Across the harbour from the AWI Campus (Klußmannstraße 1), a new technical centre for polar and marine research is being erected. In the near future, it’s where the Alfred Wegener Institute will test and develop new equipment for use in the polar regions and the deep sea.
The new building will be located along the marina; its elongated façade with clean-cut edges and dark brown brick cladding will connect the office and workshop areas with the large preparation bay and the high-bay storage area. This creates a unity of design, whereby the technical centre can be perceived as a large sculpture.
The communications and break rooms will face the marina, creating a vibrant dialogue between Bremerhaven’s citizens and AWI staff. On the ground floor, a glass façade made of industrial glass allows a glimpse of scientific operations in some areas.
At the new technical centre, researchers and engineers will be able to test and develop e.g. ice-core drills in a 15-metre-tall tower, or to assess the reliability of measuring equipment at extremely low temperatures; for this purpose, the building will include cold chambers with temperatures down to -80 °C and a testing basin filled with seawater. These tests are important for preparing expeditions, since the measuring instruments to be used must withstand extreme conditions and function reliably in the most remote regions of the Earth – for example, for use in the Antarctic and Arctic deep sea at a pressure of over 500 bar. Over a long period of time without service or maintenance, they have to be capable of autonomously recording data and to subsequently transmit or store the data gathered.
There will also be a container storage area for expedition preparation, where some of the containers will be visible behind industrial glass, offering insights into the use of ports and harbours (“Geestemünde….”). Thanks to a 20-metric-ton crane, it will be possible to directly transport containers from the external storage area to the preparation bay, where they can be packed for expeditions before beginning their voyage to the Antarctic or Arctic – Expedition Tomorrow.
The story behind the centre’s namesake
Support and technical staff have a proud history in German research; many of them have dedicated their lives to the noble pursuit of new knowledge. A 22-year-old man from Greenland chose to dedicate his life to supporting the great Alfred Wegener on his research expeditions to the Arctic.
“...and make sure that one watch is set aside for Rasmus, who will be accompanying us.”
Alfred Wegener, 6 October 1930
Rasmus Willumsen from Ukkusissat was one of the Greenlanders who provided support on Wegener’s ill-fated 1930 expedition. To resupply his colleagues at the overwintering station “Eismitte”, Wegener took 15 dog sledges, Dr Fritz Lowe and 13 Greenlanders with him, including the young Willumsen. But as weather conditions steadily worsened, everyone except for Wegener, Lowe and Willumsen was forced to turn back. Despite the adverse conditions, the three finally reached "Eismitte", where they delivered the desperately needed provisions and equipment. Wegener was aware that there wouldn’t be enough provisions at the station for all of the men; accordingly, after just two days of rest, he and Willumsen began the return trek to their other base of operations, the "Weststation". He left Lowe, who had suffered frostbite, behind at "Eismitte" to recover.
On the way back, Wegener died, most likely from a heart attack caused by overexertion due to the still extremely difficult conditions. When his body was discovered six months later, the rescue team found Wegener fully clothed, lying on a reindeer hide, and enclosed in two sleeping bag cases, sewn together: Willumsen had buried him with great care, dignity and respect. After Wegener’s death, Willumsen’s soon followed, though we’ll never know exactly how or when he passed, since the search party was unable to find his body.