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RV Polarstern on its way to East Siberian Sea
Date:8/21/2008

This release is available in German.

Bremerhaven, August 19th 2008. German research vessel Polarstern, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, transits the Northwest Passage for the first time. Polarstern left the port of Reykjavik on August 12th, sailed around Greenland on a southern course and is located right in the Northwest Passage. Its destination is the East Siberian Sea where geoscientific measurements at the junction between the Mendeleev Ridge and the East Siberian Shelf are at the focus of the participants of this expedition. The measurements striven for in the framework of the International Polar Year shall help to understand how the undersea ridges and basins were built. This expedition takes the researchers in 68 days around the North Pole because the return voyage is to lead via the Northeast Passage.

The researchers want to clarify the tectonic interrelations on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean in the track of Alfred Wegener, who founded the theory on continental drift in 1915. They employ seismic measurement methods which shall allow a glance at the geological units and sediments. "At the bottom of the sea we find mountains which are about the same height as the Alps," illustrates Chief Scientist Wilfried Jokat. "These are partially overlaid by sediments, so that we have to look beneath the surface to find clues hinting at the geological history of the Mendeleev Ridge," he explains further.

Where the Mendeleev Ridge meets the East Siberian Shelf, very old layers can be found at the surface of the sea bottom. If the researchers find such places by means of the equipment on board Polarstern, they will try to retrieve cores with a gravity corer. 50 million years old rocks crop out at these places; usually, only layers of the upper 10 to 15 metres can be cored with a
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Contact: Folke Mehrtens
Folke.Mehrtens@awi.de
49-047-148-312-007
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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