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August 2016: Clockwork Ocean – A Unique Marine Research Expedition Utilizing a Zeppelin

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 2016: Clockwork Ocean – A Unique Marine Research Expedition Utilizing a Zeppelin

In June 2016, for the first time in history, the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht (HZG) used a zeppelin in coastal and marine research. In a unique research expedition, called Clockwork Ocean, marine biologists were looking to understand the influence that countless water eddies have upon the sea’s nutrition and energy inventory, especially in relation to ocean circulation, global climate, and the production of microalgae.

“The expedition will fundamentally change our understanding of climatic and oceanographic interrelations,” said Otmar D. Wiestler, President of Helmholtz Association at the presentation of the expedition in Berlin before its launch. “It illustrates very dramatically how important it is for all of us that our best minds take on the huge societal challenges.” The goal of the expedition was to track down small, near-surface gyres and to measure their life cycle, dimensions, and temperature distribution.

The centerpiece of the 12-day expedition was a 75-meter-long zeppelin, equipped with special cameras to track down the gyres and to record observations while hovering directly above them. Several research ships supported the zeppelin in the measurement procedures, including a speedboat that was used to drag a measurement chain numerous times through the gyre. “The small sea gyres still represent one of the big mysteries of oceanography,” explains Burkard Baschek from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, who led the expedition and its team of 40 oceanographers.

In addition to the Helmholtz Center, the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), the University of Lübeck, the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven (AWI) as well as the Naval Research Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA were involved in the expedition. For more information, click here.

Image: Dr. Torsten Fischer, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht