AURORA BOREALIS - European Research Icebreaker and Deep-Sea Drilling Vessel: The Challenge of a New Infrastructure

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Lembke-Jene, L. , Biebow, N. , Kunz-Pirrung, M. , Thiede, J. and Egerton, P. (2008): AURORA BOREALIS - European Research Icebreaker and Deep-Sea Drilling Vessel: The Challenge of a New Infrastructure , 2nd International Conference " Arctic Palaeoclimate and its Extremes (APEX)". Durham, UKApril. .
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Future scientific breakthroughs in marine polar research critically depend on our communitys ability to perform field expeditions with state-of-the-art technologies and modern infrastructures. This will require major investments, both in terms of generating new, as well as maintaining and renovating existing infrastructure. Diverse novel tools are presently projected, also within the context of scientific needs after the IPY has ended.We here report on the planning of a new European research icebreaker, the AURORA BOREALIS, with an all-season capability of endurance in permanently ice-covered waters and with the possibility to carry out deep-sea drilling in ice-covered deep-sea basins. AURORA BOREALIS will become the most advanced polar research vessel in the world with a multi-functional role of performing year-round interdisciplinary science expeditions in the polar oceans as well as drilling in ice-infested deep ocean basins, thus supporting the operational needs of all marine polar science disciplines for the next 35 to 40 years. The vessel is outlined to being a powerful research icebreaker with more than 45,000 tons displacement and a length of about 180 m, with an estimated propulsion power of 55 Megawatt. New technological features to be implemented include a completely novel hull design and specialized dynamic positioning systems for operations under closed sea-ice cover conditions of up to 2.5 m ice thickness, combined with advanced satellite navigation and ice-forecasting support. Two moon-pools (7x7 m each) will allow routine deployment and operation of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) in ice conditions. A dedicated deep-sea drilling rig with full weather protection will enable sampling of the ocean floor in water depths down to 5000 m with 1000 m penetration under polar conditions. The modular arrangement of science space with hangars and versatile tool preparation areas, the possibility to flexibly equip the ship with laboratory or supply containers and with helicopters, addresses the needs of diverse disciplines in marine research. In this contribution, we update the potential user community on the current status of the technical design, the scientific outline and the framework of the Preparatory Phase recently started within the context of a European collaborative project, the European Research Icebreaker Consortium - AURORA BOREALIS.

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