German research vessel Polarstern has reached Cape Town, South Africa, following a five-week voyage during which 32 international young scientists were trained to observe and measure the ‘vital signs’ of the Atlantic Ocean on the North South Atlantic transect (NoSoAT).

RV Polarstern Alfred Wegener Institute Folke Mehrtens Resized

The NoSoAT was an “incredible opportunity” for these students to traverse the Atlantic Ocean. “Along the way, students collected and analysed data on everything from microalgae diversity and ocean dynamics, to satellite remote sensing of sea surface temperature, from Irish and German marine scientists,” remarked Dr Paula McGrane, SMART coordindator.

These young people from 19 different countries, including eight students from Ireland, were sponsored by the Strategic Marine Alliance for Research and Training (SMART) based in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology; the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI); the Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) and the Nippon Foundation.

“Given that Ireland has an underwater territory ten times its land mass, it is imperative we continue to train and produce skilled and experienced graduates, capable of researching and sustainably managing this amazing resource for future generations,” she added.

“The Atlantic Ocean with its definite biogeographical gradients in temperature and salinity, as well as its zones of upwelling, is an integral part of our planet´s acclimatization system,” remarked Professor Kanen Wiltshire, VP of  AWI and chair of POGO

Against a backdrop of climate change and an increasing El Niño signature “it is imperative to know how our ocean functions.  We therefore need the ships, the instrumentation and, most importantly, well-educated scientists all over the world to secure the ocean’s future for our planet,” she stressed. 

Since 1982, RV Polarstern has completed over fifty expeditions to the Artic and Antarctic.