By airship to the North Pole

Zeppelins expedition to measure sea ice of the Arctic

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For the first time in 2008, scientists want to create a continuous profile of ice thicknesses from the Canadian coast across the North Pole to the Siberian Arctic. The core of the project is the crossing of the North Pole with a Zeppelin. The airship will be equipped with an electromagnetic probe developed by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. The spectacular project of the French physician Jean-Louis Etienne is financed by the French oil company Total and presented today in Berlin.


The ice-covered area in the Arctic Ocean is falling sharply. This decline in the north is in contrast to the sea ice cover in the Antarctic, which even slightly increases. "Almost nothing is known about the regional distribution of ice thickness in the Arctic and Antarctic and their temporal change, " explains Christian Haas, geophysicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. "This is due to the great methodological difficulties of measuring the thickness of the ice floes, which are only a few meters thick, and the difficult logistical conditions for advancing into the central Arctic." The development of ice cover in the polar seas is one of the key issues in climate research to the central research topics in the International Polar Year 2007/2008.

An electromagnetic bird over the Arctic

The Alfred Wegener Institute is the only research institute in the world since 1991 to carry out sporadic ice thickness measurements in the high Arctic between Spitsbergen, the North Pole, and the Canadian coast. With the help of the privately organized French PoleAirship project, research can now take a big step forward. Because the doctor and explorer Jean-Louis Etienne will provide the financial support of the French oil company Total the unique opportunity to cross the Arctic with an airship. At the same time, the ice thickness gauge developed by the Alfred Wegener Institute, also known as "EM Bird", is the first to obtain continuous, large-scale ice thickness data from the entire Arctic.

The airship will fly in April 2008 from Spitzbergen via the North Pole to the Canadian coast and then continue to Alaska and thereby measure the main sea ice areas of the Arctic. This provides an important dataset that allows comparisons with older measurements and serves as a reference for future campaigns. After completion of the expedition, a continuous ice thickness profile will be available for the first time from the Canadian coast across the North Pole to the Siberian Arctic. display

First, helicopters in use

The PoleAirship mission is also to be seen in the context of the large-scale EU project DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modeling and Observing Capabilities for Long-Term Environmental Studies), which has been underway since December 2005, in which 44 scientific institutions from 10 European countries undertake extensive investigations into the atmosphere, atmosphere, and environment Making sea ice and the ocean.

In April 2007, the PoleAirship project will begin its journey to the North Pole without an airship to obtain a first helicopter-assisted reference dataset and to verify the accuracy of the measurement process. Here, divers and a remote controlled underwater vehicle are used to make comparisons of electromagnetically measured with the actual thickness of up to 50 meters thick Presseisr├╝cken can perform. The team will live in tents on the ice and be supplied with airplanes.

(Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, 05.04.2007 - DLO)