Just 40 years ago, on April 21 1976, six researchers and technicians together with a group of international colleagues celebrated the inauguration of the first German permanent Antarctic station near the Russian Nowolasarewskaja-Station in Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica. The station itself belonged to the Academy of Science of the former GDR (German Democratic Republic or East Germany), but the logistics was coordinated and organized together with the Sowjet Antarctic expeditions. The station was named “Georg Forster” after the German scientist who had accompanied James Cook and had stepped onto South Georgia soil on January 17 1775.

The first German overwintering team: Günter Stoof (standing, top), (L- R) Hans Fischer, Wolfgang Probst, Hartwig Gernandt (seated), Werner Passehl, Wolfgang Teschner. Picture: AWI
The first German overwintering team: Günter Stoof (standing, top), (L- R) Hans Fischer, Wolfgang Probst, Hartwig Gernandt (seated), Werner Passehl, Wolfgang Teschner. Picture: AWI

Among the constructors and part of the first overwintering team of the German was Dr. Hartwig Gernandt who has shaped German Antarctic research ever since: After the German reunification, he collaborated in building the research group Potsdam of the Alfred-Wegener-Institute in 1992 and lead the working group Polar Atmospheric Research. In 1997, Gernandt took over the AWI logistics in Bremerhaven. Within this position he was substantially involved in the construction of Neumayer Station III, Germany’s gateway to Antarctic research today.

Tractors pulling sledges with the materials for the first German station situated in the Schirmacher Oasis. Picture: AWI
Tractors pulling sledges with the materials for the first German station situated in the Schirmacher Oasis. Picture: AWI

The research program consisted of research projects like Southern Lights observations, geophysical measurements, meteorology, geoscientific and biological works. One of the scientific highlight was the balloon-borne ozone probing from May 1985 onwards, which lead to the discovery of the ozone hole. This program was continued throughout to 1992 at Neumayer II and later at Neumayer III Station until now. The station “Georg Forster” itself was dismantled between 1992 and 1996 after the reunification. The German state financed the extensive bilateral German-Russian project of dismantling within the boundaries of the newly developed environmental protocol of the Antarctic Treaty in 1991.

The Georg-Forster-station in the Schirmacher Oasis. This is a snow and ice free hill plateau, 25 km long and 3 km wide, with more than 100 fresh water lakes. Picture: AWI
The Georg-Forster-station in the Schirmacher Oasis. This is a snow and ice free hill plateau, 25 km long and 3 km wide, with more than 100 fresh water lakes. Picture: AWI

The last overwintering in the first German station took place in 1991/92. The location of the station, at which a commemorative plaque reminds of the Georg-Forster-station after its dismantling, was recognized as a historical site number 87 at the 36. Consultative meeting of the Antarctic Treaty members in Bruxelles in 2013.

High tech in 1976 – The radio antennas of the station. The amateur radio station of Georg-Forster-station had the call sign Yankee 88 Papa Oscar Lima. Further call signs were Y83ANT and Y90ANT. Picture: AWI
High tech in 1976 – The radio antennas of the station. The amateur radio station of Georg-Forster-station had the call sign Yankee 88 Papa Oscar Lima. Further call signs were Y83ANT and Y90ANT. Picture: AWI

Source: AWI