Finally it starts: Laura Schmidt leaves Germany to drift through the pack ice of the Arctic for three months on the expedition ship "Polarstern". Behind her is a hanging section for weeks, because the corona virus almost destroyed her participation. However, the quarantine stood before the isolation at the North Pole.
Nerves are required for this trip. Laura Schmidt had to prove that she had this in advance of the trip. As reported, the 33-year-old from Miesbach is participating in the Mosaic project - the largest polar expedition in human history. For the geographer and glaciologist, who, as the polar bear guardian, is supposed to protect the scientists during their investigations on the ice, participation is an important step professionally. But almost everything would have burst.
You can also read the previous story: Miesbacherin goes into pack ice for several months
As everywhere else, the corona virus has thrown all the plans off this international project. Schmidt was supposed to complete a preparatory course in Norway in April and then board the "Polarstern". Since September 2019, the German research icebreaker has been drifting through the Arctic Ocean, trapped in the ice, where researchers from 20 nations want to gain important insights into climate change. The mission was planned by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.
Massive complications from the corona pandemic
But Corona has made it difficult and complicated to replenish personnel. No wonder: the risk that the virus will get into the ship is great. An epidemic on board would be difficult to solve - that would mean the end of the multi-million dollar research mission. At first there was even a cancellation of the planned personnel change because Norway had closed.
Then a solution was found: The new Mosaic members had to go to strict quarantine beforehand, be tested, quarantined on the ship that brought them to the Arctic Ocean, and then directly to the “Polarstern”. The planned shore leave in Svalbard was canceled.
Strict isolation as preparation
Schmidt therefore had to be in Bremerhaven on May 1st with the other members. There the 150-strong group - almost 100 people for the exchange of crew and employees on the "Polarstern" plus the crews of the two transport and supply ships "Merian" and "Sun" - were isolated and tested three times on Corona. Every time negative. This allowed the preparation for the exchange to continue. The supply ships leave for Norway on Monday.
Find out more about the Mosaic expedition here
The 33-year-old is relieved. "A cancellation would have been a disaster for me economically," she says. The freelancer had focused on this two and a half to three month long trip plus preparation throughout the year and blocked the relevant period for other appointments and orders. But with the change of strategy, these problems have now been solved.
Ready for three months in the ice cream
The time in Bremerhaven already offered a foretaste of insulation in the ice. "The first week we were only accommodated in single rooms," she says. You weren't allowed outside the door. The food was packed in front of the room door - contact with other people should be avoided under all circumstances. Relaxation like this, leaving the room or exercising in the fitness room in certain time slots were only possible after the second test was available.
Before Laura Schmidt there are now about three months in the pack ice - depending on the course. “On this expedition we are always very dependent on the weather. There is currently a strong storm. The measuring stations were partly destroyed and have to be rebuilt. Some of the ice floes are drifting apart. ”The corona virus has shown that other incidents are also possible. After all: In the isolation at the North Pole, the team should be well protected from the pandemic.
This is the Mosaic project
A community of 20 nations - Germany, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Canada, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the USA - wants the North Pole Research climate change - with 500 people. The year in the ice costs 140 million euros, the preparation took a good ten years. It started in September 2019. From Tromsø, Norway, the “Polarstern” set sail to drift through the Arctic Ocean until around September 2020 - trapped in the ice. The mission is called Mosaic: "Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate" - multidisciplinary drift observation to study climate in the Arctic.