The geophysical department at the Alfred Wegener Institute covers a broad range of methods to be applied in the polar regions. Most of the equipment is standard in industry and was modified to work also under harsh environmental conditions. Though geophysical knowledge on geodynamic processes, the evolution of the continental margins, the evolution of sedimentary basins and the crustal fabric has advanced very much in the last three decades, only limited information on these problems is available from the polar regions.
In Antarctica the problem is that only 2% of the entire continent is ice free, and thus accessible to direct geological sampling. Here, geophysical investigations are a prerequisite for any geological model, which extends into the interior of the continent. The combination of magnetic, gravity and ice thickness measurements provide constraints on the sub-ice geology. An important geophysical research location is the Neumayer Station. Here, permanent seismological, magnetic, gravity and infra-sound observations are serviced, and made available for international programmes. Ongoing research on the seismicity of the southern hemisphere and especially the Atlantic sector of the Antarctic continent is supported. However, still most the interior of the continent is almost not accessible due to logistical limitations. Consequently, most of the geoscientific research in Antarctica is concentrated offshore. Here, the sea ice allows standard geophysical investigations in the austral summer.