Germany on Friday opened a new research station in far-off Antarctica. Work will focus on extending knowledge of climate change with particular emphasis on the rise in sea levels.
This is Germany's third Antarctic research station
The inauguration ceremony for the 40-million-euro ($50 million) facility was held in the German capital Berlin and relayed via video link to the station, 13,758 kilometers (8,077 miles) away.
The modern facility will replace the old research station, which is slowly disappearing underneath almost 12 meters of snow and will have to be abandoned within the next few years.
German Research Minister Annette Schavan spoke of "a great day for German polar research" at the event on Friday, Feb. 20. "The scientists' work will deliver data that will help to set the right course for environmental policy," she said.
The research conducted at the site will focus on exploring the atmosphere and the oceans, with particular emphasis on the development of sea ice and the rise in sea levels.
Chance for new insights
One concern: The effects of the ozone hole on Antarctica
Schavan described the station as a masterpiece of German engineering with a laboratory that offered opportunities previously unknown.
The first German Antarctic research station was set up 28 years ago. Its two predecessors now lie buried deep beneath the ice and snow. It's hoped that this third generation institute will be a more permanent affair.
The structure is built on 16 stilts that can be raised to compensate the annual snow accumulation. Weighing in at 2,300 tons, the station is also well-equipped to withstand the stiff Arctic winds. It offers accommodation for up to 40 scientists. In winter, it's likely to house a skeleton crew of nine people.
"The life time of the station will therefore be much longer and the station will be operational for the next 25 to 30 years," said Hartwig Gernandt, who was in charge of the construction of the station.
The Neumayer Station III, which will be operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, is located on the Ekstroem ice shelf in Dronning Maud Land in the Antarctic.