EU scientists break the ice

June 5, 2003

Brussels, 04 Jun 2003

Scientists working together onboard the ice-breaker, Polarstern, are proving that relations between EU members are reaching new depths.

A team of around 150 marine scientists, biologists, engineers and technicians from Germany, France, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, as well as Russia set off on May 22 aboard Polarstern, the research vessel run by the Alfred Wenger Institute (AWI), for a 12-week scientific expedition.

A deep-sea robot called 'Victor 6000', which has been developed by the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer), will be used to help the European scientists study the deep-sea environment of the Arctic and North Altantic.

This unmanned submersible robot is capable of diving to depths of 6 000 metres. Using remote-controlled cameras and sample taking mechanisms, scientists can examine the ocean floor and gather sediment, water samples and organisms.

Partnership in marine research

This is not the first time that Victor 6000 has been used onboard Polarstern. The Franco-German partnership has been in operation since 1991, and was further reinforced by the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2001. To celebrate over 12 years of collaboration in marine research and geosciences, AWI and Ifremer held a science open day onboard Polarstern on 1 June.

The expedition currently underway will continue the study of biological, geological and chemical oceanography. During the first leg of the journey, researchers will study the deep-sea corals of Porcupine Bight, off the coast of Ireland, to determine their role in the ecosystem and possible impacts of fishing activities on deep-sea coral.

Next port of call for Polarstern will be Norway to examine the methane emissions of an underwater mud-spewing volcano called Hakon Mosby, which was discovered in 1996 and studied in past outings by the Ifremer and AWI partnership.

The destination for the final leg will be AWI's deep-sea underwater observatory, Hausgarten, which was set up four years ago in the Arctic's Fram Strait for sampling natural deep-sea variations. "Repeated sampling of the AWI 'Hausgarten' allows the natural variations of deep-sea communities to be monitored in a region of the ocean which is extremely sensitive to climate change," said Dr Michael Klages, head of the deep-sea group at AWI.

Source: Stiftung Alfred-Wenger-Institut für Polar- und Meeresforschung in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft


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