Press release

Polarstern has broken the ice - Landing site is ready for unloading of new Antarctic research station Neumayer III

[16. January 2008] 

At 2.20 am local time, the research icebreaker Polarstern reached the landing spot at the edge of the Ekstrom Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. After several days of ice breaking, a newly created navigation channel through the compact sea ice finally allowed access to a suitable docking location for the freighter Naja Arctica. The vessel has been appointed by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, part of the Helmholz Association, to transport the new research station Neumayer III to the Antarctic, and is expected to begin discharge of station components and construction vehicles throughout the day today.

On December 16, 2007, Naja Arctica had reached the Antarctic Atka Bay on schedule. However, a sea ice barrier of several metres thickness at her destination prevented the vessel from moving ahead and tying up to the ice margin and, consequently, from unloading construction materials for the new research station. On January 7, when there had been no change in sea ice conditions, the Alfred Wegener Institute decided to send the research icebreaker Polarstern to support Naja Arctica in Atka Bay. After more than a week of heavy ice breaking with much ramming, Polarstern managed to free a navigation channel to the ice edge on the morning of January 16. The special deployment of Polarstern represented a week-long interruption of the scientific programme for Polarstern, currently travelling on the second leg of her 24th Antarctic expedition in the Southern Ocean.

Despite modern technology, research work in the polar regions continues to be highly constrained by local weather conditions. “When planning the Neumayer III project, we allowed for roughly 30 percent extra time in our schedule”, explains Dr Hartwig Gernandt, director of logistics at the Alfred Wegener Institute. “Since we were nearing the limit of this reserve, we had to decide to use Polarstern. This morning, all people involved in Bremerhaven were very enthusiastic to hear the news of Polarstern’s success. We are more than glad that the operation achieved its goal and that construction of Neumayer III can now begin”, Gernandt adds, clearly relieved. It is anticipated that, after consultation with on-site construction managers, the steel building will be largely finished during the current Antarctic season. Completion of the new station, scheduled for spring 2009, has not been jeopardised by the current delays.

In the meantime, Polarstern has left Atka Bay again and will continue her research expedition in the Southern Ocean for another two weeks.

Notes for editors:
Your contact person in the public relations department is Dr Ude Cieluch (Tel: ++49-471-4831-2008, email: ude.cieluch@awi.de).

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Das Institut

Das Alfred-Wegener-Institut forscht in den Polarregionen und Ozeanen der mittleren und hohen Breiten. Als eines von 19 Forschungszentren der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft koordiniert es Deutschlands Polarforschung und stellt Schiffe wie den Forschungseisbrecher Polarstern und Stationen für die internationale Wissenschaft zur Verfügung.