RV Polarstern

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RV Polarstern
Name: Polarstern
Namesake: Pole star
Operator: Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI)
Port of registry: Germany Bremerhaven, Germany
Route: Arctic and Antarctica
Builder: Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft at Kiel and the Nobiskrug at Rendsburg
Laid down: 22 February 1981
Completed: 1 December 1982
Status: In service
General characteristics
Type: Icebreaker, research vessel
Displacement: 17,300 tonnes
Length: 117.91 m (386 ft 10 in)
Beam: 25.07 m (82 ft 3 in)
Draught: 11.21 m (36 ft 9 in)
Installed power: Four diesel engines, 14,000 kW (19,000 hp)
Speed: 15.5 knots (28.7 km/h; 17.8 mph)
Capacity: 44 maximum[clarification needed]

RV Polarstern (meaning pole star) is a German research icebreaker of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven. Polarstern was commissioned in 1982 and is mainly used for research in the Arctic and Antarctica. She is planned to be replaced by Polarstern II around the year 2017,[1] after it was decided that the European Research Icebreaker Aurora Borealis is not going to be built in her original form.

Polarstern was built by the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft at Kiel and the Nobiskrug at Rendsburg. The ship has a length of 118 metres (387 feet) and is a double-hulled icebreaker. She is operational at temperatures as low as -50°C. (-58°F) Polarstern can break through ice 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) thick at a speed of 5 knots. Thicker ice up to 3 m (9.8 ft) thick can be broken by ramming.


On 7 September 1991, Polarstern, assisted by the Swedish arctic icebreaker Oden reached the North Pole as the first conventional powered vessels.[2] Both scientific parties and crew took oceanographic and geological samples and had a common tug of war and a football game on an ice floe. Polarstern again reached the pole exactly 10 years later[3] together with the USCGC Healy. She returned for a third time on 22 August 22 2011 at exactly 9.42 a.m. This time she reported the most frequently recurring ice thickness at 0.9 m compared with 2 m in 2001, which corresponds to the long-term average.[4]

On March 2, 2008, one of the vessel's helicopters crashed on a routine flight to the Antarctic Neumayer II base. The German pilot and a Dutch researcher were killed, three other passengers injured.[5][6]

On October 17, 2008, Polarstern was the first research ship to ever travel through both the Northeast Passage and the Northwest Passage in one cruise, thus circumnavigating the North Pole.[7]

Polarstern breaking ice
File:Polarstern library hg.jpg
Library in the blue saloon


Current[when?] listings of all cruises on board Polarstern as well as associated content (e.g., tracklines, weekly reports, cruise reports, publications and data) are presented in AWI's research platform portal.

In popular culture

Polarstern is also the name of the first track of Eisbrecher's (German for Icebreaker) first album, Eisbrecher. Throughout the track, narrations are given specifying the dimensions and specifications of an enormous ship, blowing the measurements of the real icebreaker out of proportion (e.g.: length of 236 metres). The ship plays a central role in German musician Schiller's 2010 album Atemlos. A track is titled after the ship. It is also featured in the DVD of the same title, showing the musician's expedition on the vessel.


  1. "Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung" (in German). Retrieved 2012-11-25. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Fütterer, D. et al. (1992) The Expedition ARK-VIII/3 of RV Polarstern in 1991, Reports on Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, 107, 267 pp, hdl:10013/epic.10107.d001 (pdf 6.4 MB)
  3. Thiede, J. et al. (2002) POLARSTERN ARKTIS XVII/2 Cruise Report: AMORE 2001 (Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge Expedition), Reports on Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, 421, 390 pp, hdl:10013/epic.10426.d001 (pdf 8 MB)
  4. "Research Vessel Polarstern at North Pole". August 24, 2011. Retrieved September 12, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "awi.de - sad times (ANT-XXIV/3 Weekly report No. 3)". Retrieved 2008-03-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Pooljaar.nl - The crash in retrospect (article in Dutch)". Retrieved 2008-03-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "idw-online.de - Research around the North Pole". Retrieved 2008-10-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links