Ground-breaking Arctic mission

A year-round Arctic expedition ended on Monday when the German research vessel Polarstern returned to its home port in Bremerhaven.

Polarstern Arctic mission
dpa

Bremen, Germany (dpa) - A year-round Arctic expedition braving freezing cold temperatures and long periods of darkness at the northern end of the Earth ended on Monday when the German research vessel Polarstern returned to its home port in Bremerhaven.

The ship was home to the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC, which was trapped in Arctic ice for a full year close to the North Pole, including for the first time during a polar winter.

Ships and sailing boats blasted their horns to welcome Polarstern as it made its approach along the Weser estuary in northern Germany.

The icebreaker vessel docked at around 11 am and its captain was greeted on the gangway by German officials, including Research Minister Anja Karliczek.

The expedition said there were "mixed feelings" on board as the crew prepared to return to land.

"We are proud of having finished the field work after fantastic but also exhausting months and are looking forward to meet our families and friends," an Instagram post said.

"But leaving our small Polarstern cosmos also means to arrive back to 'real life' - a world dominated by the Corona[virus] pandemic and social distancing."

The icebreaker left the ice floe on Sunday, according to a spokeswoman for Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute, which led the international study.

The vessel set off on September 20, 2019, from Norway's Arctic Circle city of Tromso.

Over the course of the expedition, hundreds of scientists collected data in the ocean, ice and atmosphere of one of the world's most hostile regions. The Arctic also plays a key role in the global ecosystem and experts hope that the research will shine a light on climate change.

Over 70 research institutes from almost 20 different countries took part in the project.