•  The Eternal Ice is melting: ice channel in the northern Arctic Ocean, Brain City Berlin

    Exhibition tip: “Thin ice”

There is still hope for the Arctic and our temperate climate. But only if we act now! The special exhibition “Thin ice. Come along on a climate expedition!” at the Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) makes things crystal clear: There is little time left to save the Arctic. It provides exciting insight into the largest Arctic research expedition of all time and presents the first research results of the MOSAiC expedition.

Biting cold, months of darkness, metre-thick layers of ice: The Arctic at the Arctic circle, like its counterpart at the South pole, Antarctica, is considered an area of eternal ice. But unfortunately this eternity is finite, because the eternal ice is melting. As a result, not only is the habitat of polar bears, seals and penguins disappearing, the global climate is also out of balance. In the 1980s, around seven million square metres of the ocean were still covered with Arctic ice in summer, but by 2023 this figure had fallen to around 4.5 million square metres. If this trend continues, the Arctic could be virtually ice-free in future summers.

The special exhibition “Thin ice” at the German Museum of Technology makes this clear: There is little time left, because the Arctic is our early warning system. We must act now to prevent the climate catastrophe! The exhibition, which was made in collaboration with the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research of the Alfred Wegener Institute, focusses on the largest Arctic expedition of all time: In 2019, the research vessel “Polarstern” set sail for Arctic waters. It spent a year travelling as part of the “MOSAiC” expedition as the “Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate”. On board: Scientists from 20 nations. The Polarstern docked on an ice floe, allowed itself to freeze there and drifted through the Arctic Ocean. The crew set up an interdisciplinary research camp on the ice floe around the ship. The aim of the research team: To understand better the influence of the Arctic on the global climate and thereby set a milestone in climate research. Until now, there has been little observation data from the Arctic. The forecasts of the climate models working with them are correspondingly different. 

A visit to the Polarstern and research camp

In the three-part exhibition “Thin ice”, visitors can now go on a climate expedition themselves. 

In the first part they enter the Polarstern. They find out about life on board the icebreaker and learn that the cold represents the greatest risk for researchers in the Arctic. Wearing thick polar gloves, you can screw together measuring instruments and familiarise yourself with the safety equipment. One of the highlights: a self-built hut that offered the polar bear guard team on the Polarstern protection against the cold and wind. The polar bear guards left doodles on the walls - exciting impressions of everyday research in the Arctic.

The second part of the exhibition shows the research camp. Five areas are used here to demonstrate how much technical and personnel effort is required to collect the data. For example, the helium balloon “Miss Piggy” measures the temperature above the Arctic, while the diving robots “Beast” and “Beauty” collect samples of microorganisms that live on the underside of the sea ice. Ice cores provide information about the history of sea ice. This second part of the exhibition also illustrates the alarming theories regarding the climate and the impending climate catastrophe that can be substantiated by the data.

The third part of the exhibition takes us back to the Polarstern. The expedition’s research team has its say here, as do climate policy initiatives. Visitors themselves can also pin their theses on climate change on the wall. The message of “Thin ice” is based on the first results of the MOSAiC expedition and is thought-provoking. It is: there is still hope for the Arctic and our temperate climate. But only if society and politicians decide to act now. This is because, as the data from the Polarstern team clearly shows: The climate in the Arctic has already changed considerably.

The exhibition “Thin ice. Come along on a climate expedition!” runs until 8 September 2024 at the German Museum of Technology. School classes and families can get even more involved in the topic in a free accompanying program: As part of “Mission Arctic”, they take on the roles of Arctic researchers and collect important climate data. Also a visit to the parallel exhibition running in the Museum of Technology until 3 March “Signs of change. Landscapes in climate change” is well worth it. Photographer Olaf Otto Becker documents the effects of climate change in various places on our planet and calls for a search for solutions. (vdo)

Further information

Special exhibition “Thin ice. Come along on a climate expedition!” –  until 8 September 2024
German Museum of Technology, every first Sunday in the month, admission is free, the general rule is: free entry for children and young people under 18 years of age
More information and tickets

More about the MOSAiC expedition (Website of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research)


“On thin ice” – Polar podcast for children (German only)

More Stories