German Marine Research Expeditions and Their Vital Role

German marine research expeditions contribute to advancing our understanding of the world’s oceans and their ecosystems. These expeditions are essential for a myriad of reasons, ranging from uncovering the secrets of the deep sea to monitoring climate change’s impact on marine environments. Among the most notable vessels used for these expeditions is the RV Polarstern, a research icebreaking vessel that has become synonymous with cutting-edge marine research. This vessel, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, has been at the forefront of numerous ground-breaking research missions in polar regions, including MOSAiC, where scientists spent a year stuck in the ice in the center of the Arctic Ocean.

Can, the testimonial, standing by RV Polarstern.
Can in front of Polarstern before embarkation.© Can

Onboard Training: Raising the Next Generation of Marine Scientists

Last month I spent two weeks onboard RV Polarstern. One particular aspect of the expeditions of this gigantic icebreaker is the training courses that take place as the ship relocates. This aims to raise the next generation of marine scientists. I am participating in an echosounding training offered onboard for master’s and PhD students. Echosounding is a critical technique for mapping the seafloor, understanding the geology, and learning about the structure of marine ecosystems. This hands-on training program equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to collect, process, and interpret echosounding data, making them integral to modern marine research. So I feel incredibly lucky to be here.

Testimonial Can's colleague Deniz, on an overnight shift.
Can's colleague on an overnight shift on RV Polarstern.© Can

Immersive Education

The RV Polarstern, with its state-of-the-art equipment, and experienced research staff from the Alfred Wegener Institute, offers an unparalleled environment for practical learning. This immersive training experience not only fosters scientific and technical expertise but also cultivates a deep appreciation for the complexities of the ever-developing fields of geology and geotechnology.

Testimonial Can and his roommate Luca working on a project at late night.
Can and his roommate are working on a project at late night.© Can

Navigating the Atlantic

It takes us approximately 2 weeks to cross from Bremerhaven to Gran Canaria, where the cruise ends. Throughout the day, we as the students learn to use the required systems on our own, and keep them running for 24 hours a day via 4-hour shifts. Using the data collected, we visualize the bathymetry and structures of the upper sediment layers to draw geological conclusions. The data collected during the course also contribute to a global understanding of the oceans. It is funny but true that we know less about the geography of the bottom of our oceans than the geography of the whole planet of Mars. Mind-blowing, right?

Can the testimonial and Fridtjof interpreting parasound data.
Can and Fridtjof interpreting parasound data.© Can

Educational Initiatives at Sea

Knowing that our data helps a greater cause, and we get to learn to use this crucial method in marine surveying, everyone on board seems nothing but enthusiastic. By supporting such educational initiatives, German research institutes such as Alfred Wegener Institute ensure that future generations are well-prepared to take the lead when their time comes, and have the necessary skills to address the pressing challenges facing our oceans and the planet.

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from RV Polarstern.
Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean as seen from RV Polarstern.© Can

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