After exactly 300 days of drift with the MOSAiC ice floe, the international team headed by expedition leader Markus Rex started dismantling the research camp on the floe on July 29, 2020. The next day, the floe was finally broken into many individual parts. After accompanying this floe for ten months, the expedition will now focus on the only missing piece of the puzzle in the annual cycle of Arctic sea ice: the beginning of ice formation.
It came as expected: Under a loud bang, the floe of the MOSAiC expedition on July 30th broke into many individual parts, which will now drift out into the open waters of the Fram Strait in a few days. At the moment, the floe parts are only five kilometres from the edge of the ice. The timing of the scientists was perfect. Until the last moment, they did research on this floe with a complete research camp, before they brought it on board in order within just one day. As planned, the very last phase of the life of the MOSAiC floe could be documented.
“We have been able to accompany the life cycle of the MOSAiC floe from the beginning of October last year to its end. It carried us 1,700 kilometers through the Arctic Ocean, from the Laptewsee past the North Pole to the Fram Strait. Here, at the edge of the ice, it now ends its natural life cycle, as it breaks down under the influence of swells and waves, eventually melting and becoming the water of the ocean from which it formed almost two years ago off the Siberian coast. The concept of this expedition has thus been completely taken up,” says expedition leader Prof. Markus Rex from the AWI.
However, the “Polarstern” will remain close to the ice edge until the Russian research icebreaker “Akademik Tryoshnikov” arrives in the next few days. He brings the science team of the last MOSAIC section, new crew members, provisions and fuel as well as consumables.
MOSAiC ice floes since December 2018
On October 4, 2019, the scientists of the MOSAiC expedition had been frozen after a short but intensive search of the ice floe, on which they set up their research camp for drifting through the Arctic Ocean. The search proved to be an enormous challenge, as after one of the warmest summers there were hardly enough thick floe in the starting region of the expedition. The floe of their choice, as they later found out, had formed off the New Siberian Islands in December 2018. The scientists appreciated the unusually stable area of the floe, which turned out to be a good location for the research camp. At the same time, the floe in its other areas was relatively thin and dynamic, typical of the new Arctic. It was precisely for this reason that it was very suitable for scientific projects. Over the course of the year, storms caused cracks and press ice backs, which demanded a lot from the expedition participants. But overall, the plaice remained stable until the very end – even during the melting season, when the neighboring areas gradually crumbled.
“Last autumn, we searched for, found, explored, colonized and explored our floe from all conceivable perspectives. Since then, it has served us faithfully as a stable basis for our research camp. In the many months the floe has become a home for us, which we will always remember. Now she is making her last journey and is back to water. It’s time to say goodbye and head north for the final phase of the expedition,” says Markus Rex.
Source: AWI, Bremerhaven