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BERLIN — A German icebreaker carrying scientists on a yearlong international expedition in the high Arctic has reached the North Pole, after making an unplanned detour there because sea-ice conditions were lighter than usual.

Expedition leader Markus Rex said Wednesday that the RV Polarstern was able to reach the geographic North Pole because of large openings in sea ice above Greenland, where shipping would normally be too difficult.

“We made fast progress in a few days,” Rex said. “It’s breathtaking — at times we had open water as far as the eye could see.”

The region above northern Greenland is usually covered in thick sea ice, sometimes built up over several years, that makes it difficult even for ships with hardened hulls to break through. But the Polarstern was able to make it from the ice edge in the Fram Strait to the pole in less than a week, Rex said.

The mushy ice conditions the Polarstern encountered this year provide further evidence of the warming that scientists say is taking place in the Arctic.

The MOSAiC expedition involves scientists from 17 nations, including the United States, France, Russia and China.

The 100 crew and scientists plan to return to Bremerhaven, Germany, on Oct. 12.

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