At the heart of the MOSAiC expedition is the Polarstern, which means “polar star” in German. Its engines can produce a total of 20,000 horsepower, enough to push the massive ship up on top of floating ice. The vessel’s hull is made of double-layered steel. This sturdyouter body supports the vessel while its weight crushes and breaks the ice. The Polarstern can bust through ice up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) thick, allowing it to reach places ordinary ships could never go. The icebreaker’s strong hull also protects the MOSAiC crew while the ship is locked in the frozen Arctic Ocean. The force of the surrounding ice pushing against the ship could crush weaker vessels.
After the ice sheet formed around the Polarstern, the scientists began setting up a network of monitoring devices to collect data from the environment. Using sleds, snowmobiles, and helicopters, they traveled up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the ship to deploy buoys, underwater sensors, weather balloons, drones, and other instruments. The equipment travels with the ship as it drifts, gathering information about the surrounding ice, the atmosphere above, and the ocean below.