Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI)


Storytime with: Johann Philipp Klages

Dr. Johann Philipp Klages, sedimentologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Maritime Research (AWI)

WHY does the Alfred Wegener Institute drill holes in the Antarctic seafloor?

HERE’S WHY – We wish to find out more about the ice-sheet and climate history of the Antarctic by taking scientific core samples. Some of the drill core has opened a unique window for us to look into the climate history of this continent. We have been able to demonstrate that a rainforest existed just 900 km away from the south pole about 90 million years ago. There was a great wealth of plants during the summer temperatures of up to 20°C, however it was only able to survive the four-month-long polar night because the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back then were at least four times as high as they are today.


WHY is there a bit of the University of Bremen in this drill core?

HERE’S WHY – Many of the employees at the Alfred Wegener Institute have studied or taught at the University of Bremen. The sediment core samples studied were taken during an expedition on our icebreaker Polarstern in 2017. In close collaboration with the University of Bremen, MARUM, and our British colleagues, we used the MARUM-MeBo70 seabed drilling rig for the first time in the Antarctic. Our joint discovery has enormously improved the general understanding of global climate dynamics in extreme greenhouse climates.