The Research Vessel Polarstern is the most important resource for German polar research and the flagship of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Commissioned on 9 December 1982, the Polarstern has since logged more than 1.5 million nautical miles, or roughly 2.7 million kilometres (as of 2014). Today she’s one of the world’s most advanced and versatile polar research ships in the world.
The Polarstern operates an average of 310 days a year, typically cruising in the Antarctic from November to March and pursuing research in the Arctic during the summer months. In the process, she covers ca. 50,000 nautical miles every year – the equivalent of two trips around the Equator. A veritable powerhouse, the research icebreaker can even operate in the pack ice zone: a double-walled steel hull and 20,000 horsepower allow her to easily break through 1.5-metre-thick ice; thicker ice can be overcome by ramming. Further, the Polarstern is equipped for sustained operations at temperatures down to -50 degrees Celsius, and can even overwinter in the ice of the polar seas.