Creating the Future
© Hector Fellow Academy

Expedi­tions into the Unknown — North Pole and Deep Sea as extreme regions of Earth

Sympo­sium 2021

The Polarstern research vessel on the MOSAiC Arctic expedi­tion (Copyright: Michael Gutsche)

Flyer HFA-Symposium 2021


Dirk Steffens

Journal­ist & TV presenter

Deep sea and Arctic as evidence of climate change

Record­ing with Antje Boetius, Markus Rex and Dirk Steffens available

Bremen — The Hector Fellow Academy sympo­sium entitled "Expedi­tions into the Unknown — North Pole and Deep Sea as extreme regions of Earth" took place on Thurs­day, July 8, 2021. The sympo­sium was broad­cast live from the Studio Breme­dia in Bremen. The Hector Fellow Academy together with its cooper­a­tion partners, the Univer­sity of Bremen and the Alfred Wegener Insti­tute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, hosted the event. About 1,100 viewers took up the offer and were able to ask questions about the lectures. The record­ing of the event is now avail­able on YouTube.

This year's Hector Fellow Academy sympo­sium was not held with an audience at one of the Hector Fellows' locations in Germany, as usual. After being postponed from last year, this year's sympo­sium was broad­cast live from Bremen with scien­tific host Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius, deep-sea and marine biolo­gist, profes­sor at the Univer­sity of Bremen and direc­tor of the Alfred Wegener Insti­tute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremer­haven. Never­the­less, the event was a complete success. About 1,100 partic­i­pants from Germany, Switzer­land and Austria had joined in the event.

The evening's lectures were given by Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius and climate scien­tist Prof. Dr. Markus Rex, head of the expedi­tion MOSAiC, head of the depart­ment of atmos­pheric physics at the Alfred Wegener Institute.

The sympo­sium was officially opened by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd Scholz-Reiter, Dean of the Univer­sity of Bremen. Science journal­ist and TV moder­a­tor Dirk Steffens led through the event.

In her lecture "Functions of the Deep Sea for Earth and Life", Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius addressed the diver­sity of life forms and seascapes that are hidden in the deep sea. She empha­sized that the deep sea could be consid­ered the life support system of the "Space­ship Earth" because it not only produces half of the oxygen neces­sary for life, but also stores CO2 at the same time. The deep sea is full of fasci­nat­ing life, yet it has hardly been explored to date. Accord­ing to Antje Boetius, an estimated 10 million species are still waiting to be discov­ered, and 90% of the Earth's biodi­ver­sity is found in the oceans.

In the lecture "Frozen at the North Pole — Expedi­tion to the Epicen­ter of Climate Change" by Prof. Dr. Markus Rex, the focus was on one of the coldest regions on earth: in his talk, he reported on the largest Arctic expedi­tion to date, MOSAiC. In October 2019, the research icebreaker Polarstern allowed itself to be frozen solid in the Arctic ice, in order to drift through the central Arctic for an entire year using only the force of natural ice drift. The obser­va­tions are fasci­nat­ing, but also fright­en­ing, as the conse­quences of climate change can already be clearly seen in the Arctic. In summer, there was widespread massive melting of the ice sheet, where as recently as the 1990s the ice was able to hold its ground. The data from the expedi­tion will be used to better under­stand the mechan­ics of the Arctic climate system in climate models.

Despite threat­en­ing prospects, the core message of the evening was an optimistic one that empha­sized the need for action. Markus Rex argued for using the "short window of oppor­tu­nity to still save the Arctic summer ice" to prevent a tipping point and thus fatal chains of events in the climate system. Antje Boetius empha­sized the impor­tance of joint action: "Only collec­tive action will get us further. Sharing knowl­edge and looking ahead to conquer the future. That would be my wish."

The record­ing of the event is now avail­able on YouTube at Please note that Prof. Dr. Rex's talk is only avail­able for delayed viewing until July 16, 2021.

The annual symposia of the Hector Fellow Academy aim to place current scien­tific issues in a socio-polit­i­cal context. Lectures by renowned speak­ers from science, politics and business build bridges between the research topics of the Hector Fellows and the central challenges of our time. Discus­sion panels promote the dialogue between science and the public and help to initi­ate forward-looking discourses.

The next HFA Sympo­sium will be held in Karlsruhe on July 7, 2022, on the topic of "3D Print­ing — Customized and at the Push of a Button." The scien­tific organizer is physi­cist Prof. Dr. Martin Wegener, profes­sor at the Insti­tute of Applied Physics at the Karlsruhe Insti­tute of Technol­ogy (KIT), speaker of the Cluster of Excel­lence 3D Matter Made to Order (3DMM2O), and presi­dent of the Hector Fellow Academy.


The "Expedi­tions into the Unknown" referred to the research work of Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius.

Please note that Prof. Dr. Rex's presen­ta­tion is only avail­able for delayed atten­dance until July 16, 2021.


Wissenschaftliche Vorträge

Prof. Dr.

Antje Boetius


Hector Fellow since 2013

Markus Rex


German polar researcher, climate scien­tist, physi­cist and best-selling author.


Image gallery