Although the Institute has various research stations in the north and south, Neumayer-III, also known for its amateur radio studies, has a different place for amateur radio operators. Known by the call sign “DP0GVN“, the station has been active since 1982.
Neumayer Station-III, located on an ice shelf, is also a futuristic research station in terms of structure.
Since meteorological conditions are prioritized, the facility, which stands on 16 hydraulic poles that adjust according to the growing snow cover, is almost a gigantic machine. Neumayer Station-III has a snowmelt system, a collapsible ramp-like landing craft, and lower storage areas and can accommodate approximately 40 people.
NEUMAYER-III Key Features
- Weight: Approx. 2,300 tons
- Platform Dimensions: 68 x 24 meters
- Indoor Area: 4,890 m2 on four floors (minimum size of approximately a football field)
- Heated Areas: 2,118 m2 on three floors
- Containers: ca. one hundred
- Accommodation: 15 rooms, 40 beds
- Laboratories and offices: 12 rooms
- Power source: 3 diesel generators (450 kW) / 1 wind turbine (30 kW)
- Total steel quantity: 1,400 t
- Number of screws: 16,000 (13 t)
- Bearing steel elements: 1,170 t | The steel construction consists of 128,000 individual parts.
- Coating: 573 elements
- Windows: 55
- Electric cables: 42.000 m
- Ventilation channels: 1.200 m
- Heating pipes: 1,500 m
- Hydraulic pipes: 800 m
- Water/waste water pipes: 1,300 m
After this preliminary information, now without wasting time, we start to satisfy readers’ curiosity by answering some questions from our readers. We have grouped the questions for convenience.
Amateur Radio Works and Communications
Question: The hardware in the amateur radio station in the Neumayer-III Research facility is one of the most curious subjects. First of all, can you explain the reasons for the existence of an amateur radio station in a scientific research facility?
We have a shortwave transceiver at the station as part of our communication equipment. Its main purpose is communication with other nearby Antarctic stations. So as a radio amateur, you can also use it for amateur radio in your free time.
Question: What kind of amateur radio devices are deployed in the amateur station, and what antennas are used with these devices? How do the extreme cold climate, snow, and ice affect the performance of your antennas?
- Shortwave transceiver with a wideband dipole, not exclusive for amateur radio usage,
- QO-100 Base station, also capable of DATV transmissions,
- WSPR beacon and receiver.
There is no problem with ice, as it normally gets blown away very quickly.
Question: Based on your geography and location, you are within the coverage area of the Es’hail 2/QO-100 satellite with a viewing angle of 5-10 degrees. Can you tell us about the work done with this satellite?
The main usage for the QO-100 station is school contacts. The pupils can prepare questions during the lesson and ask them via QO-100.
Question: In which bands do you communicate at your station in Antarctica? Are SSB or digital modes more advantageous for you in amateur radio activities?
My main amateur radio activities during the overwintering were digital modes on shortwave and SSB via QO-100.
Question: Could you share the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network (WSPR) study and its purpose in the air chemistry laboratory SpuSo?
The WSPR beacon is a long-term project conducted by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Hochschule Bremen City University of Applied Sciences (HSB) in cooperation with the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI) and the German Amateur Radio Club (DARC). The project is meant to run several years to gain long-term data on radio propagation.
The WSPR transmitter is placed on the station, and the receiver is placed at the observatory for atmospheric chemistry, to have 1,5 km. distance between them.
Question: Do you have any problems communicating with the satellite phone in the Antarctic region?
Our main communication runs via a geostationary satellite link. Additionally, we are using satellite phones as backup communication without problems.
Question: With which system can you benefit from the Internet service? How do narrow band and speed usage affect your work? How do you interact with your families?
For internet and telephone communication, we are using a connection via a geostationary satellite. The connection is used for transferring science dater and also for communicating with our families.
Question: Does the facility have its own intranet system?
Yes, we are running a local network, which also includes some servers for storing and processing science data.
Question: Are there 4G and 5G mobile phone networks and local radios in Antarctica?
We have no mobile phone networks here at the station.
Question: What is your station’s amateur radio call sign, and what are the most remote and exciting places you can be contacted so far?
Callsing of the station is DP0GVN. One exciting contact was the DXpedition to Svalbard in April, with them I did the farthest north-south QSO, which has been done via QO-100. I was also happy about my QSO with TC100QO, when QO-100 operation was allowed in Türkiye for one day.
Question: Can you use amateur radio systems on the International Space Station (ISS)? Have you tried to communicate with the ISS or other amateur radio satellites?
The ISS is equipped with some amateur radio communication, but I have not tried any QSOs with the ISS.
Question: Why are most research stations close to the continent’s coastline?
An interesting part of antarctic stations is to cover areas that aren’t covered by other stations. So it makes no sense to have ten research stations at the south pole. Additionally, the supply at the coastline can easily be handled by ship.
Question: How can you benefit from health services? Can you introduce your health facility with telemedical features?
The station has a hospital the size of five shipping containers, which includes an operating room and the doctor’s office. In addition to the year-round stationed medical, we can get support from Germany via telemedicine.
Question: How long does the staff at the research center change? Is there a cycle like the ISS astronaut exchange for base officers?
That depends on your work and your position. In the summer season (November till February), the scientists normally spend some weeks here at the station for their projects.
The overwintering crew spends 13 to 14 months here at the station to keep the station alive and to have a look at the long-term observatories
Question: What is the most complicated aspect of living in Antarctica, and how long does the departing crew stay?
Mostly the low temperatures make things challenging, for example, maintenance work outside when parts are covered by ice or handling small screws with thick gloves.
Question: How long can you stay outdoors in suitable clothes? Are there any special hours that do not go out or are prohibited?
With suitable clothes and some food, staying outside the whole day is no problem. Only when there is a strong storm you want to avoid going out.
Question: What happens to abandoned research stations?
Abandoned stations, like the station’s predecessor, “Neumayer Station-II”, will be dismantled.
Question: From which sources do you provide your electricity generation?
Energy for the station is provided by diesel generators and a wind turbine. Most remote observatories use a combination of wind and solar power.
Question: Are Antarctica’s environmental conditions suitable for using renewable energy technologies?
It is possible to use renewable energy in Antarctica. Still, you have to verify that the hardware is capable of this harsh environment and that returning maintenance can be done by engineers at the station.
Question: What are the primary scientific researches? Is the main criterion for selecting this region for research, is its extreme environment?
There are long-term observations for atmospheric chemistry, meteorology, and geophysics located at Neumayer Station-III, which are running all year long. I think the most important benefits of this location are the distance to civilization (e.g., for atmospheric measurements) and the fact that you want to get measurements from all continents, e.g., for climate studies.
Question: We generally hear about scientific research on geology and climate. Are there ongoing observational studies in different disciplines, such as astronomy and space?
Additionally, there are many different studies each summer season, e.g., a project named “Seals and cryobenthos at the Ekström ice-shelf,” where colleagues try to look underneath the floating ice-shelf tongue using seal-bourne infrared cameras and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Question: Finally, which do you think is more difficult: Living in a desert station in Africa or the poles?
I think both places have different challenges for living there all year long.
Question: How are human wastes evaluated? How are the remaining solid wastes disposed of?
Waste gets sorted, compressed, and stored in a shipping container so we can send it back for disposal.
Question: How does the compass behave in Antarctica?
Generally, the compass is also working in Antarctica. But you must consider the difference between the magnetic and the geographical pole. For our area, there is a difference of 14°.
Question: How is the storage of vegetables and fruits or other foods?
There is one big supply via ship once a year, which includes spare parts, food, and so on. There are different stockrooms for the food supply, down to -25°C, so that it keeps fresh over a long period.
Question: How does it feel to have the nearest supermarket 3,300 kilometers away?
You don’t miss the supermarket here, because you have everything you need.
Question: Do animals come near the station?
During winter, you don’t see animals near the station, but in the summer season, you have birds flying around the station and sometimes also penguins passing by.
We believe that communication, which started with an amateur satellite communication, will take shape much better in the future. We know you are working in challenging conditions for humanity and science, and we touched on that in this interview.
Even though you cannot see anyone outside when you look out the window in a snowstorm or cold winter night, we want you to remember that there are friends out there somewhere whose heart is with you.
On behalf of MoEP and our readers, for your courtesy of communication, the time you spend with us and the information you share, and their support on behalf of amateur science, we would like to thank and send our greetings and best wishes from TÜRKİYE to;
- Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Studies,
- To the Neumayer Station-III crew and scientists,
- To the AMSAT-DL association,
- Station operators.