The nearly 400-foot-long Polarstern is designed to break through ice in frigid waters—but for an upcoming trip to study climate change, Germany is going to purposely let its ship become stuck in the middle of the floes, per the BBC. In what the Telegraph paints as a "daring plan," the Polarstern will embark on its 1,550-mile trip sometime in 2019, at which point it will sail into Arctic sea ice, allowing itself to become trapped in the ice and then drift with it across the North Pole. The frigid adventure, which is said to be the biggest Arctic research project ever, "will give us a new and absolutely fascinating insight into the climate system" there, professor Markus Rex, who's leading the MOSAiC project, tells the BBC.
As the Polarstern floats along in "sea-ice Lagrangian mode," scientists from several dozen research entities will gather data on the local waters and atmosphere, all of which will be analyzed to make more sense of the major climate changes going on at the top of the world (January's measurement of Arctic sea ice was said to be the lowest ever recorded). Rex tells the Telegraph this is really the only way to do a study at the North Pole during the winter, as thick ice during that time of year is impossible to break through, and it's too dangerous and unwieldy to head onto the ice in snowmobiles with all of the necessary gear. Not that the ice-bound journey, which is expected to take about a year, is going to be an easy sail: It will be freezing and completely dark around the clock during the winter months, and polar bears will be on the prowl. (Scientists say the warm temps in the Arctic are "alarming.")