Coronavirus Crisis Reaches the Arctic and Imperils Gigantic Ice-Locked Research Expedition


The coronavirus crisis has reached the Arctic…

A team member of a massive international scientific project called MOSAIC has been tested positive for Covid-19 while the Polarstern research vessel is locked in Arctic ice.

coronavirus reaches the arctic, mosaic coronavirus, alfred wegener institute coronavirus
The coronavirus crisis has reached the Arctic. Picture showing The Polarstern ship, locked in Arctic ice for the MOSAiC mission. Credit: Sebastian Grote/Alfred-Wegener-Institut (CC-BY 4.0)

It seems that the coronavirus has reached the Arctic… and may imperil a massive international scientific project called MOSAIC.

And since I spent more than two months in Antarctica on this same research vessel, it’s breaking news for me!

Corona in the Arctic?

A researcher involved has tested positive for the coronavirus forcing the quarantine of the other 20 team members.

Although non of them are currently stationed in the Arctic, their absence will disrupt the aerial component of the research since most of that team has been quarantined.

The mission MOSAIC is operating from the German research vessel Polarstern, an icebreaker which has been intentionally frozen in Arctic sea ice since last October.

The Polarstern is currently stationed near the North Pole, where it serves as a central hub for the expedition.

An ice camp consisting of several structures is stationed nearby, along with a runway for incoming and outgoing aircraft. It’s basically a temporary city built on an ice floe.

The science project aims at understanding why the Arctic climate changes so rapidly.

The Alfred Wegener Institute writes:

To minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, all team members who are scheduled to join MOSAiC…are tested for coronavirus before departing their homes for Svalbard, Norway, from where they leave for the ship. There, they are tested a second time before they are allowed to depart. The infected individual had been at a workshop in Bremerhaven on March 5th with other aircraft members; the first round of testing was done as part of this meeting.

The last thing these mission members need right now is for the COVID-19 outbreak to reach the Arctic, where the disease could spread to members in the camp and those on the ship.

As shown by recent turmoils on cruise ships, viruses spread like wildfire on boats and thus this quarantine makes a lot of sense.

And now the alarming coronavirus pandemic threatens a team working close to the North Pole. Very terrifying! More coronavirus pandemic news on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle. [Nature]

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