An Icon of German Polar Research

The research vessel POLARSTERN is the most important tool of German polar research and the flagship of the Alfred Wegener Institute. Since its commissioning on December 9, 1982, FS POLARSTERN has covered more than 1.7 million nautical miles (as of 2021). That is about 3.3 million kilometers. To date, it is one of the most efficient polar research vessels in the world.

POLARSTERN is in operation on an average of 305 days a year. Between November and March, the research vessel usually cruises in the Antarctic, while in the summer months scientists conduct research in Arctic waters. In the process, POLARSTERN covers a good 50,000 nautical miles each year - equivalent to a good two circumnavigations of the earth at the height of the equator. The research icebreaker POLARSTERN can even work in the pack ice zone because the ship is a powerhouse: With its double-walled steel hull and 20,000 hp, the ship can break through ice up to 1.5 meters thick without any problems. It picks its way through thicker ice by ramming. POLARSTERN is also equipped for temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius and can even spend the winter in the ice of the polar seas.

It is less cold in the belly of the ship. A ship's crew of up to 44 people works and lives here, as well as a maximum of 55 scientists and technicians. In nine scientific laboratories, international researchers conduct biological, geological and geophysical, as well as glaciological, chemical, oceanographic and meteorological research.

Without POLARSTERN, research at the stations of the Alfred Wegener Institute would also not be possible. With its help, the AWI supplies, for example, the Antarctic Neumayer Station III, which is manned all year round. The supplies include everything from fresh vegetables for the station team and state-of-the-art IT equipment to screws and parts for station maintenance. From 1999 to 2001, the ship was technically upgraded to the then state of the art. The ship is operated by F. Laeisz GmbH. A successor for POLARSTERN is in planning.

More about RV POLARSTERN: https://www.awi.de/en/expedition/research-vessel-and-cutter/polarstern.html
Cruise Schedules RV POLARSTERN: https://www.awi.de/en/about-us/logistics/schedules.html


    • Owner: Federal Republic of Germany, represented by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
    • Home port: Bremerhaven
    • Operator: Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
    • Year of construction: 1982
    • Draft: 11.2 m max.
    • Dimensions: Length: 118 m, Width: 25 m
    • Max. Speed: 16 kn
    • Crew: 44 persons
    • Scientists: 53 persons
    • Laboratories and scientific rooms: Nine laboratories for biological, chemical, geological, geophysical, glaciological, oceanographic and meteorological research, as well as cold rooms and aquariums.
  • GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
    Wischhofstr. 1-3
    D-24148 Kiel
    Tel.: +49-431 600-0
    Fax: +49-431 600-2805
    E-mail: info(at)geomar.de