Press release

Putin supports Samoylov Station: Millions in funding for expansion of German-Russian cooperation in Lena Delta

[29. November 2010] 

He came, saw and acted promptly: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was so impressed by the work of scientists in the Siberian permafrost region during his visit to the Samoylov Station at the end of August that he wants to actively support the German-Russian cooperation in the Lena Delta initiated many years ago.

At the Moscow Arctic Conference he reported on the difficult conditions faced by the researchers in northern Siberia and announced his intention of licking what he sees as a dilapidated station into shape.


Putin now follows his words with action by issuing a number of directives. He asked the Duma to provide millions in funding for construction of a modern station building. The German researchers have already been requested to submit a list of urgently required equipment. In addition, an annual expedition fund is to be set up for the Russian participants in the respective field season. The contracts and plans for construction of a new station building will be submitted to and discussed in the relevant Russian ministries as early as December.


“I’ve seen the first drafts for expansion and am impressed,” says Prof. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten, head of the Potsdam Research Unit of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. “The German-Russian cooperation is very important for us. For 20 years we have had a close friendship with our Russian colleagues and I am delighted that we are taken seriously as a reliable partner in Russia,” states Hubberten. Regarding Putin’s commitment, he says: “Putin has recognised how important our joint work in the Lena Delta is if we want to understand climate change better.” Today it is not enough to study glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice, adds Hubberten. “Permafrost is a very decisive piece of the puzzle in worldwide climate events and there’s no other place in the world that it’s so widespread as in Russia.”


Overall, around a quarter of the mainland areas of our Earth is covered by permanently frozen ground. In central northern Siberia the soil even consists of 80 to 90 percent ice and may be frozen down to a depth of over 1500 metres. A fact that surprised Vladimir Putin. Together with Dr. Hanno Meyer he drilled in the frozen ground to examine a sample of permafrost ice. “This is the first time that I see there’s actually ice there in the ground,” said Putin. The scientists are interested in what happens when this ice thaws due to global warming. One reason for this is that enormous amounts of methane lie in the permafrost and may be released by a further rise in temperature – with far-reaching consequences for the environment and civilisation.


To understand these processes and the dynamics of permafrost soil as well as its influence on climate events, German and Russian scientists are conducting research in the Lena Delta, near the Laptev Sea. Flanked by the branches of the Lena River, the research station operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute is located on Samoylov Island, which measures 2.8 times 2 kilometres. Originally it was the logistics base of the Lena Delta reserve, together with the New Siberian Islands one of the largest nature reserves in Russia. The station has a 20 metre long wooden main building and an annex built in 2005. During the summer months tents serve as additional accommodations. “Expedition Lena 2010”, which started in July this year, was just successfully brought to a close. Altogether 53 participants from five German and eight Russian institutes and universities took part. Samples and results have yet to be evaluated, but one thing has already been determined: a summer thawing depth of 56 centimetres – since ten years the ground in this region has never thawed so deep before.


Notes for Editors: Your contacts at the Alfred Wegener Institute are Prof. Hans-Wolfgang Hubberten (tel.: 0331 288-2100; e-mail: ), Dr. Hanno Meyer (tel.: 0331 288-2115; e-mail:, Dr. Bernhard Diekmann (tel.: 0331 288-2170; e-mail: as well as in the Communication and Media Department Stephanie von Neuhoff (tel. 0471 4831-2008; e-mail:

You will find printable pictures on our homepage at

On Vladimir Putin’s homepage you will find a recording of the prime minister’s talk with the scientists:


The Alfred Wegener Institute conducts research in the Arctic, Antarctic and oceans of the high and mid latitudes. It coordinates polar research in Germany and provides major infrastructure to the international scientific community, such as the research icebreaker Polarstern and stations in the Arctic and Antarctica. The Alfred Wegener Institute is one of the sixteen research centres of the Helmholtz Association, the largest scientific organisation in Germany.


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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.