GRÖNLAND and POLARSTERN: The oldest polar research vessel meets the most important
After half a year in the southern hemisphere, the POLARSTERN – one of the most important research vessels in the world – has returned to her home port Bremerhaven. The icebreaker of the Alfred Wegener Institute / Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) was welcomed by the GRÖNLAND near Wangerooge, which set sail in 1868 for the first German expedition to the Arctic Ocean and today belongs to the fleet of the German Maritime Museum (DSM). The photos and drones of the two ships are to be used in the future as part of the exhibition „360° POLARSTERN – A Virtual Research Expedition“ at the DSM and serve as a lasting reminder of the historic encounter between the two ships.
The crew of the GRÖNLAND, consisting of the volunteers who maintain the ship throughout the year and sail various cruises, could not resist receiving the POLARSTERN in due form. With the support of Steffen Spielke from the Laeisz shipping company and first officer of POLARSTERN, the crew members organized a meeting which has not taken place within the last 23 years: „It was an unforgettable and at the same time historic moment when Germany’s most important and the oldest polar research ship met. To spot the POLARSTERN on the horizon and hear the first call to the GRÖNLAND – made goose bumps“, said Niels Hollmeier, curator of the exhibition „360° POLARSTERN – A Virtual Research Expedition“, who accompanied the cruise as a photographer. The POLARSTERN exhibition at the DSM can be seen until March 31, 2020 and makes driving, researching and living on board a tangible experience with the help of virtual reality and real exhibits.
The expedition to Antarctica, from which the POLARSTERN had just returned, was characterised by thick sea ice. “For the first time in 13 years, we had the opportunity to measure the ice thickness in the northwestern Weddell Sea, and to closely examine the characteristics of the ice and snow cover, as well as the microorganisms living in the ice that depend on it,” reports AWI geophysicist Prof Christian Haas.
GRÖNLAND succeeded in gaining knowledge about the Arctic as early as 1868. Ice strengths, ocean currents, weather conditions – much of what the Koldewey expedition brought with it is still useful today. The GRÖNLAND is the oldest polar research vessel in Germany and has been on the water for more than 150 years. Never again has a sailing ship without a motor came so far into the Arctic Ocean. The sailing ship was originally built for fishing in Norway in 1867. The ship type: Nordic hunting. When the ship left Bergen, Norway, in May 1868, the goals for the expedition were set high. A route through the pack ice to the North Pole was to be found. On 15 September 1868 she was the first German polar research vessel – under the direction of Captain Carl Koldewey – to reach the northernmost latitude that can be proven for a sailing ship. For more than three months the 12-man crew was on the way with the ship without suffering any damage. The crew did not find the way to the North Pole, but when the ship arrived in Bremerhaven on October 10, 1868 under the cheers of the population, many new insights were gained.
After the expedition in 1871, the 29-metre-long one-master was sold to Norway and served there as a coastal freighter for about a hundred years, before the maritime treasure was rediscovered in 1973 and, through the investment of 120,000 DM, came back into German possession and into the museum harbour of the DSM in Bremerhaven.
Nowadays it is the POLARSTERN that explores such distant areas. For 37 years now, it has been providing insights into the climate, oceans and polar regions. After a season marked by sea ice, the icebreaker is now being prepared in the shipyard to carry out the largest Arctic research expedition ever starting in September. The expeditions to the Arctic connect these two ships. All the better that these two greats of maritime history can still meet at sea today.
Photos and drone videos below:
Photographs: © DSM / Niels Hollmeier / drone shots: © Steffen Spielke
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About the German Maritime Museum / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History:
The German Maritime Museum / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History (DSM) in Bremerhaven has set itself the task of exploring the relationship between man and sea and making it possible to experience it in exhibitions. It is one of eight Leibniz research museums in Germany. With more than 80 employees and trainees and around 8000 square metres of covered exhibition space, it is one of the largest maritime museums in Europe. The DSM is currently in a state of flux and combines a building renovation and the construction of a research depot with a comprehensive new concept for all exhibition and research areas. During this phase, which lasts until 2021, the building will remain open – with a varied programme, changing special exhibitions and events. The more than 600-year-old Bremer Kogge and the museum ships in the outdoor area can also continue to be visited.
Research projects at the DSM are supported by renowned national and international funding programmes. As an attractive workplace for young and professionally experienced talents in maritime research, the DSM maintains a variety of cooperations with universities, colleges and non-university research institutions.
The museum is supported not least by a total of around 3000 members of the „Förderverein Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum e.V.“, which was the driving force behind the opening of the museum in 1975, and the „Kuratorium zur Förderung des Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseums e.V.“, the „Board of Trustees for the Promotion of the German Maritime Museum“, which is now accompanying it on its course for the future.
For further information: https://dsm.museum/ueber-uns
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