In order to study the modern sea surface characteristics of the sub-polar North Pacific and the Bering Sea, i.e. sea surface temperature (SST) and sea ice cover, surface sediments recovered during the RV Sonne Expedition 202 in 2009 were analysed. To distinguish between marine and terrestrial organic carbon, hydrogen index values, long chain n-alkanes and specific sterols have been determined. The results show that in the Bering Sea, especially on the sea slope, the organic carbon source is mainly caused by high primary production. In the North Pacific, on the other hand, the organic material originates predominantly from terrestrial higher plants, probably related to dust input from Asia. SST has been reconstructed using the modified alkenone unsaturation index. Calibration from Müller et al. (1998) offers the most reliable estimate of mean annual temperature in the central North Pacific but does not correlate with mean annual temperature throughout the study area. In the eastern North Pacific and the Bering Sea, the Sikes et al. (1997) calibration seems to be more accurate and matches summer SST. The distribution of the novel sea ice proxy IP25 (highly branched C25 isoprenoid alkene) in surface sediments is in accord with the modern spring sea ice edge and shows the potential of this proxy to track past variation in sea ice cover in the study area.