Thursday, February 19, 2009

lift a leg

Tomorrow, the 3rd incarnation of Germany's Antarctic research station, Neumayer III will be officially opened. Staying safe and warm, the German research minister is planning to do the job remotely via phone connection from Berlin.

Replacing a structure that was under the ice, Neumayer III is revolutionary in that it is designed to stay on top of an ever-growing and ever-moving ice shield. For this purpose, the station has 16 extendable legs to stand on, which can be adjusted individually (the association of a 16-legged dog comes to mind) and collectively. As there is no precedence for such a design and a lack of data on the mechanical properties of the snow and ice it stands on, it will be exciting to see how the structure copes with the harsh reality down there. Break a leg, so to speak.

Like the research vessel and ice breaker Polarstern, currently engaged in a controversial iron fertilisation experiment (more on this next week!), Neumayer III is run by the Alfred Wegener Institute.

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