Working in Antarctica: Physicist Lisa Kattner at Neumayer Station III | Tomorrow Today - The Science Magazine | DW | 20.08.2012
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Working in Antarctica: Physicist Lisa Kattner at Neumayer Station III

Physicist Lisa Kattner is a researcher for the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven. Along with eight colleagues, she spent a year at Neumayer Station, and has now returned to Germany.

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DW: How was the time at the Neumayer Station in the Antarctic for you?

Lisa Kattner: I really enjoyed the time down there. Besides working there, we had a really good time spending our free time inside the station or outside on trips.

Then you must be someone who loves cold weather and loves missing the light during wintertime. How is that experience?

It's a great experience. Really something special. Especially the polar night was very interesting.

It's not getting day...

Yes, that's true, but it's not completely dark. You have some sort of daylight, you just don't have sunshine.

Other people might get depressive.

Yes, well we didn't so much get depressed, it's more like getting a little tired during the day.

And you had your colleagues there. You had eight other colleagues. How is life with each other - being stuck so close together?

Of course we did have some conflicts. It's just normal life. Sometimes you get along with your colleagues, with the people around you, and sometimes you don't. You always get through all that.

Could you tell me something about your everyday research life?

I am walking to the place where I work - the Air Chemistry Observatory. It's a container equipped with measurement devices.

How far is it actually to go?

It's one and a half kilometers, and depending on the weather it can actually take quite a long time - if it's really stormy and you can't see anything. The longest it took me was more than 45 minutes.

More than 45 minutes for one and a half kilometers - that's amazing.There is also a black rope on your way. What's that for?

That's for if it's stormy and if you can't see anything because there's so much snow in the air. You would get lost otherwise - you really have to have this rope to find your way.

It sounds like a bit dangerous experience, isn't it?

Not so much dangerous, but really special.

Probably everybody will envy you for the experience of seeing penguins.

That's true, we had a colony of emperor penguins near the station where we could do trips and watch them. Over the whole year we could see the small ones growing and see the whole colony...

Sounds nice, but your everyday work of course was being in charge of the air chemistry lab. What are you trying to find out there?

We measure greenhouse gases there, particles, aerosols - everything that is in the air down there.

And you can already find greenhouse gases down there in Antarctica?

Sure, we can measure the global development of greenhouse gases, we can see the trends, we can see the rise during the 30 years that we do measurements down there.

So you already notice human influence.

Yes, we do, definitely. We can see the rise of greenhouse gases.

So it's not only industry which is influencing our climate but science - as I've heard. Lake Vostok is being drilled into by the Russian scientists in order to get some sediments and to get research probes. What do you think of that?

I'm really interested in what kinds of results they will have. But we'll have to have to wait and see what's going on down there in those lakes. It's interesting research.

And we have to protect Antarctica in any case.

Definitely. Protection is really important down there because it's such a special environment.

(Interview: Ingolf Baur)