Antarctic Cruises - Smarter Sailing with Satellite Data

by Lasse Rabenstein on 2017-05-15

MV Ortelius in the Ross Sea

An increasingly important maritime sector is that of Antarctic cruise operations. Highest security standards and a fulfilment of the Polar Code governs every marine activity in that sector. But how to get up to date ice information for a safe planning of the route ahead? The answer comes from space with a variety of satellite missions operated by NASA, ESA or JAXA. In that context the DLR funded research project MARSAT develops new earth imaging solutions for the maritime industry.

In Antarctica daily high resolution ice charts are not available. However, with the launch of the second Sentinel-1 satellite in April 2016, radar images of Antarctic sea-ice are available on a much more regular basis than any time before. Drift+Noise’s Operational Ice Maps , which are being developed within MARSAT, are automatically sent to a ship in the ice the instance new satellite images are available for the route ahead.

Operational Ice Maps are being developed close to the user needs. A test case of the first version of Ice Maps was a particularly interesting one in the beginning of 2017. The m/v Ortelius , operated by Oceanwide Expeditions , went from Ushuaia in Argentina, via the Ross Sea to New Zealand, and back again. Oceanwide, ever since committed to up-to-date ice information solutions, was the perfect partner for the case study.

Further information on Antarctic Cruise Shipping can be found on the webpage of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) .

The following image shows the ship track of m/v Ortelius. The background displays the changing sea-ice concentration. In addition, Sentinel-1 radar images pop up in the vicinity of the present position of m/v Ortelius.

Animation of MV Ortelius' voyage in the Ross Sea

Sea-ice concentration is based on passive microwave data recorded by JAXA’s AMSR2 sensor. Sentinel-1 radar images are provided by Copernicus .

The following partners were involved in the Ross Sea cruise case study:

Ross Sea cruise case study partner logos