Shortly after Christmas, a long journey begins for two scientists of our institute to a place, where the sun always shines. At South Pole, the Sun rises in September and sets in March. However, atop Earth's largest ice mass, the temperature is nothing but comfortable (today's forecast is -32°C). The first activity after arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand is therefore the outfitting with clothes suitable for extreme weather. This includes thermo undergarments, a mid layer of thick fleece, an outer layer of wind-proof and lined trousers, and parka that you can't buy in a shop. The outfit is completed by shoes, gloves, mittens and, of course, sun glasses.
The Office of Polar Programs of the National Science Foundation of the United States of America supports its Antarctic facilities from the airport in Christchurch, New Zealand. Equipped with skis for landing on the ice, the military aircraft bring people as well as cargo first to the largest Antarctic station, McMurdo. Because no alternative airports can be reached in the case of severe weather, it sometimes can take days before a scheduled flight can actually take off, and it is also not uncommon for them to turn back midway because the weather at the destination has deteriorated. Security is a top priority.
On January 7th, Christopher Geach and Bernd Kaifler arrive at the South Pole and move into their rooms at the Amundsen-Scott Station. After several Covid-19 tests back in Germany and New Zealand, they are still in precautionary quarantine for five days. This ensures that no Covid-19 can enter a station whose crew will be isolated from the outside world during winter. A comprehensive health check including a number of blood tests and vaccinations, but also, for example, X-rays of the teeth, are mandatory for all people travelling to Antarctica.
Fig. 2: Arrival at the American Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (Photo: DLR / Bernd Kaifler, CC-BY-ND-NC 3.0).
Boxes with the numerous parts for the Rayleigh lidar had been carefully packed long in advance. They include a sensitive large mirror, a carefully aligned laser, as well as electronics and tools. The boxes were already shipped to California in autumn by plane, from there on to New Zealand by ship, and finally took the known route to South Pole. They are now waiting to be unpacked. In the next two weeks, the instrument will be assembled and installed in a laboratory at the station. It will take measurements of density and temperature in the atmosphere up to 100 km altitude during winter, when its green laser beam will be clearly visible above the station. The instrument will be controlled from our offices in the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Oberpfaffenhofen.
Fig. 3:Bernd Kaifler in front of the flags marking the geographic South Pole close to the Amundsen-Scott Station (Photo: DLR / Christopher Geach, CC-BY-ND-NC 3.0).