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The Federal Minister of Education and Research inaugurates new German Antarctic station

20.02.2009
Neumayer Station III starts scientific operation

The Federal Minister for Education and Research, Dr Annette Schavan, inaugurated Neumayer Station III today at noontime. The new German research facility thereby starts its scientific operation.

It is located 6.5 km south of the old Neumayer Station on the Ekström ice shelf in Dronning Maud Land in the Antarctic. The station serves as a base for scientific observatories as well as logistic centre for inland expeditions and polar aircraft. The Neumayer Station III was erected during seven months in two Antarctic summer seasons by the Alfred Wegener Station for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. It offers accommodation for up to 40 people. Nine people ensure the year-round operation of the station.

The construction project of about 40 million Euros was financed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with long-term funds for polar research, and it was realized within the framework of the International Polar Year.

German Antarctic Research since 1981

The Alfred Wegener Institute now operates a year-round research station in the Antarctic for 28 years. Named after the German polar researcher Georg von Neumayer, the first Georg von Neumayer Station was put into operation in 1981. It was replaced with the Neumayer Station in 1991, a tubular construction like its predecessor. Caused by an annual snow accumulation of 80 cm, the Neumayer Station lies today 15 m under the snow surface. The steel tubes are heavily deformed by movement and pressure of the ice. This means that the safe operation cannot be guaranteed and the new station had to be built.

"As the first Antarctic research station ever, the Neumayer Station III consists of a combined building for research and operation on a platform above the ice surface, connected with a garage dug into the snow", explains Dr Hartwig Gernandt, head of logistics and man in charge for the construction of the station at the Alfred Wegener Institute. An important feature and technical innovation is the ability to compensate snow accumulation by means of a hydraulic lifting system. The station rests on 16 foundation slabs and can be raised as a whole to compensate the annual snow accumulation. "The life time of the station will therefore be much longer and the station will be operational for the next 25 to 30 years", continues Gernandt. By using the ice as foundation, the station can be completely dismantled if necessary. This fulfills an important demand of the current Antarctic environmental protection protocol.

The station is supplied with energy by means of an intelligently managed co-generation system which regulates the best utilisation of available energy. One diesel generator, producing 160 kW electric and 190 kW thermal energy with a state-of-the-art control system, can supply the total demand. The excess heat is used for heating, the snow melting facility and for water treatment. All in all, three of these generators work in alternating operation while a fourth generator serves as stand-by for emergencies. A fully integrated wind power plant of 30 kW capacity provides additional energy since the end of January 2009. Four additional wind power plants will be added incrementally during the next years.

International cooperation - position 70°40' S - 08°16' W

"Neumayer Station III creates the prerequisites for long-term research and it is an important part of the international scientific and logistical collaboration in the Antarctic", explains Prof. Dr Karin Lochte, director of the Alfred Wegener Institute. "The station will be an outstanding research platform for future researchers of German and foreign origin", says Lochte, looking forward.

The station is connected to the worldwide communication network via satellite. This dedicated line ensures the transfer of scientific data from the observatories to the Alfred Wegener Institute and into worldwide measurement networks. Furthermore, it makes communication via E-Mail and telephone possible and provides the researchers with access to the internet.

Scientific long-term measurement series in the Antarctic

The meteorological observatory of the Neumayer Station supplies crucial data for climate research since 1981. The station's measurement series gained by means of balloon ascents with ozone measurement devices has played an important part in the research of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. Radiation measurements of the Neumayer Station are processed in an international measurement network for climate research under the guidance of the Alfred Wegener Institute. The station serves furthermore as a weather forecast centre for the entire Dronning Maud Land. The geophysical observatory was put in operation in 1982. Here, long-term changes of the earth's magnetic field are measured, and earthquakes distributed locally and worldwide are continually recorded. The air chemistry observatory measures climate relevant gases like carbon dioxide, methane and ozone since 1983. These observatories supply unique data series for the Antarctic. The infrasound station IS27 surveys the compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty since 2002.The Perennial Acoustic Observatory in the Antarctic Ocean (PALAOA) is located north of Neumayer Station III on the ridge of the ice shelf since 2005. PALAOA records the natural sound spectrum of the Antarctic Ocean and investigates the behaviour of marine mammals.

Antarctic station "Made in Bremerhaven"

First considerations for a new research stations began as early as 1999. After a conception phase of five years, the announcement of the construction project took place at the congress COMNAP XVI in Bremen in July 2004. The Alfred Wegener Institute handed in a comprehensive environmental evaluation at the German Federal Environment Agency in January 2005, which incorporates the diassembly of the old Neumayer Station. It was approved by international experts in October of the same year. After signing the contracts, the consortium J.H. Kramer Stahlbau (steel construction) and Kaefer Isoliertechnik (insulation technologies) with the ARGE Neumayer III began the construction of the Neumayer Station III in December 2006.

The main parts of the station were manufactured and partly preassembled in Bremerhaven. The Danish freighter Naja Arctica transported the 3,000 tons of material into the Antarctic in December 2007. A heavy pack ice barrier prevented it from landing at the shelf ice edge of the Ekström Ice Shelf in the middle of December. The research ice breaker RV Polarstern, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, was able to break the ice barrier. Therefore, unloading could not begin before the middle of January. Despite this delay, the entire garage section with its 16 lifting devices could be assembled until the end of the summer season in March 2008 - a suiting winter shelter for a part of the construction machines and materials. The second construction phase, beginning in November 2008, saw the commencement of the assembly of the platform above the ice. The workers assembled in this construction phase the entire steel construction, the outer shell and the floors with altogether 100 container modules. These contain the scientific laboratories, accommodation, sanitary installations, the hospital and the mess. About 50 workers were accommodated 300 metres south of the construction site in their construction camp.

Technical data:
Total weight: 2,300 tons
Station containers: 100 (decks 1 and 2)
Breadth: 26 metres
Length: 68 metres
Overall height: 29 metres (garage floor to the roof of the balloon shed)
Height of the station: 21 metres (from the ice surface)
Clear height underneath the platform: 6 metres
Useable area: 4,473m2, 1,850m2 air-conditioned
Power supply: 3 Diesel generators (160 kW each), 1 emergency power supply (160 kW), 1 wind power plant (30kW)
Accommodations: 15 rooms, 40 beds
Laboratories and offices: 12 rooms
Winter personnel: 9 people
Construction time: 7 months
Execution of construction work: Joint venture Neumayer III, J.H. Kramer Stahlbau and Kaefer Isoliertechnik

Building owner: Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association

For further information please contact in the public relations department Dr Ude Cieluch (+49(0)471 4831 2008; email: Ude.Cieluch@awi.de).

The Alfred Wegener Institute carries out research in the Arctic and Antarctic as well as in the high and mid latitude oceans. The institute coordinates German polar research and makes available to international science important infrastructure, e.g. the research ice breaker "Polarstern" and research stations in the Arctic and Antarctic. AWI is one of 15 research centres within the Helmholtz-Gesellschaft, Germany's largest scientific organization.

Margarete Pauls | idw
Further information:
http://www.awi.de
http://www.awi.de/en/infrastructure/stations/neumayer_station_iii/

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