In the polar regions, drilling for ice cores is one method by which researchers can gain insights into the climatic conditions one hundred thousand years ago. For example, air pockets in the ice can tell them which gases, and in which ratios, the air was composed of in the past.
To support this type of research, in 2001 Kohnen Station was established as a logistical base for ice-core drilling and refuelling station for aeroplane expeditions on the inland ice plateau – placing it over 750 kilometres from the Neumayer-Station III. From day one, the station was especially important for the European deep ice-core drilling project EPICA (1996-2005).
The sample collection, which began in the 2001/2002 season, was done in a 66-metre-long, six-metre-deep and 4.8-metre-wide trench that was dug out of the snow and covered by a wooden roof.
Too cold in winter
At Kohnen Station, researchers are only active in the Antarctic summer – unlike other stations. Ice cores are gathered from November to early February; for the remainder of the year, the inland ice plateau is simply too cold.
The station can accommodate up to 20 researchers at a time, and the personnel constantly change with each new research project. The scientists work and live in the eleven containers, each of which rests atop steel struts above the surface of the ice. Some of these containers were salvaged from the Filchner Station, which had to be dug out of the ice in 1999. Some contain living quarters, a kitchen and mess hall, while others are home to the radio station, a snow-melting machine for drinking water, and the station’s power supply.
To keep Kohnen Station running smoothly, convoys of up to six caterpillar-track vehicles – called Traverses – from the Neumayer-Station III pay regular3 resupply visits. The vehicles normally haul entire containers behind them and take roughly ten days to completed the arduous journey across the ice. When people or ice cores need to be transported, the station can also be reached by planes equipped with snow skids, like the Polar 5 and Polar 6.