Construction of the Neumayer Station III

Cross-section of the Station

  1. Foundation: The station’s total weight of ca. 2,300 tonnes is distributed among 16 foundation plates. Hydraulic supports are used to raise the station on a regular basis, allowing it to compensate for new snowfall.
  2. Garage: The garage offers ample room for the entire vehicle fleet (caterpillar trucks, Ski-Doos, etc.). Additional storage and utility rooms have been integrated into the interstitial deck.
  3. Power unit: An intelligent management system regulates the station’s electrical and thermal power supply. Over the next several years, the percentage of energy harnessed from the wind will gradually be increased by adding new turbines.
  4. Balloon-launching hall: Meteorological balloons with radiosondes can be launched from the hall on the station’s roof.
  5. Stairwell
  6. Living quarters and workrooms
  7. Water supply: A snowmelt supplies the station with fresh drinking water.
  8. Access: Returning vehicles enter the station’s garage via a ramp of pure snow with tightly sealing lid.

Initial groundwork

Building on a drifting ice shelf and under extreme conditions is a considerable challenge. With the potential difficulties in mind, intensive advance surveys were conducted on the tentative site of the Neumayer Station III, roughly six kilometres south of the Neumayer Station II. GPS measurements were used to determine the speed of ice drift and the effects of shearing forces. At its current location, the station is moving ca. 157 metres closer to the edge of the ice shelf every year; by 2034, 25 years after its opening in 2009, it will have “travelled” roughly four kilometres.

Building on drifting ice

At the same time, the maximum load of the snow and the optimal foundation size for a 2,300-tonne structure had to be calculated. The structural analysis for the station was designed to ensure it could withstand both the shearing forces of the ice and massive winds. Wind-tunnel tests were used to determine the most aerodynamic form for the station’s outer hull.

To prevent the station from rapidly becoming snowed under, two key preventive measures were used: putting the whole building on struts, and selecting a shape that would reduce snow build-up to a minimum. Thanks to the station’s hydraulic supports, it can be raised to match the current height of the snow.

In the course of the station’s construction, roughly 3,500 tonnes of material, construction equipment and machinery were transported by ship from Bremerhaven to the Ekström Ice Shelf, and 45 technicians and engineers were flown in.

Animation for hydraulic

Growing with the snow layer

Step 1: A stilt is dugged out and drawn (Photo: Reinhard Sibberns)
Step 2: New snow is filled underneath the base. (Photo: Reinhard Sibberns)
Step 3: A row is raised ready (Photo: Reinhard Sibberns)

Overview of the station today

The Neumayer Station III is the first facility in the Antarctic to offer a multipurpose research station, base of operations and living quarters. It also serves as the logistical base for inland expeditions and polar research aircraft. Not only does it consist of multiple levels; instead of a single, massive foundation, it rests atop 16 foundation plates, which are anchored in an 8.20-metre-deep pit excavated from the snow.

Above those plates lies the actual platform, upon which the various rooms (all of which are formed by containers) are located, shielded by an outer hull. The actual station is six metres above the surface of the snow. The total height of its patented design, from the floor of the garage to the roof of the balloon-launching hall, measures 29.2 metres. The building can be accessed by a stairwell in the garage. The containers, stacked in multiple levels, are home to living quarters and workshops, utility rooms like the kitchen and mess hall, and laboratories.


Returning vehicles enter the station’s garage via a ramp of pure snow. The voluminous garage offers ample room for the entire vehicle fleet. Two small snowblowers are needed in connection with the procedure for raising the station, and for digging out pits.

With a total of 21 caterpillar trucks, 20 are usually stationed at Neumayer Station III – the last is at Kohnen Station year-round. The trucks are used for the researchers’ field campaigns, for resupplying Kohnen Station, and for various types of work in the vicinity of Neumayer Station III.

As a rule, the station has ten snowmobiles (“Ski-Doos”) at its disposal – but the total number of Ski-Doos, which the onsite teams use for work in rough terrain and at Kohnen Station, is 20.
For external maintenance work on the station, a 20-tonne crawler crane and a “cherry-picker” crane with caterpillar treads are also stationed there.

100 sledges are kept on hand for transporting heavy loads; containers (20-foot containers = 6.058 × 2.438 × 2.591 metres) are packed onto the sledges for transport between the two stations and the resupply ship. The containers’ content can vary widely: some are designed as storerooms or living quarters, while others hold heavy cargo, bulk goods or fuel.

Water supply

The station also features a snowmelt, which supplies its drinking water and is designed to remain externally accessible, regardless of the current snow level. Using a Pistenbully, the team members have to regularly refill it with fresh snow.

Balloon-launching hall

Researchers working at the Neumayer Station constantly need to gather weather data. To help them do so, a laboratory for launching balloons with radiosondes was integrated into the building complex. Located on the station’s roof, it offers the staff easy access in all weather conditions. Depending on the direction of the wind, one of two large rolling doors can be opened to send up the helium balloons equipped with radio transmitters.

Power supply

The Neumayer Station III is supplied with electricity by combined heat and power unit. The unit consists of twelve containers, part of which house four 160 kW diesel generators. Three generators are used for normal operation; the fourth is the emergency backup.

The climate conditions on the Ekström Ice Shelf are well suited to harnessing renewable energies. Accordingly, a 30 kW wind turbine supplies the station with additional energy. Over the next several years, the percentage of energy from wind is to be increased by sequentially adding more turbines, reducing the emissions from the diesel generators to a minimum.

An intelligent power management system regulates the electricity and heat supplied by the generators and wind turbine. By precisely monitoring the respective energy sources and consumers, it ensures the power supply is put to optimal use.

Prevous stations

The first station erected in the vicinity, dubbed Georg von Neumayer Station, was later succeeded by the Neumayer Station II. Both early stations were housed within giant steel cylinders; in both cases, the weight of the snow eventually became so great that the cylinders were deformed, eventually becoming uninhabitable.

Facts and figures

Dimensions and weight:

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)

Materials used:

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

Windows: 55

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

Overview map

Exterior Shots of Neumayer Station III (Photo: Thomas Steuer)
Filling of the Snowmelt (Photo: Thomas Steuer)
Wind generator at Neumayer (Photo: Thomas Steuer)