The German Research Vessel Polarstern has sailed back into its home port after completing a remarkable expedition to the Arctic Ocean.
The ship spent a year in the polar north, much of it with its engines turned off so it could simply drift in the sea-ice.
The point was to study the Arctic climate and how it is changing.
And expedition leader, Prof Markus Rex, returned with a warning. "The sea-ice is dying," he said.
"The region is at risk. We were able to witness how the ice disappears and in areas where there should have been ice that was many metres thick, and even at the North Pole - that ice was gone," the Alfred Wegener Institute scientist told a media conference in Bremerhaven on Monday.
RV Polarstern was on station to document this summer's floes shrink to their second lowest ever extent in the modern era.
The floating ice withdrew to just under 3.74 million sq km (1.44 million sq miles). The only time this minimum has been beaten in the age of satellites was 2012, when the pack ice was reduced to 3.41 million sq km.
The downward trend is about 13% per decade, averaged across the month of September.
"This reflects the warming of the Arctic," said Prof Rex. "The ice is disappearing and if in a few decades we have an ice-free Arctic - this will have a major impact on the climate around the world."
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