Polar researchers: On the trail of the climate - Arved Fuchs turns 70

The plan is set: soon after his 70th birthday (April 26), polar researcher and author Arved Fuchs wants to set out on the next stage of the "Ocean Change" project with his sailor "Dagmar Aaen", which has proven itself on many northern sea voyages.

Polar researchers: On the trail of the climate - Arved Fuchs turns 70

The plan is set: soon after his 70th birthday (April 26), polar researcher and author Arved Fuchs wants to set out on the next stage of the "Ocean Change" project with his sailor "Dagmar Aaen", which has proven itself on many northern sea voyages. She leads the crew in the North and Baltic Seas.

Fuchs uses the house he grew up in, on the outskirts of the small Holstein town of Bad Bramstedt, as his basis. In the midst of the landscape, which is characterized by moors, forests and meadows, he was able to pursue his urge to be an adventurer, explorer and explorer even as a child. So he was on local waters with a self-built raft and in a paddle boat. "It was always there," says Fuchs about the thirst for adventure.

No TV, but plenty of books

The doctor's family didn't have a television, but they did have a lot of books - about Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen, for example, who attracted the young fox to the Arctic region at an early age. Seafarers were also part of the family. Cosmopolitanism, his parents gave him the opportunity to get to know other European countries early on. Fuchs kept going out into nature on hiking, cycling and paddling tours. "The proximity to Scandinavia also shaped me," he says.

While early ventures such as crossing Greenland were still very much about exploring one’s own physical and psychological limits, over the course of time Fuchs became increasingly concerned with the aspect of protecting the vulnerable polar regions in particular. "If you notice that something is being broken, then at least I don't care. I've always been a politically minded person."

The North Pole Icewalk expedition under the auspices of the United Nations, to which Fuchs was invited in 1989, was already about climate change, among other things. "The topic of the environment was always present." Around the turn of the millennium, he noticed how the situation in the far north was changing rapidly due to climate change. "If you do such extreme tours, you become a good observer." He felt the obligation to report about it.

Walking through Antarctica with Reinhold Messner

A spectacular expedition that was noticed far beyond Germany was the crossing of the Antarctic on foot together with the South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner in 1989/90. Fuchs says: "The North Pole is much heavier than the South Pole." You can only get to the North Pole in winter when the temperatures are icy, over the drifting sea ice that creates impassable obstacles. "The burden is much higher." On the other hand, you can get to the South Pole over dry land in the southern summer when the temperatures are less cold. "There are worlds between minus 35 and minus 50 degrees." Fuchs' special achievement back then: he was the first person to reach the North and South Poles in one year.

In 2015 Fuchs founded the "Ocean Change" project, which is about documenting the changes in and around the oceans - such as the effects of climate change or pollution on nature and people. Since 2021 there has been a connection to the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, which receives data from areas where nobody else travels during the "Dagmar Aaen" voyages. Fuchs emphasizes, however, that he is not a scientist. Cooperation can help science reach people. "We can only solve the problem of climate change if we take everyone with us."

Fuchs: Politics overslept the development

For Fuchs, this also includes a change in awareness: "Why do I have to drive the SUV to get bread rolls? I can also get there by bike or on foot. That's not a loss of quality of life, it's a gain." Although, in his view, politicians have slept through the development for decades, the man with gray hair and a beard remains an optimist. It is important that the young people have stood up, that a movement comes from below.

Fuchs makes a significant contribution to the Kiel climate researcher Mojib Latif. He made the results of science visible and tangible. "With such an abstract topic as climate change has long been, this cannot be overestimated," says the professor. "Arved Fuchs' perseverance is one of the reasons that the threat of climate change has become clear to so many people. The polar regions may be far away, but they are the early warning system for global warming, which is what Arved Fuchs taught us ."

This is what Messner says about his expedition partner

Messner appreciates the commitment of his Antarctic expedition partner and, like Fuchs himself, emphasizes that neither of them are scientists. "But we both have a high level of credibility when it comes to the findings, out on the high seas or on the high mountains, because we are there, because we see it, because we feel it ourselves." He sees the permafrost and the glaciers disappearing.

Arved Fuchs is particularly credible for many people with his lectures and stories. The key is the perspective. "Arved Fuchs and I are on the same level on this point. We are storytellers. That's the credibility we have."

Fuchs has adapted his ventures to his age over the years. "Today I'm interested in different things than when I was 35 or 50." You have to admit that the physical resilience is decreasing. "I couldn't pull a 130-kilogram sled through the Antarctic today, but I don't want to either." He also no longer has to climb into the rigging when the wind is force ten. He has a top fit team around him.

Fuchs: I was just lucky too

Fuchs says he was always aware that he also took big risks on his expeditions. "Despite all the planning and logistics behind it." Fuchs admits that he was just lucky when he had an acute illness on the "Ocean Change" trip last year. The ship was in port longer than planned due to bad weather and ice conditions and the necessary operation could be carried out in an Icelandic hospital. Far away from civilization, it could have ended badly, he knows. Maybe he deals with risks differently than other people. "In any case, that doesn't bother me," says the expedition leader.

Fuchs attaches great importance to passing on experiences, not only in his books and lectures, but also in his team, in which many young men and women work. He's already thinking about what will happen to his ship "Dagmar Aaen". From his point of view, something with youth and the environment would be nice, says Fuchs and gives the impression that he is still at the beginning of such considerations.