Research at the furthest reaches of civilization

Modern laboratory facilities, a large fleet of vehicles and a stable Internet connection: located at the heart of the Siberian tundra, the Samoylov research station looms like the last outpost of civilization. It offers researchers ideal conditions for studying permafrost soils in the Lena Delta – either near the station itself, or on the surrounding islands. Discover what AWI scientists investigate in the Russian Arctic und learn from Dr Anne Morgenstern, the station's scientific coordinator, how scientists reach the station, what research conditions they face and also how they spend their sparse free time.

Find further information about the station's equipment, location and the reconstruction of the Research Station Samoylov Island on the station's site.

Snapshots of life at the station – according to Coordinator Anne Morgenstern

Getting there

Samoylov Station is located in the middle of the Lena Delta. On the map it only looks like a tiny dot amidst the expanse of the Siberian tundra, far from any cities, airports or motorways. So how do AWI researchers make their way to this remote place? There are more options than you might think – coming by helicopter is just one!

High season

Very few AWI researchers get to witness how the Lena River comes to life in the spring, breaking the thick layer of ice that covered her all winter and washing up huge blocks of it on her banks – because the majority only journey to Samoylov Station much later in the year. It can also be ice-cold in high summer – though it’s also quite possible to go swimming in the Lena. Anne Morgenstern tells us just how warm it can get in the summer.

The old and the new

Both the original Samoylov base and its modern successor are located on the southern coast of Samoylov Island, only a stone’s throw from one another. Though only separated by a few hundred metres, their facilities are worlds apart. While researchers could only stay in the wooden building that made up the old station in summer and early autumn, the new station is manned year-round – just one of many differences.

After work

Whereas the old station could easily give researchers the feeling they were cut off from civilization, its modern counterpart’s stable Internet connection puts researchers in touch with day-to-day business in Germany, even in the tundra. This has a number of advantages for their scientific work; they can quickly look up information or talk to colleagues “back home”. On the other hand, it can also put a damper on their social lives – a pity, given the variety of great ways there are to spend your nights at the station.

Helicopter in the Lena delta
Helicopter in the Lena delta (Photo: rbb/Felix Krüger)
Spring flood in the Lena Delta
Spring flood in the Lena Delta (Photo: Torsten Sachs)
After work at the Samoylov Station
After work at the Samoylov Station (Photo: Anne Morgenstern)


Manifold permafrost

More than 90 percent of the Lena Delta are subjacent with permafrost. How thick the frozen layer is, how it developed and what it is made out of, varies from island to island. The Lena Delta therefore lures permafrost scientists with different questions to Siberia. For example: How do ice wedges form and what to they tell about past climates? Which exchange happens between the frozen soil and the atmosphere? How does the temperature change and how fast does the permafrost melt? Follow some AWI scientists into the field and see how they try to find answers to these questions.



Links to AWI permafrost research