23 Jul ’21

Tromsø, Norway

Polarquest returns to the Arctic with a new scientific expedition

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Today at 12.30pm, Sailing Yacht Best Explorer has cast off from the port of Tromsø  in northern continental Norway. It sets sail to Svalbard for a new scientific expedition organized by the Polarquest Citizen Science Association. The new mission will begin on July 27 2021, exactly three years after the successful Polarquest2018 expedition.

Onboard the Italian flag steel cutter for this first leg of Polarquest2021 are multinational crew:  Captain Giovanni Acquarone (skipper, expedition leader, Italy), Nicoletta Martini (co-skipper, Italy), Paola Catapano (project leader, science communicator, Italy and Switzerland), Michael Struik (technical coordinator, drone pilot, video/photographer, The Netherlands), Gianluca Casagrande (scientific coordinator, geographer, Italy), and Kevin Monneron (technical support and scientific diver, France).

They will be joined in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, by an international team of scientists: Christel Hassler (micro and marine biologist, Switzerland), Elias Christoph Meier (environmental sciences master’s student, Switzerland), Dominik Pałgan (oceanographer, Poland) and film maker Christian Cinetto (Italy).

Best Explorer’s estimated arrival in Longyearbyen, Svalbard is on July 27 2021, when the Polarquest2021 research programme will start. Its main goals include:

  • Sonar mapping of the seafloor conducted by the University of Gdansk, the European University of Rome and NORBIT Subsea. This will be carried out off the coasts of Nordaustlandet, the second largest of the Svalbard islands, whose Eastern shores are entirely covered with ice from the Austfonna glacier. This area was also the theatre of the tragic crash of Airship ITALIA in 1928. During the detailed sonar recognition of the sea bottom, special attention will be given to the possible presence of wreckage from the airship;
  • Environmental DNA (e-DNA) analysis led by the Swiss Polar Institute. The team will collect non-invasive samples of water and ice to analyse the e-DNA of remote areas of Svalbard. The samples will be analysed directly on Best Explorer, providing real-time biodiversity data and new insight into environmental changes caused by global warming and other human-induced threats;
  • Detection of greenhouse gases (methane and CO2) in Arctic waters led by the University of Geneva and ISMAR-CNR. These two key greenhouse gases will be measured on surface water concentrations and deeper samples through bubble release.
  • Observation of the general environmental status and mapping of macro-plastic litter associated to driftwood in remote areas of the archipelago by the use of flying drones. This activity will be carried out by researchers from the European University of Rome, Italian Geographical Society, and University of Gdansk.

Project Leader Paola Catapano with Best Explorer.

The Polarquest2021 scientific programme builds upon the ethos and methodology developed by the Association in 2018, carrying out research and creating environmental awareness about the Arctic through “lightweight” and “low environmental-impact” solutions. The formula proved scientifically valuable in the past expeditions (Polarquest2018 and Nanuq2020) and has been key for the current expedition’s partnership with BlanX – Save The Arctic White.

Best Explorer is a record-breaking sailboat: it was the second to ever circumnavigate the Arctic in a clockwise direction and the first Italian sailboat to sail the Northwest and Northeast passage.

Polarquest has partnered with BlanX as part of its Save the Arctic White campaign. Blanx shares our ethos: promoting the value of scientific research and ensuring the protection of the Arctic.

The voyage of Best Explorer can be followed live from the Polarquest home page and through Polarquest2021 social media:

For further information and media requests:

Polarquest2021 is made possible thanks to the following partners

scientific partners

Technical Partners

Best Explorer

with additional support from

Osservatrio Artico
L'Italia al Polo Nord
L'Italia al Polo Nord