sub-grid-scale processes in climate models. The German research aircrafts Polar 5 and Polar 6, as well as the HALO research aircraft, will be operated to complement the measurements at the central MOSAiC site. Research and supply cruises by icebreakers from MOSAiC partners will further extend the geographical coverage of the observations and will link the measurements to the larger scales of the Arctic climate system and explore global feedbacks.

  48. I love the Negativity here!!!, sounds like an old folks home!

    While a group of brave, and yes maybe stupid, folks trap themselves in the ice to collect new data
    old and dying skeptics sit in their chairs and hope for a failure.

    These old guys have all the data they need to decide the arctic question. Heck they saw a photo
    of a submarine surfacing at the north pole. All the data you need!

    These old guys have no curiousity for how the arctic works… its all natural, nothing to see, move on.
    It’s all happened before, nothing new under the sun, move on. It moves in cycles, nothing to
    understand. what goes up, must come down… blah blah blah

    These old dying guys have their own version of “settled science” it’s called No.
    No more data needed, We will never understand everything.! why try?

    These are the same old dying skeptics that criticized climate scientists for NOT doing feild research.

    These old dying skeptics dont need new data because their minds are made up.

    These old dying skeptics never think about educating the young. They hope some young people
    will carry on their fight against bad climate science? with what tools? old charts and graphs!

    Anyway, years from now, when the Greta’s of the world grow up, maybe they will visit you in your
    old folks home.

    They will tell you everything they learned


    • For once I am mostly in agreement. A recurring theme is that today’s science relies too much on modelling, yet when somebody decides to go out there and get data they’re branded fools on publicity stunt.

      I have little doubt that this campaign will produce a lot of social media fluff together with the science, and there’s reasonable doubt that the conclusions are in part preordained.

      Still, I hope for a successful mission and useful data.

      • Thanks.

        I Used to come to WUWT because of a broad spectrum of opinion..
        all tested in the rough and tumble of online debate.

        very few readers even dug into the back ground material before spouting off

        Every time I look at the arctic I think, there has to be a way to get more data..
        even if it means risking a few laughs,, or worse a few lives

        • Or possibly an entire research vessel. They will travel up mostly through first year ice (unless that is too thick) and then purposely strand themselves in the ice for a year. This will almost guarantee that when they try to leave, that will be attempting to depart from multiyear ice instead. I wonder if they have a Russian Nuclear Ice Breaker lined up to plow them out of the ice when their term is over

    • Mosher: “Anyway, years from now, when the Greta’s of the world grow up, maybe they will visit you in your old folks home.”

      There you’re wrong. If the Gretas of the world have their way, old skeptics will be in internment camps. Toghether with whoever is not pure enough in their environmental doomsday religion.

      • Internment camps? Only if they don’t decide to reduce the population by eliminating the oldies as useless carbon producers.

    • Some of us are younger than you Steve.
      I’ll make a point of visiting your grave.
      If the sun-scorched sand-blasted climate permits it of course.
      Climate Youth brown-shirt science says we’re all going to die, it’s official, even insects extinct in 100 years. (Yea-Right)
      And we’re supposed to be the gloomy negative ones?
      Well you’re staying true to post-modern logic at least.

      • The point is simple Phil.

        1. There is a long history of skeptics complaining that scientists dont do field work.
        2. Here you have some guys, following in the footsteps of nansen to do feild work.
        3. Folks here are basically negative about the idea, or any new data as far as that goes.
        4. These guys WILL educate the young, they will rule the future.

        IF you want to combat the coming policies you better get to work on some better science.

        • **2. Here you have some guys, following in the footsteps of nansen to do feild work.**
          We hope they are doing field work.
          However, some of the result has already been stated when they said they are going to study climate change:
          {{{The powerful icebreaker, called the RV Polarstern, has an ambitious goal: to determine how climate change is reshaping the Arctic.}}}
          So they already have decided that climate change is reshaping the Arctic. How do they know the changes are not normal Arctic cycles.
          Yes, and I find your comments funny too.
          All they will do is try to put a rubber stamp on their ready made conclusions.
          Just like David Barber said a few years ago “the ice is rotten” Well the rotten ice is still there are causing even ice breakers to turn back.
          And you wonder why we are pessimistic.
          Check the mirror.

        • **1. There is a long history of skeptics complaining that scientists dont do field work.**
          And they are CORRECT!
          **3. Folks here are basically negative about the idea, or any new data as far as that goes.**
          NO, folks are not negative about new DATA, just new climate change excuses for any event under the sun.
          **4. These guys WILL educate the young, they will rule the future.**
          If you are speaking about the voyage, then I am pessimistic. They may MISeducate the young, if all they come back with are assumptions.
          Look how miss greta has been miseducated and brain washed.
          The future is grim.

  49. Whilst I wish absolutely no harm to the foolhardy “scientists” embarking on the epic waste of time and money (not to mention the likely loss of the vessel) I look forward to the distress calls as the hull is split and crushed.

    I will have to update my song with the new circumstances…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B84O9k1ZX4g

  50. An astonishing display of ignorance and spite in the comments above.

    You’d almost think people didn’t want science done on the state of the ice…

    …which is at third lowest in extent and area for the satellite record, maybe could still see second lowest, with weeks before the annual minimum. The ice is fractured, there is less thick and old multi year ice than ever, the volume is at second lowest for the record.

    The record low years are now going to be 2012, 2016, 2019… no sign of a recovery there, is there?


    • The ice has already recovered Ms Griff. There is more ice now than the average of the past 9000 years. Imagine how many lives could be saved with 130 million dollars! Instead, it will simply line the pockets of selfish ice obsessed people who do not care for poor brown people.

    • What were your predictions, along with Tony McCleod, about ice in 2017/2018? I do recall Mr. McCleod lost his bet.

    • **…which is at third lowest in extent and area for the satellite record, maybe could still see second lowest, with weeks before the annual minimum. The ice is fractured, there is less thick and old multi year ice than ever, the volume is at second lowest for the record.**
      Total lies, The satellite record as shown in the 1990 IPCC report was lower but you are going along with the lie started after that when they cut off the satellite records before 1979.
      Your reference to less thick and multi year ice is also a lie.

      • No, no. In a way, he is correct, sea ice this year was lower than previously recorded for many days this spring and summer.

        But, from mid-August through the next year in mid-April, more heat is lost from the newly exposed Arctic Ocean over the winter than is gained in the short four months from mid-April to mid-August when the Arctic sun is shining. For twelve years now, 2007-2019, 1/3 of the entire satellite record since 1979, the September minimum sea ice levels have NOT DECREASED at all!

  51. Fortunately, there are those of us who haven’t drunk the koolade who can see the difference between true science, and the climate hysteria-based, agenda-driven pseudoscience which is the mainstay of this “expedition”. For True Believers and those being funded by the Climatist Industry, we are just “old”, which is just one of many of their uses of irrational Ad Hominem arguments, among a slew of other illogical arguments. Believers and Climatists are truly a sad and pathetic lot.

  52. “Erebus at 378 tons (bm) and Terror at 331 tons (bm) were sturdily built, and were outfitted with recent inventions. Steam engines were fitted to drive a single screw in each vessel; these engines were former locomotives from the London & Croydon Railway and enabled the ships to make 7.4 km/h (4 kn) on their own power”.


    I wonder if RV Polarstern is this well-equipped.

  53. Any ship of that size will carry one or two ship service electrical generators with diesel engines sized for efficient operation at the rated load.
    Quick search was unable to find the exact engineering specs for the Polarstern. Also, she was retrofitted in 2017 for more modern systems.
    Guessing a one year on station electrical load of 300000 kilowatthours. A modern diesel electric plant might deliver around 3 kWh per liter of diesel. Therefore, the Polarstern will use at least 100000 liters of diesel during the expedition.
    Rounding off the density to 1 kilogram per liter, that comes to 100 metric tonnes.

  54. bwegher: I think you’re assumptions are a wee bit light on power needs. First the gensets will have to carry more that the traditional electrical load, they will also have to provide heat and water. Traditionally heating was captured from waste heat from the main engines which will be shut down in this case. Similarly with distillation plants, they used waste heat from the main engines. All that plumbing is hard wired in the design of the vessel so changing the heat sources for a single, ambitious, expedition is unlikely. AND, they will have to use the propulsion plant to maintain the safe attitude of the ship and to orient it for the prevailing sea/ice conditions. I doubt she can carry enough fuel for a year on her own. In my distant youth I studied ships and (as I recall) here’s an amazing factoid: the Iowa Class battleships carried 8800 TONS of fuel.

  55. tty (also for Mosher,

    “How are they going to see how global warming is reshaping the Arctic…when no one has done this before?”

    It has been done, before, twice. By Fram (1893-96) and Sedov (1937-40)

    Three times actually. In fall 1997, the SHEBA (Surface Heat Exchange Balance of the Arctic) expedition, based onboard the Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Des Groseilliers forced its way into the Arctic ice. Stayed there overwinter through summer 1998. Finally broke free of the sea ice in October 1998 at latitude 79 degrees and was able to head south. NOTE! Only the crew of the ice breaker stayed onboard over-winter! The scientific members flew in and out over the spring and summer months as they saw fit to tend experiments and equipment.

    Dr Judith Curry was aboard for many months, Dr Perovich was lead researcher. Their data is the ONLY available information on the vital mid-summer, July, August, and Sept ice albedos since the mid-70’s!

    The Russian ice stations NP-2 through NP31 were based on top of the sea ice in huts and tents for months to years at a time. Their solar radiation data of direct radiation, diffuse radiation and upward LW radiation for all observed clear days and cloudy days, albedos and solar elevation observations data is available in Handbook of the Radiation Regime of the Arctic Basin (Results of the Drift Stations) by M.S. Marshunova and AA. Mishin, translated and published in English in the APL-UW TR 9413, December 1994. Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 98105-6698.

    See also the excellent book The Arctic Ice Station, results from the Russian Drifting Stations, by Ivan E. Frolov, Springer-Praxis Publishing, 2010. History, observations, meteorology (air temperature, wind speeeds, pressures, humidity, and drift directions), sea temperatures and sea depths and salinity is essential in developing a history of the Arctic conditions from Fram through the 30 Russian stations through next years (hopefully successful!) next ice breaker.

    Let us hope they have it on board.

    • I was only considering ships that have drifted across the whole Arctic basin.

      Among shorter drifting expeditions you might also have included the Papanin expedition (NP-1) in 1937-38 and the Maud expedition (1918-20, 1922-25) and perhaps even the Jeanette (1879-81).

  56. Do I detect a bit of hubris here? My goodness, I think this is very dangerous. On second thought, this is a joke, right?

  57. It’s going to have a huge carbon footprint so it may at least contribute to the greening of the Sahara:

    Four icebreakers from Russia, China and Sweden are going to keep up the fuel supplies and change personnel.

    The German research aircraft Polar 5 and Polar 6 will be operated to complement the measurements at the central MOSAiC site. A landing strip will be built especially for these research planes and for resupply flights in spring 2020.

    Helicopters will be employed. Fuel depots for long-range helicopters have been set up on Bolshevik Island to broaden the spectrum of response options to potential emergency situations during the expedition.

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