04 Oct 2019: MOSAiC expedition begins its ice drift on a floe at 85 degrees north and 137 degrees east

The MOSAiC team has now selected the floe that will serve as the base of operations for their one-year-long ice drift around the North Pole with the German research icebreaker Polarstern. This was preceded by an intensive search combining satellite imagery and helicopter flights over the target area in the Central Arctic, which were supported by the icebreaker Akademik Fedorov, operated by Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI). The participating researchers closely examined 16 floes that, on the basis of satellite imagery, were potentially large enough to accommodate the ice camp. They subsequently met on board Polarstern to compare their findings, ultimately agreeing that the ice drift should be prepared for on a floe measuring roughly 2.5 by 3.5 kilometres, and located at 85 degrees north and 137 degrees east. The floe, which Polarstern will allow herself to become frozen to, is currently drifting in alternating directions, at up to 10 kilometres per day.

Read more: https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/service/press/press-release/a-fortress-of-ice-and-snow.html


First group of scientists on ice floe (Photo: Esther Horvath, AWI)

22 Septemberg 2019: On the way to the pack ice

Polarstern is on its way to the northeastern Arctic. The preparations for the work on the ice floe are running at full speed during this transfer trip. At night, the Barents Sea offered spectacular views of northern lights, the Aurora Borealis: 

"Anchors Aweigh for MOSAiC Leg 1" - first post in Polarstern blog by Marcel Nicolaus (AWI) from 22 Sep 2019: https://blogs.helmholtz.de/polarstern/en/2019/09/anchors-aweigh-for-mosaic-leg-1/

You can use the MOSAiC web app to follow Polarstern’s drift route live: https://follow.mosaic-expedition.org/


Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Stefan Hendricks

Farewell party for the departure of FS Polarstern in the harbour of Tromsø (Norway) on 20.09.2019

  • Foto: Ronny Engelmann, TROPOS

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Andreas Macke, TROPOS

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

  • Foto: Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

20 September 2019: Polarstern departure

News and media reports about the start:

Radio interview on detektor.fm with Prof. Dr. Andreas Macke, interview "Die größte Arktis-Expedition der Geschichte", 19-09-2019

Report in the Tagesspiegel, article "Eiskalte Forschung Warum Wissenschaftler den Winter in der Arktis verbringen", 18-09-2019

Report in the Sächsische Zeitung,  article "Sachsen lassen sich am Nordpol einfrieren. Heute beginnt Mosaic, die größte Arktis-Expedition aller Zeiten. Sächsische Forscher sind dort mit dabei - und auch die SZ", 20.09.2019

The last containers are loaded in Tromsö. The white OCEANET container from TROPOS (centre right) is already standing on the deck. Photo: Esther Horvarth, AWI

Transport of container & equipment on 26 August 2019

Here we go! Our OCEANET container with PollyNet lidar & other devices left Leipzig today. Destination: Tromsö.


Photo: Tilo Arnhold, TROPOS


The Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) will play a leading role in two central measurements of the MOSAiC campaign: Firstly, the OCEANET remote sensing container will continuously explore the vertical aerosol and cloud distribution for the entire ice drift using lidar, radar and microwave radiometers. On the other hand, a 90 cubic metre tethered balloon on sections 4 and 5 will bring several measuring devices up to 1500 m altitude in summer 2020 in order to measure the Arctic boundary layer as precisely as possible. TROPOS will also be integrated into the expedition leadership of section 5: The expedition leaders for this section will be Prof. Dr. Dieter Wolf-Gladrow from AWI and TROPOS Director Prof. Dr. Andreas Macke.

see press release from 27 June 2018


From mid-January to mid-February 2019, a field campaign was conducted at the TROPOS Melpitz station near Torgau to prepare for the MOSAiC expedition.

see report of the campaign from February 2019 and video on the test campaign by MDR Wissen


In winter, the Leipzig team tested in Melpitz the assembly and disassembly of the tethered balloon including the attached measuring technology. (Photo: Tilo Arnhold, TROPOS)

For one year frozen in the Arctic ocean

MOSAiC - Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate

It'll be the biggest Arctic expedition ever: Starting in autumn 2019, the German research icebreaker Polarstern will drift frozen through the Arctic Ocean. On the MOSAiC expedition, scientists from 19 nations will explore the Arctic over the course of the year. They spend the winter in a region that is almost inaccessible at polar night. The natural force of the ice drift alone gives this unique opportunity. A research camp will be set up on an ice floe and connected to a kilometre-wide network of measuring stations.

Hardly any other region has warmed as much in recent decades as the Arctic. Therefore the aim of the expedition is to better understand the influence of the Arctic on the global climate. This milestone for climate research and its data will be valuable for generations to come. The mission led by the Alfred Wegener Institute is associated with unprecedented challenges. An international fleet of icebreakers, helicopters and airplanes supplies the team on this extreme route. This expedition can only succeed with joint efforts.

Trailer MOSAiC expedition by Alfred Wegener Institute

Stock photo (Polarstern expedition ANT-XXIX/6 2013): Alfred Wegener Institute/Stefan Hendricks