A stair tower on its way to Antarctica
After more than 50 years of experience in scaffolding, we have seen quite a lot. But the fact that one of our RINGSCAFF stair towers found its new temporary home in the middle of Antarctica was also completely new to us. Since the beginning of the year, the stair tower has provided access to the drilling trench of the Kohnen Station operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute in the inland ice.
750 km through snow and ice
As you can read in the first part of this report on the journey of our stair tower to one of the coldest places in the world, the departure of the research team to Kohnen Station was initially delayed due to heavy snow storms. The team had to wait a whole two additional weeks at Neumayer III Station, 750 km away from their actual destination.
Then, finally, better weather on the horizon – and off they went. Soon the convoy consisting of six vehicles, each pulling three container sledges, started moving. The nine-member crew around station manager Holger Schubert now faced a 10-day journey. And it was a tough one. The vehicles, each of which had to haul a load of 35 tonnes, got stuck, had to be pushed and dug out of the snow again several times during the mountain journey, which ultimately took them up to an altitude of almost 3,000 metres. Already on the track, snow depth measurements were carried out for scientific purposes. Snow samples and other examinations were also on the team’s agenda. Then finally: the containers of the Kohnen Station could be spotted in the distance.
After the 10-day trip through snow and ice, it was not possible to arrive comfortably for the time being. In order to wake the Kohnen station from its hibernation, the infrastructure first had to be built and everything necessary for living in Antarctica had to be set up. Scientific research and maintenance work on the trench that houses the drilling unit, as well as on the station itself, also got started quickly. Replacement of the old station generator included.
Endless expanses and a 10 m deep trench in the middle of it all
Immediately after the turn of the year - the team had been on site for about a month now - the RINGSCAFF stair tower project was tackled. As mentioned, this was to be used in the scientific centre of the station: the drilling trench.
The drilling trench was built a good 20 years ago. For this purpose, an approximately 70-metre-long trench, 5.5 metres wide and 6 metres deep at the time, was cut out of the ice. A wooden roof was built over the trench and the whole drilling equipment was put in there, always well protected from wind and weather. But wait. Wood and snow? Station manager Holger Schubert clarifies: "With humidity approaching zero, the snow doesn't affect the wood. No metal will rust in the dry Antarctic air either."
Meanwhile, the original wooden roof serves as a false ceiling for stowing provisions and equipment. Because after 10 years, a second roof had to be built over the first one due to the natural snow accumulation. This measure made it possible to preserve the trench and ensure continued access to the drill hole, which had continued to provide scientific data all these years.
Find out how the team did during the construction of the stair tower in the third and final part of this series.
Missed part 1? Just click here.
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