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PolarQuest 2018

POLARQUEST is a polar expedition involving exploration and adventure, science and history and a powerful message for the planet - powered by B&G electronics. From July to August 2018, an international team of arctic researchers, experienced scientists and young future scientists travelled to the Arctic sea on board Nanuq, a 60 feet sailboat designed and built for self-sufficient Arctic sailing. The voyage set out from the North-West coast of Iceland to reach the Svalbard archipelago, above the Artic Polar Circle, circumnavigate it and finish the expedition in Tromsø (Norway). The mission: to find answers to one of the greatest challenges of our time, climate change, and raise awareness about its consequences. Polarquest2018 took inspiration from the very first scientific expedition to the North Pole, the ITALIA Airship, the very first airborne scientific laboratory led by Air Force General and Airship engineer Umberto Nobile in 1928.

About Nanuq

Nanuq is a 60-foot Grand Integral sailboat designed, built and skipped by Genevese architect Peter Gallinelli to sail in the polar regions and withstand arctic winter in a self-sufficient mode, using only renewable energies (sun, wind, and environmental heat), thanks to its innovative thermal insulation and heat recovery systems, coupled with an optimized energy management system.

The passive igloo is a minimal habitat designed to serve as a scientific base camp and dwelling to accommodate, in complete self-sufficiency, a team of six during an arctic winter, taking in master students, doctoral students and researchers motivated by an interest and
passion towards research in the Arctic regions. It is a demonstration project that illustrates that simple, robust, constructive and technical solutions may challenge low-cost energy scarcity in a credible way. Transposed to temperate climates, the experience feedback will be useful to outline the habitat of tomorrow, providing more independence and quality of life to its inhabitants.

The Route

Leg 1 takes Nanuq and her crew from Iceland to the Svalbard archipelago.  Leg 2 sees a circumnavigation of Svalbard and a search for the lost Airship Italia, and Leg 3 sees the crew return to Tromso, Norway. 

Science and Adventure


Cosmic Rays

The PolarquEEEst device measured the intense cosmic ray flow above the Arctic circle.The CLOUD experiment at CERN has recently demonstrated that cosmic rays may influence cloud cover either through the formation of new aerosols (tiny particles suspended in the air that can grow to form seeds for cloud droplets) or by directly affecting clouds themselves: Clouds exert a strong influence on the Earth’s energy balance; changes of only a few per cent have an important effect on the climate. Better understanding the connection between cosmic rays and clouds is therefore key to improving our ability to make more accurate mathematical models able to predict how climate will evolve.



Microplastics, i.e. plastic particles smaller than five millimetres in size, are a pervasive pollutant, widely dispersed in the marine environment and can be found in the water column, on beaches and on the seabed. Recently, microplastic presence was reported in ice cores from remote areas of the Arctic Ocean. This is particularly worrying as polar waters, and the Arctic region in particular, support an important and diverse marine food web and ecosystem, from planktonic communities to marine mammals, which is very vulnerable to marine pollution. In spite of the potential threat of this emerging pollutant, there are few regulations in terms of production, use or emissions of microplastics, very few ways of monitoring it, and, last but not least, there is a lack of awareness among people worldwide of the gravity of this threat. There is therefore an urgent need to assess the levels of microplastic pollution in the Arctic, to allow for future microplastic monitoring and to assess the risk of the potential impacts of decreasing sea ice, increasing shipping and commercial activity in the area.


AURORA Accessible UAV's

Small flying drones are becoming widespread as tools for scientific research and communication on remote environments. The current opportunity of using “consumer-level” technologies of this kind allows to remarkably widen their uses and therefore the potential of knowledge acquisition. This approach, however, depends highly on the fact that instrumental configurations and workflows are properly integrated with deployment needs in the specific conditions and environments. The Scientific group onboard NANUQ are equipped with several small multirotor drones, optimized for different and complementary research and documentation activity. They are used to acquire data and to validate methods of observation, analysis and documentation. The overall purpose of activity program is to contribute to scientific knowledge and information on the present state of some relevant Arctic environments.

no 2394 DPH (AR) 26757_Spedizione Polare 1928 - Baia del Re - 06_05_1928 - Svalbard - Ormeggio al pilone.jpg

Airship Italia

On May 25 1928, Airship Italia, commanded by Umberto Nobile, one of the founding fathers of Arctic exploration, crashed on the way back from the North Pole, about 120 km northeast of Nordaustlandet, Svalbard (81°14 N 28°14 E), killing part of the crew trapped in the still drifting airship envelope and leaving the survivors stranded on the pack ice. The crew managed to salvage several items from the crashed airship gondola, including a radio transceiver, a tent which they later painted red for maximum visibility, and, critically, boxes of food and survival equipment which quick-witted engineer Ettore Arduino had managed to throw onto the ice, before he and his five companions were carried off to their deaths by the wrecked but still airborne airship envelope and keel. POLARQUEST continued the search with a pioneering attempt at relocating the sunken wreck of Umberto Nobile’s Airship Italia, on the 90th anniversary of its crash, taking advantage of the melting ice in the region for the first time in centuries – but like their predecessors were unsuccessful.

B&G onboard Nanuq

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