Science

100 scientists stranded on Arctic ship during COVID-19 pandemic after countries shut down borders


100 scientists are stranded on a research ship in the Arctic after the coronavirus pandemic causes countries shut their borders

  • Researchers that were part of the MOSACiC expedition in the Arctic won’t be replaced by a new crew in mid-April as originally scheduled
  • A replacement team had been set to fly out of Norway with supplies
  • When Norway shut its borders, the replacement team was stranded
  • The original team is still in the Arctic waiting to learn when they’ll return home 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A group scientists in the Arctic are stranded on a research ship after worldwide shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have prevented them from returning home.

The scientists were taking part in a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of the Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC.

The project brought in researchers from a wide range of fields to study the effects of climate change on the Arctic, with new groups of scientists cycling in every six weeks.

Researchers on an icebreaking vessel gathering data on climate change in the Arctic won't be able to return home as scheduled, after a replacement crew set to depart from Norway has been prevented from leaving the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

Researchers on an icebreaking vessel gathering data on climate change in the Arctic won’t be able to return home as scheduled, after a replacement crew set to depart from Norway has been prevented from leaving the country due to COVID-19 travel restrictions

The scientists all lived aboard a large icebreaking vessel called the Polarstern, which gets supplies with each new influx of researchers, according to a report in Vice.

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The current group boarded the Polarstern in February and were scheduled to be replaced in mid-April by a new team flying out from Svalbard, Norway to meet the ship.

In late March, however, the country closed its borders as part of its protective measures during the COVID-19 pandemic so the new team won’t be able to get to the Polarstern at the originally schedule date, and the old team won’t be able to leave.

The new team will instead be in quarantine for 14 days and monitored for potential symptoms of COVID-19. 

Assuming they all clear the quarantine period, MOSAiC organizers are working to find an icebreaker ship to carry the group up to the Polarstern instead of flying.

The team currently onboard the Polarstern is healthy and well enough supplied to survive the delay.

The Polarstern (background ship) is home to the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of the Arctic Climate (MOSAiC), a research expedition hosting scientists from over 60 institutions and 19 countries

The Polarstern (background ship) is home to the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of the Arctic Climate (MOSAiC), a research expedition hosting scientists from over 60 institutions and 19 countries

‘People on Polarstern are safe, they are in a virus free environment, they have all the provisions they need,’ MOSAiC expedition leader Markus Rex told Vice. ‘They are focusing on science.’

It’s uncertain what will happen with subsequent groups of researchers that were scheduled to arrive after the mid-April group.

The MOSAiC project  involves more than 60 research institutions from 19 countries and it’s unclear whether travel across international borders just to reach a common embarkation point will be possible as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

 

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