Crew of science vessel "Polarstern" returns to Germany after record nonstop flight

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BERLIN, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Forty crew members of the science research vessel Polarstern on Thursday returned to Germany onboard a Lufthansa's Airbus A350-900 airplane after a record nonstop flight to the Falkland Islands, an archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian Shelf.

The plane was greeted with a baptism of water by the airport fire department after landing in Munich, the airport in southern Germany said in a statement.

"In the history of Munich Airport, no aircraft has ever landed to cover such a long distance without a stopover," according to the statement.

Last Sunday, the plane had taken off on the longest nonstop flight in Lufthansa's history, according to the German airline. The flight distance was 13,700 kilometers from Hamburg in Germany to the Mount Pleasant military base in the Falkland Islands, with a flight time of 15 hours and 26 minutes.

Onboard the outbound flight on behalf of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) were scientists and members of the ship's crew who would set sail for the Weddell Sea in the Antarctic, starting a two-month expedition on board the research icebreaker Polarstern.

"Despite the pandemic, after a fortnight in quarantine and taking several coronavirus tests, an international team of scientists will finally set off for the Antarctic," AWI said in a statement last week.

Because of "extremely high hygiene requirements," the entire Lufthansa crew had to go into quarantine at the same time as the passengers in a hotel in Bremerhaven, a city at the seaport of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen in Germany, two weeks before departure.

Polarstern was first commissioned in 1982. Since then, the ship has completed almost 300 expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Specially designed for working in polar seas, Polarstern is one of the most sophisticated polar research and supply vessels in the world. Enditem

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