The German Antarctic Research Centre – Neumayer-Station III

What kind of research station is this?

As the first research station in the Antarctic, the Neumayer-Station III (run by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Ocean Research) is an integrated building for research, operation and living, built on a platform above the snow-covered surface – connected to a garage built into the snow.

On the platform, a total of 100 containers are built inside an external hull, offering spaces for different functions such as living quarters, a kitchen, a mess hall, a hospital, various laboratories, a radio room, sanitary facilities, a central power plant and a snow-melting facility. The garage below the station houses workshops, containers for supplies, wastes and fuel, and parking spaces for piste bashers and snowmobiles.

The ice shelf edge at which the supply vessel docks is around 16 kilometres away.

An important feature of the station is its ability to adapt to changes in the snow and ice cover with the help of hydraulic supports, but without having to leave components on the snow-covered ground. The entire weight of around 2,300 tonnes is distributed across 16 foundation plates. Before raising the entire station, the foundation plates are raise individually using hydraulics, the space underneath is backfilled with snow, and then the entire garage is filled up with snow.

Usually nine people live and work in the station in the Antarctic winter: a doctor (who is also the station head), a meteorologist, an air chemist, two geophysicists, an engineer, an electrician, a radio operator/electronics engineer, and a cook. They remain at the station for 14 to 15 months. For over nine months, their only connection with the outside world is through radio.

Where is the station?

Ekström Ice Shelf, Atka Bay, northeastern Weddell Sea: The Ekström Ice Shelf is an ice shelf located in the East Antarctic that covers an area of 8,700 square kilometres and is 100-850 metres thick.

What is the purpose of the research?

The goal of the research work is to study the changes in the global environment and earth system, which are partly natural and partly caused by human activities.

A crucial task of the Alfred Wegener Institute is therefore to provide the German federal government with updated information about their research results and give expert advice regarding environmental policy.

How do the ZARGES cases arrive at the station?

This is done through two ways. Supplies are delivered to the station once per summer (in the southern hemisphere, usually in December, i.e. during winter in Europe) by the research vessel "Polarstern". On board the vessel are containers that are fully loaded with supplies and technical equipment, which are unloaded at the ice shelf edge in Akta Bay and then transported to the station by piste bashers.

In addition, supply planes land at the station eight to ten times during the short Antarctic summer. They too transport materials but are mainly meant for carrying scientists and technicians.

In general, the cases take the following flight path: Germany (Frankfurt a. M.), Cape Town, the Russian station Nowolasarewskaja, and finally the Neumayer-Station.
The cases are flown on board a Ilyushin plane from Cape Town to the Russian station Novo. For the route from Novo to Neumayer, they are, for example, transferred to smaller Basler planes (formally DC-3).

What do these cases carry?

They are particularly meant for carrying equipment and supplies that are very sensitive and require protection – things that cannot simply be kept in a duffel bag. 
And: most of expedition participants also bring along an addition ZARGES case to carry personal and private belongs that they do not want to do without during the challenging period.

The ZARGES employees are delighted to be part of this important research and wish the entire Neumayer team and the Alfred Wegener Institute continued success!


You can find out more about the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Neumayer-Station III HERE.