Neumayer Station III
Working and living in the eternal ice
Despite the adverse conditions in the Antarctic, the Alfred Wegener Institute maintains a station where researchers can live and work year-round: the Neumayer Station III. Located on the Ekström Ice Shelf in the Atlantic sector of the Antarctic, the station commenced operation in 2009 and is the central basis of German Antarctic research.
Up in the air
The entire Neumayer Station III is built on a platform above the snow-covered surface. Engineers adjust the station’s 16 hydraulic supports on a regular basis, allowing it to adapt to changes in snow cover and constantly remain ca. six metres above the ice – and to avoid the fate of earlier stations, which were gradually deformed by the shifting snow masses.
The station’s external hull conceals a total of one hundred containers, arranged in two vertical levels and with a broad range of functions: living and sleeping quarters, hospital, kitchen, mess hall, radio room and sanitary facilities. Several containers spread over two storeys house the central power plant. A large garage below the station offers shelter for the fleet of caterpillar trucks and Skidoos – vehicles specially designed for use in the polar regions.
During the Antarctic summer, up to 40 people live and work at the station – in the winter, only a skeleton crew remains: a cook, three engineers, a doctor and four researchers form the “overwintering team”.
Within the station, the researchers work in offices and laboratories – but the fieldwork on the ice is at the heart of their efforts. As such, observatories for geophysics, hydroacoustic and meteorological research have been installed in the immediate vicinity of the station. There is also a trace elements observatory – here, researchers constantly measure which climate-relevant gases, and how much of each, are present in the Antarctic air.
In order to support extended research stays and to keep the station’s footprint in the fragile climate of the Antarctic to a minimum, the AWI made modern and robust technology a priority when it came to the station’s infrastructure.
A wind turbine supports the station’s combined heat and power unit, supplying up to 30 kilowatts of additional, renewable energy – except during storms, when the blades turn away from the wind to avoid damage. To reduce the emissions of the diesel generators, further turbines are to be added to the Neumayer Station III in the future. The heat and power unit’s diesel generators are equipped with catalytic converters.
Melting drinking water from snow
The station personnel acquire their drinking water with the help of a snowmelt; utilising the heat produced by the generators, it has a capacity of up to eight cubic metres. To keep the Antarctic clean for future generations and to avoid contaminating the research area, all of the station’s rubbish and electronic waste is collected in large containers. These are then brought by the research icebreaker to the closest available port – usually Cape Town or Punta Arenas – so that the refuse can be properly disposed of. More problematic waste like fluorescent bulbs is shipped back to Bremerhaven for special disposal.
Polar night – polar day
The station is over 2,000 kilometres from the geographic South Pole. From 15 November to 27 January, the polar day, the sun never sets on the station; from 21 May to 22 July, the sun never shows its face, and the long polar night endures.
Glimpses from work at the station
Position: Ekström shelf ice, Atka Bight, north-east Weddell sea
Coordinates: 70°40´S, 008°16´W
Facts and Figures
Facts and figures
Weight: ca. 2,300 tonnes
Dimensions of the platform: 68 x 24 metres
Indoor floor space: 4,890 m2 over four storeys (ca. the minimal size of a football field)
Heated areas: 2,118 m2 over three storeys
Containers: ca. 100
Accommodation: 15 rooms, 40 beds
Laboratories and offices: 12 rooms
Power supply: 3 diesel generators (450 kW) / 1 wind turbine (30 kW)
Total amount of steel: 1,400 t
Number of screws: 16,000 (13 t)
Load-bearing steel elements: 1,170 t | The steel construction consists of 128,000 individual parts
Cladding: 573 elements
Wiring, pipes and ducts:
Electrical cables: 42,000 m
Ventilation ducts: 1,200 m
Heating pipes: 1,500 m
Hydraulic pipes: 800 m
Water / wastewater pipes: 1,300 m
Temperature: max +4.3 °C | min -50.2 °C (since 1981)
Last record low: 2010 (-50.2 °C)
Highest wind speed: 150.48 km/h (1-minute mean on 6 August 2012, 22:43)
Snowfall: 80 to 100 cm/year
Ice drift: 157 metres/year
Thickness of the ice shelf: ca. 200 m
The webcam at the Neumayer Station continually provides up-to-the-minute images (see the time-lapse video below).
Georg von Neumayer was a geophysicist and hydrographer who dedicated his life to the pursuit of science and the exploration of the Antarctic. Born in 1826, today the researcher is above all noted for his support of expeditions to the South Pole and his contributions as a scientific organiser.
Neumayer, who would later be made a member of the nobility, initially studied geophysics and hydrography in Munich – by 1851 he had not only completed his studies, but also had a shipping mate’s certificate in his pocket. His first sea voyages took him to Brazil and Australia. In the latter he founded the Flagstaff Observatory for geophysics, magnetism and nautical science in Melbourne in 1857, expanding it in the years to come as director.
After returning to Germany, from 1876 to 1903 he co-founded and led the German Hydrographic Office in Hamburg as its first director. In 1900 he was dubbed a commander and awarded the honorific “von” when he received the Bavarian Order of Merit.
Beyond his works on geophysics and oceanography, Neumayer is perhaps best known for his outstanding commitment to polar research: in 1879 he became chairman of the International Polar Commission and was a driving force in initiating the first International Polar Year (1882/83) and the Antarctic Year (1901). The German Antarctic expedition with the research ship “Gauß” embarked the same year. Neumayer passed away in Neustadt an der Weinstraße in 1909.
In recognition of his dedication to Antarctic research, the AWI chose to pay the pioneer a unique tribute: just like its two predecessors, the German Antarctic research base on the Ekström Ice Shelf bears his name: Neumayer Station III.
Airbridge - DROMLAN-Service
Library on the Ice
The "Library on the Ice" can be found at 70°40´S, 08°16´W and is hence Germany’s southernmost library. For ten years now the library container and its collection of books have been fixtures at the Neumayer Station III. The “Library in the Ice” was erected by the Cologne-based artist Lutz Fritsch – to create a space for interaction between science and culture in the far reaches of the “white continent”.
The webcam at Neumayer provides every 10 minutes an actual picture - these images shows the time-lapse video of the last 24 hours. The camera turns at night to black / white images. During a snowstorm the station can not even be seen.