31 Jul ’21

Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Cast off! Polarquest2021 scientific mission begins

Today at 12.28pm, Sailing Yacht Best Explorer cast off from the port of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. This marks the official start of the new scientific expedition organized by the Polarquest Citizen Science Association. 

 Polarquest2021 is an Arctic research expedition of the Svalbard Archipelago. The mission will be carried out onboard the Italian flag steel cutter Best Explorer. We will carry out valuable scientific investigation and communicate about the global catastrophe in progress in the Arctic.

The crew will explore the coasts of Svalbard, carrying out a host of scientific research projects. Due to the ever-changing ice situation around Svalbard, they will constantly adapting their schedule to take this into account. Sailing in the Arctic is done one day at a time!

Their first stop will be to Lilliehöökfjorden, where they will carry out Environmental DNA (e-DNA) research in the areas surrounding the glaciers. This will be followed by a stop at the scientific base in Ny Alesund.

The main goals of the scientific mission 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 provide 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.

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