People can now follow researchers into the frigid Arctic and compare notes with a historic expedition through icy waters with a new web app.

The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate —MOSAiC — project is seeking to gather data on the Arctic by freezing the German research icebreaker Polarstern into developing ice for a yearlong study. The ship took off Sept. 20 from Tromso, Norway, and is looking for an ice floe in which to set up camp for the rest of the year, said Heather McFarland, communications lead at the International Arctic Research Center out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“We have five researchers that will be taking part of MOSAiC during two legs of the expedition,” McFarland said.

Hundreds of scientists are involved in the expedition, but MOSAiC is spearheaded by scientists at the Alfred-Wegener Institute in Germany. The institute developed a web app where the public can follow the scientists on their journey, which can be found at It can be used to track the Polarstern’s movement in real time, McFarland said.

McFarland said “the really cool thing” is that the expedition follows a drift similar to the expedition taken by Norwegian scientist Fridtjof Nansen in 1893.

The app incorporates his expedition with that of MOSAiC.

“When you first open this MOSAiC app, on the bottom left-hand corner there’s two icons,” McFarland said. “One is an icebreaker, and the other is a sailing ship.”

Clicking on the icebreaker opens up the daily updates from the modern-day Polarstern crew. Clicking on the sailing ship allows users to see where Nansen’s ship was in 1893 on the same dates.

The app is just one aspect of how researchers are reaching out to the public and sharing their work. McFarland sai. Because of the scope of the project, it’s something they wanted to do for the people who are interested in the research.

“This is a historic expedition,” she said. “Although there have been other expeditions to the Arctic Ocean, nothing has ever been done at this scale or to this length of time.”

People looking to engage with scientists on the project may also send #askmosaic videos to with the subject line #askmosaic to ask the scientists questions about their research. Guidelines on how to format the video can be found at


Rob Rember and Marc Oggier, the two UAF researchers on the first leg of the expedition, will spend from now until January on the Polarstern. Their position is signaled by tiny circles that blip out of the end of the blue line on the web app. They are sending periodic updates to be posted on Rember’s blog at, on the Facebook page Social Window: MOSAiC UAF and on Twitter: @ArcticMosaic.

“We want people who are back home to be able to experience what Rob and Marc are experiencing,” McFarland said, “and I think another part of it is what is happening in the Arctic in terms of warming is impacting lower latitudes and so these are things that actually do matter to people in the rest of the world.”

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMlocal.