Too bad we have to smash the polar ice to understand it. A new ship being built by the European Science Federation will be able to drill through thousands of miles of ocean under the ice and collect core samples from the sea floor. The Aurora Borealis will be the first ship that can break ice in all four directions, and drill down simultaneously. The only challenge: Figuring out who's responsible when the shit hits the polar bear.

The ship will be a small town, generating 55 megawatts of power and housing 120 people. Scientists on board will study the role of the polar waters in global climate change and the movement of contaminants through the water, air and ice. The Aurora also will have two "moon pools" in the bottom of its hull, giving access to the water under the ice for underwater vehicles studying the explosion of life that happens in the polar seas every spring.

The main problem is figuring out who owns this ship. The Aurora Borealis is a joint venture between the ESF, the Germans, the Russians and possibly other European countries. So where does it dock when it's at home? More importantly, who do we sue if (when) it crashes and spills tons of oil all over the North Pole? Hopefully all this uncertainty will make the organizers way more cautious about wreaking damage on the environment they're trying to study. We can only hope. The Aurora Borealis is expected to launch in 2014. [Science Daily]