40 years Alfred Wegener Institute | Polarjournal
Night shot of the main building of the Allfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven. (Photo: Wolfgang Cohrs)

On July 15, 2020, the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), will celebrate its 40th anniversary. With its innovative science and excellent research infrastructure, the AWI has developed into one of the world’s leading and internationally recognized centres for climate research in both polar regions and the high seas.

View of the “Neumayer Station III” in Antarctica. (Photo: Esther Horvath)

The AWI was founded on July 15, 1980 as a foundation under public law “Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research”. The background to this was the geostrategic decision of the Federal Republic of Germany to sign the International Antarctic Treaty of 1959 in 1979. Two years later, it obtained the necessary consultative status in the Community of Antarctic States. This was conditional on permanent, year-round research activities in Antarctica, so that further milestones of the institute followed. On 3 March 1981, the “Georg von Neumayer Station” was inaugurated in Antarctica. Only one year later, the research icebreaker “Polarstern” was put into service.

In February 1982, the “Polarstern” is ready for construction and is transferred to Rendsburg for equipment. (Photo: Klaus von Bröckel)

Expanding the range of research

In 1986, the AWI merged with the Institute for Marine Research in Bremerhaven, expanded its work priorities with additional research in other marine areas and changed its name to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. In 1992, the field office in Potsdam integrated polar research in the former GDR, which gave the AWI, among other things, competences in terrestrial polar research. In 1998, the Helgoland Biological Institute (BAH) and the Wadden Sea station Sylt were incorporated into the foundation. Their many years of know-how in coastal research complement the research profile of the AWI excellently. In 2017, the Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity (HIFMB) expanded the research institute as the newest location in Oldenburg to date.

The old “Georg-von-Neumayer Station” was inaugurated on March 3, 1981. The first AWI Antarctic Station was built under the ice. (Photo: Eberhard Kohlberg)

“The Alfred Wegener Institute can look back on a very successful development. We are working hard to ensure that the Institute will continue to be exemplary in science and infrastructure in the coming years. This is because AWI research provides essential information and insights for civil society, to which we are deeply committed,” says AWI Managing Director Dr. Karsten Wurr.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal via press release AWI

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