Technical development work for the research icebreaker and drilling vessel Aurora Borealis is approved.

The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research is receiving more than $6 million from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The funds will be dedicated to continue technical development of the new European research icebreaker Aurora Borealis.

TheAurora Borealisrepresents a new type of ship – the first of its kind to be constructed. Combining ice-breaking, drilling and multi-purpose features, the research vessel will be able to operate in polar regions and open oceans, throughout all seasons. Both international and interdisciplinary expeditions aboardAurora Borealistraveling to the central Arctic Ocean will have greater access to one of the last unexplored regions of the world, through the possibility of year-round operation of the vessel.Aurora Borealiswill be able to operate without additional accompanying icebreakers, and one of the most unique features of the vessel will be its capacity for deep-sea drilling under a complete cover of sea ice.

Aurora Borealiswill be part of the polar class of heavy icebreakers, exceeding 50 megawatts of power, a driving force necessary to guarantee all-season assignments in nearly all regions of the Arctic. The drilling equipment ofAurora Borealiswill allow for operating depths of 13,000 feet (plus nearly 3,300 drill depth in the sediment), thus allowing access to 90 percent of all Arctic Ocean deep-sea regions. Two specialized technical devices in the hull ofAurora Borealiswill assure that remotely operated deep-sea vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles and ocean-floor observatories can continue to operate during drilling.

The most conspicuous characteristic ofAurora Borealisis its drill tower. For the purpose of drilling, the drill gear is lowered through the so-called “moon pool,” an opening in the hull of the vessel located amidships. A heave compensation system provides stability during retrieval of the drill cores. Through slow-motion ice-breaking, operating sideways, the vessel is able to maintain its exact position in ice-covered waters. While moving forward with a speed of 2 knots to 3 knots,Aurora Borealiscan break a continuous sea ice cover of up to 8-foot thickness straight on. Other than the extraction of sediment cores, principal tasks of the new ship will include biological and oceanographic investigations, especially under winter conditions.

TheAurora Borealisproject was initiated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, and continues to be pursued through the European Polar Board of the European Science Foundation. In addition, it will be linked to existing research programs, especially to the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP). While the Department of Naval Architecture, Ocean Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen oversees technical management of the project, overall project coordination and leadership rests with the director of the Alfred Wegener Institute.