Neumayer station

Antarctica +++ 70° 40’ S, 8° 16’ W +++ -‐6°C, cloudy, light winds from Southwest +++
04. January 2015
(By Peter Lemke, translation: Ina Lefering)

Polarstern is not only a platform for various research projects during this cruise but also supplies the Neumayer III station with food, spare parts and fuel. The station is located 17 km from the ice shelf edge. Due to the thick fast ice, we were not able to reach the usual site on the ice shelf edge and are therefore unloading all containers with food and supplies onto the sea ice. The sea ice here is fast ice – this means it is not drifting - and it is about 3 to 5 m thick. Thus, it is stable enough to carry pistenbullys and sledges with 20 feet containers. The containers are pulled from the sea ice onto the ice shelf over a natural ramp of snow. Getting to this ramp takes half an hour, and then it takes another hour until they finally reache Neumayer station.

The two former German research stations in Antarctica were located in the same area, but in the underground, buried in the snow. They had to hold the weight of the snow cover which increases by about a 1m every year. The current station, Neumayer III, is built on a platform on top of posts above the snow. The hydraulic posts are lifted regularly depending on the amount of new snow. The garage is located underneath the station under the snow. This is where workshops, supply, waste and fuel containers are stored and pistenbullys and motor sledges are parked. The station itself consists out of 100 containers that function as living space, kitchen, mess, hospital, laboratories, radio room, bathrooms, energy plants, and a fresh water generator melting snow.

Nine people overwinter in the station every year: a doctor who is also the station manager, a meteorologist, an air chemist, two geophysicists, one engineer, an electrician, one person responsible for communication and radio and a chef. The overwinterers run 4 observatories:

1.       The meteorological observatory, where synopsis, ozone and radiometric measurements on ground level are conducted frequently.

2.       The trace substance observatory, where the concentration of trace gases and aerosols are measured.

3.       The geophysical observatory, in which earthquakes, variations in the magnetic field and the tidal movement of the ice shelf are studied.

4.       The ocean acoustics observatory, PALAOA (Perennial Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean), which continuously records underwater noise to study the behaviour of whales and seals.

Many of the atmospheric parameters have been registered and archived since 1981 and contribute to the global WMO network, Global Atmospheric Watch.

I saw the first Neumayer base in 1989 during a short visit from Polarstern. It had been running for 8 years at that time and was therefore covered by several meters of snow. Compared to that cave, Neumayer III is more spacious and can provide better support for the scientific work, including a large number of research programs running during the summer. I suppose that the bright sunlight you get at the station for half a year has a very positive effect on the overwinterers, although I have never tried it myself.