MOSAiC Leg 1

In pictures: Following the mission to discover how the climate crisis is changing the Arctic

We go on a journey with the MOSAiC Mission to the North Pole and back again.

On 19 August 2020, the world’s largest and longest polar research expedition – known as MOSAiC – reached the North Pole. The MOSAiC Expedition was the first time a modern research icebreaker was able to reach the vicinity of the North Pole all year round, including for the first time during a polar winter.

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The purpose of the expedition was to take a close look at the Arctic and study the effects of global climate change.

The expedition was divided into five legs, with teams being changed regularly. A total of 600 people took part in physical operations during the mission, and many more will be involved in the processing of the data gathered.

The icebreaker, Polarstern, returned to her home port of Bremerhaven, Germany, on 12 October 2020. Now, teams of scientists will study the information collected during the expedition, and use it to produce new and more reliable climate projections and models.

Here, we bring you some of our favourite images from the mission.

Check out more of our online galleries:

The Best Science Images of 2020

The hole wide world

A Perfect Planet

The first leg

Polarstern in Arctic sea ice. 28 September 2019, Stefan Hendricks
Alfred Wegener Institute/Stefan Hendricks

Polarstern breaking through Arctic sea ice on the first leg of its journey from Tromsø, Norway. 28 September 2019

Setting up camp

Setting up power hub and power cables next to Polarstern. October 8, 2019
Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

Setting up power hub and power cables next to Polarstern. 8 October 2019

Friendly visitors

Yesterday evening again two polar bears came close to our ship. Probably they were the same we saw already a couple of days before our arrival at the floe. Nobody was out on the ice when the bears appeared and there was no danger for the expedition’s participants. The bears stayed several minutes around Polarstern and the ice camp. For our own safety and for the safety of the polar bears we don’t want them to get used to be our neighbors. The expedition’s lead and professional polar bear guards therefore chased them with a flare gun. The bears have not been injured and left the area immediately. This procedure agrees with the complex safety concept of the MOSAiC expedition. October 10, 2019, Esther Horvath
Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

Polar bears visit the ship and surrounding ice camp research site. For safety reasons, team members carry flare guns to scare the bears away and deter them from repeat visits. 10 October 2019

Building a new city

Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

After lots of planning and preparation, the 11-metre-high meteorological tower at Met City was raised. The set up was professionally coordinated and went very smoothly. All instruments mounted on the tower work to provide continuous data.

From the tower, we will get measurements of atmospheric and surface temperature, relative humidity, fast winds, water vapour, pressure, surface flux and CO2.

Additionally, the tower supports an inlet for air samples, snow particle counters and an aerosol size sampler. 24 October 2019

Collecting ice cores

Lei Wang (r) and Michael Angelopolous (l) collect ice cores, which cores will be melted and measured in the lab of Polarstern.
Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

Lei Wang (r) and Michael Angelopolous (l) collect ice cores, which will be melted and measured in the lab of Polarstern. 4 December 2019

Shining beacon

The icebreaking research vessel Poalrstern is home and shelter for the MOSAiC scientists and crew.
Alfred Wegener Institute/Steffen Graupner

The icebreaking research vessel Polarstern is home and shelter for the MOSAiC scientists and crew. 27 February 2020

Go and tidy your room!

Steven Fons on work deck checking his ice core device during Leg 3 of the expedition. March 28, 2020
Alfred Wegener Institute/Michael Gutsche

Steven Fons on the work deck of Polarstern, checking his ice core device during Leg 3 of the expedition. 28 March 2020

Going with the floe

Markus Rex, Allison Fong, and bear guard Laura Christina walk around the old logistics floe area
Alfred Wegener Institute/Lianna Nixon

Markus Rex, Allison Fong, and bear guard Laura Christina walk around the old logistics floe area. 30 June 2020

Arctic beauty

Ice and melt ponds during Leg 4 of MOSAiC_Lianna Nixon_CIRES and CU Boulder
Alfred Wegener Institute/Steffen Graupner

Ice and melt ponds during Leg 4 of MOSAiC. 9 July 2020

A spot of ice fishing

20200721_MOSAiCLeg4_NixonLianna_AL4I8004
Alfred Wegener Institute/Lianna Nixon

Felix Linhardt measures melt ponds during the MOSAiC expedition Leg 4. 21 July 2020

Easy does it

Matt Shupe drives a snowmobile over a bridge towards MET City. July 29, 2020
Alfred Wegener Institute/Lianna Nixon

Matt Shupe drives a snowmobile over a bridge towards MET City. 29 July 2020.

Escaping the melting ice

MOSAiC scientists begin to dismantle and move instruments out on the melting ice_Lianna Nixon_CIRES and CU Boulder
Alfred Wegener Institute/Lianna Nixon

MOSAiC scientists begin to dismantle and move ‘Atmos Flux’ instruments away from the melting ice. 30 July 2020

Changing of the guard

Marce Nickolas, Ice Team member of Leg 5, looks out at the Russian icebreaker Tryoshnikov as the Polarstern heads North to continue to MOSAiC mission. Bon voyage, Leg 4!
Alfred Wegener Institute/Lianna Nixon

Marce Nickolas, Ice Team member of Leg 5, looks out at the Russian icebreaker Tryoshnikov as the Polarstern heads North to continue to MOSAiC mission. 13 August 2020

Breaking through

Heading for the new MOSAiC ice floe, Polarstern takes the shortest way to the area of interest: via the North Pole. On tghe way north, the sea ice is surprisingly weak, has lots of melt ponds, and Polarstern is able to easily break it.
Alfred Wegener Institute/Steffen Graupner

Heading for the new MOSAiC ice floe, Polarstern takes the shortest way to the area of interest: via the North Pole. On the way north, the sea ice is surprisingly weak, and Polarstern is able to easily break it. 17 August 2020

Eye in the sky

Michelle Anna Lacey, co-pilot of Polar 5 research aircraft fuels the airplane before taking off at the airport of Longyearbyen.
Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

Michelle Anna Lacey, co-pilot of Polar 5 research aircraft fuels the aeroplane before taking off at the airport of Longyearbyen in Svalbard.

Polar 5 took many flights over the central Arctic as part of the MOSAiC mission. Participating atmospheric researchers took readings to better understand how clouds form over the Arctic Ocean, and what part aerosol particles and eddies play in the process. 10 September 2020

Deflating Miss Piggy

Atmospheric scientists Alex Schulz and Sandro Dahlke deflate Miss Piggy, a weather balloon used to deploy instruments that help the scientists understand atmospheric properties like temperature and turbulance.
Alfred Wegener Institute/Steffen Graupner

Atmospheric scientists Alex Schulz and Sandro Dahlke deflate Miss Piggy, a weather balloon used to deploy instruments that help the scientists understand atmospheric properties like temperature and turbulence. 17 September 2020

Return to base

Gangway is being placed next to Polarstern, on it's return to port
Alfred Wegener Institute/Esther Horvath

A gangway is being placed next to Polarstern, on its return to port at the end of its year-long mission. 12 October 2020

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For more information on the MOSAiC Expedition, check out the homepage at the Alfred Wegener Institute MOSAiC site.