A German icebreaker ship carrying scientists on a year-long international expedition through the high Arctic finally reached the North Pole, after melting sea ice forced an emergency detour.
Expedition leader Markus Rex said Wednesday the RV Polarstern was able to reach the geographic North Pole because of large openings in sea ice that would normally make shipping in the region above Greenland too difficult.
"We made fast progress in a few days," Rex told The Associated Press. "It's breathtaking — at time we had open water as far as the eye could see."
The region above northern Greenland is usually covered in thick sea ice that's sometimes built up over several years, he said. But this year, the Polarstern was able to make it from the ice edge in the Fram Strait to the pole in less than a week.
The mission sailed from the German port of Bremerhaven last September, anchored to an ice floe and conducted numerous experiments to study the impact of global warming on the Arctic until the summer heat broke apart the ice cover.
Read more at AP:
Scientists on Arctic mission make unplanned detour to pole (reporting by Frank Jordans)
And you can read more about the RV Polarstern here, or watch the video above.
[ICE MELTING IMAGE: Not from the Polarstern mission. This photo of Greenland's southwestern coastline was taken during a survey done from July through August 2015 as part of the Oceans Melting Greenland, or OMG, mission. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]