Atmospheric scientist Markus Rex recounts the monumental Arctic expedition he captained for one year in this gripping and authoritative book. A groundbreaking step towards understanding the climate crisis, the MOSAiC expedition – launched in 2019 by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research – was the first of its kind, journeying deep into the epicentre of climate change, the Arctic, to seek hard-to-find and potentially world-changing scientific data.
Rex begins with life aboard the Polarstern, a powerful icebreaker ship that is frozen into fragile ice and carried across the Arctic by the Transpolar Drift. Away from the rest of the world, the team prepares for life under brutal conditions, constructing "cities" and "towns" on the ice where they will study the Arctic ecosystem, its atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and more. A terrifying feat that had never been attempted before, the team of hundreds of scientists perform their research during terrifying storms, cracking ice floes, frost-bite, and even quarantines as COVID-19 sweeps the globe.
But there are heartwarming moments, too, as Markus Rex describes Christmas parties on the ice and polar bears playing with scientific equipment like puppies. He muses on expeditions past, such as the ill-fated Franklin Expedition, and Fridtjof Nansen's Fram expedition, which he follows as a guide. And he explores answers to the pressing questions facing the Arctic today: How will climate change impact this precious ecosystem – and therefore the rest of the world? What is the best way to protect the Arctic? Interweaving history, science, and memoir, The Greatest Polar Expedition of All Time is a page-turner about the teamwork it takes to complete a risky goal, all in the name of understanding – and responding to – the climate crisis.
Markus Rex is the head of atmospheric research at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, and a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Potsdam. He has taken part in numerous expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctica, and other remote regions of the world to research the complex processes that can lead to dramatic changes in the climate. He heads the MOSAiC project, a unique research collaboration by ninety institutions from twenty countries.
– Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
"With Arctic ice in steep decline and the dangers inherent in our rapidly changing climate, there is no scientific research more crucial or urgent than the explorations launched by MOSAiC in 2019. In this compelling account, lead scientist Markus Rex shares the personal moments and the planetary stakes of the largest polar expedition in history."
– Andrea Pitzer, author of Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
"An illuminating portrait of a part of the planet that almost no one ever sees and of an undertaking whose scientific findings will be informing global decision making for years to come."
– James Raffan, author of Ice Walker and Emperor of the North
"This marvelous book brings us aboard a unique 21st-century Arctic expedition – science-driven, multi-national, unprecedented – as it sails into the epicenter of the worsening climate crisis. For anyone concerned about global warming – and that should be all of us – this book is essential reading. A contemporary classic!"
– Ken McGoogan, author of Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, The Arctic Hero Time Forgot and Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage