Research vessel "Polarstern" in the Arctic: Drifting on the ice floe
Alfred Wegener Institute / Stefan Hendricks
Only in a polar night does one get to know real darkness.
At around minus 40 degrees Celsius, Markus Rex stood on an ice floe and looked out into a blackness that was much more extensive than anything he had known at home.
"The world is shrinking to a small bubble of light that is diffused by one's own headlamp," explains the atmospheric physicist.
"You feel like you're on a strange heavenly body."
And when the moon pushed just above the horizon, the researcher finally felt like he was on another planet.
Sometimes the moon was shaped like a mushroom cloud, sometimes it looked almost square, then again it seemed to consist of stripes.
This was due to optical distortions caused by layers of the Arctic air at different temperatures.
"It's an alien experience," says Rex.
The expedition leader and his colleagues from the Alfred Wegener Institute have often experienced such special moments in recent months.
For a year they were on the move with the German research icebreaker "Polarstern" in the far north.
They spent around 150 days of it in twilight and darkness, on 56 days they had to deal with strong winds.
Polar bears have been sighted near the ship a total of 58 times.
The nearest human settlement was hundreds of kilometers away.
Read more with Spiegel Plus
More perspectives, more understanding.
Your advantages with SPIEGEL +
DER SPIEGEL as a magazine
as an app, e-paper and on the e-reader
All articles on SPIEGEL.de
Exclusive texts for SPIEGEL + readers
Try one month for free
Cancel anytime online
only € 19.99 per month
One month for € 0.00
Try now for 0.00 € Buy nowArrow to the right
Already have a digital subscription? Register here
Restore iTunes subscription
SPIEGEL + is processed via your iTunes account and paid for with a purchase confirmation.
24 hours before it expires, the subscription is automatically renewed by one month at the current price of € 19.99.
You can cancel the subscription at any time in the settings of your iTunes account.
In order to use SPIEGEL + outside of this app, you have to link the subscription to a SPIEGEL ID account immediately after purchase.