Dumont d’Urville

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The Dumont d’Urville Station is located on Petrel Island, Geology Archipelago, 5 km off the continent.

General characteristics   

Ant-DumontDurville-Base-EduardoDAFORNO-2014-IPEV-62The station’s buildings cover a surface area of about 5000 m². During overwintering (March to November), the facility accommodates 20 to 30 persons shared between the general and scientific services who perform data acquisition for French laboratories involved in the polar programmes.

The facility constitutes a comprehensive scientific observatory with about 50 installations. These include living quarters: sleeping accommodation, refectory, kitchen, library and hospital; also its laboratories -biology, geophysics, meteorology; technical areas: power generating plant, workshops, garages. These installations are adapted to local conditions: temperatures varying from 0°C to -35°C, blizzard, long polar nights and winds sometimes exceeding 300 km/h.

Electricity generation (90 to 100 kWh average consumption) is currently provided by 3 Diesel generators.

Domestic water is produced by a distillation-based desalination unit using heat emanating from the power plant cooling circuits. An average of 5500 L/day are produced in summer. There are also plans for using cogeneration to feed part of the central heating system.

Waste management and disposal is an important service. This is in line with an international objective to reduce the impact of human presence on the Antarctic continent. Efforts are focused on reducing the volumes to be dealt with, also on perfecting sorting procedures and storage methods. Repatriation of waste is complicated.Ant-PrudHomme-Logistique-BrunoEtMarieCUSA-2014-IPEV-14

The Cap Prud’homme station annex, located on the plateau 5 km from Petrel Island, is geared to organizing land convoys (treks) which renew supplies for the Franco-Italian station Concordia 1100 km away in the interior of the continent.


base 56 de souza

In 1950, 110 years after Dumont d’Urville’s landing in Adelie Land, the French Polar Expeditions (EPF) set up the first base on the Antarctic coast: Port-Martin, hosting 11 overwintering personnel who made the first observations on meteorology and magnetism and accomplished many exploration treks. But in 1952 the station was completely destroyed by fire. The 3rd expedition which had just landed was then installed on Petrel Island in the Geology Archipelago. This small temporary observatory then closed in January 1953, but the buildings, called ‘Base Marret,’ are still standing.

base charcot

In 1956 Petrel Island, at the foot of the Astrolabe Glacier, was again chosen, this time to be involved in the International Geophysical Year (1957-58). The buildings constructed for this occasion, designed as a temporary 3-year station for 20 personnelacquired the name Dumont d’Urville. Part of this facility is still in use. An advanced installation, the Charcot base, was set up at the same time 300 km from the coast and at 2400 m altitude not far from the South Magnetic Pole, 3 scientists overwintered for 2 years.

base 56 (web)

Dumont d’Urville’s first buildings were made of steel with thermal insulation using a sandwich of fireproofed plywood and Klegecell PVC foam. The main base was encircled with 11 small wooden shelters for different scientific uses and a garage for maintenance of Weasel and Snowcat type tracked vehicles. For the summer campaigns, the EPF expeditions had the use of an army helicopter.

The Dumont d’Urville Station was ideally situated for studying the magnetic and solar events of the upper atmosphere. It obtained quite remarkable results during the IGY. Treks were organized from Dumont d’Urville onto the Icesheet, the continental glacier. A mass of glaciological and meteorological data was obtained and seismic and gravimetric profiles made. The ice thickness was assessed using these findings.

In 1959, the French government decided to maintain Dumont d’Urville as a permanent station and continue the research. This decision implied the station’s reconstruction and then its extension over the summers that followed. The station has been continually occupied ever since.

Geophysical observatories

The Strasbourg Institut de Physique du Globe is responsible for the magnetic observatory and permanent seismological observatory installed at Dumont d’Urville. The magnetic observatory, opened in 1957 for the International Geophysical Year, is a link in the global network of digital observatories INTERMAGNET, supplying practically real-time data by way of telecommunication satellites. The observation programme comprises absolute measurement of components of the Earth’s magnetic field, the continuous recording of temporal variations, calculation of geomagnetic activity indices and the determination of the secular variation. Geomagnetic field measurements help describe the field’s trace and allow updates of geomagnetic potential models. Mapping of the principal field and the changes it undergoes with time (secular variation) are the major sources of information on dynamics at work in the core and its interaction with the mantle.

The seismological station at Dumont d’Urville is an element in GEOSCOPE, the international seismic monitoring network INSU has been developing since 1982. This network captures and localizes ground movements over the entire globe, to determine the rupture mechanisms of the faults that cause them. In so doing it yields a 3-dimensional image of the Earth’s interior. The GEOSCOPE network is integrated into the international system of tsunami risk surveillance in the Indian Ocean.

Observatory of Stratosphere Chemistry-Climate Interactions                   

The Observatory of the Stratosphere and Climate Interactions at Dumont d’Urville is the primary Antarctic station in the international network NDACC (Network for Detection of Atmospheric Composition Changes), coupled up with the American McMurdo station. It operates under the auspices of the Institute Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL) of Global Environmental Sciences, as part of the NDACC-France Observation Service (INSU observation service). A permanent observatory, installed in 1988 following the discovery of the depletion in stratospheric ozone over the Antarctic, it is geared to research into the processes at work.

These objectives have rapidly increased in scope, under a long-term monitoring programme, to investigating variability in the stratosphere, detection of anthropogenic changes and interactions between stratospheric chemistry and climate.

The observatory is currently equipped with the following instrument array:

– A Lidar (Light Detection And Ranging) station (installed in 1989) comprising,

  • a Lidar Rayleigh/Raman system for profiling particles (aerosols and Polar Stratospheric Clouds) and stratospheric temperatures;
  • a DIAL (Differential absorption Lidar) for determining ozone profiles.

– Ozone-monitoring balloon probes, used to supplement the Lidar systems in summer.

– A UV-Visible SAOZ spectrometer to measure the total vertical ozone and nitrogen dioxide profiles.

– A broad-band UVB detector.

In addition to the instrumentation installed at Dumont d’Urville, part of the observatory is deployed on Kerguelen (SAOZ and ozone probes) and Concordia (SAOZ, UVB and ozone probes).


Tide Gauge for the ROSAME network

The network is developed by LEGOS, (Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales). It consists of an automatic tide station which switches on every half-hour and transmits real-time measurements: atmospheric pressure, air temperature, ocean-floor pressure and water temperature by satellite through the Argos system.
ROSAME network

ROV: underwater remote control vehicle

An underwater ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) is used for certain scientific projects, especially in oceanography or marine biology. It is employed to study the deep-sea floor along the coasts of Adelie Land where access is very difficult for divers. It can currently reach a depth of 210 m.

The ROV system is made possible by a trilateral agreement between the Finistère Département Council (owner of the ROV), Océanopolis in Brest which supplies the high-definition video system and the related processing and the French polar institute whose Telecommunications, Instrumentation and IT Department is charged with maintenance, mechanical and electronic modifications and the vehicle’s piloting.

The ROV is equipped with a laser pointer, a high-definition camera and its lighting system, a robotic arm for collecting samples.

For further information:

See videos filmed by the ROV

ROV-produced film of the sea-floor opposite Dumont d’Urville. For 2 years, the ROV has been used at the Dumont d’Urville Station in the austral summer for research programmes ICOTA and EPONTA

Meterological equipment

For any information on Météo France equipment and facilities and how they operate, see Météo-France web site.

Life on Dumont d’Urville

In winter the research station is cut off from the world by hundreds of kilometres of pack ice, and only accessible when the Southern summer arrives. Each year the icebreaker Astrolabe makes 4 voyages between port of departure Hobart and Dumont d’Urville to relieve personnel teams and deliver supplies. A 2700 km crossing between Australia and Adelie Land which takes 5 to 6 days.

The first service (Rotation 0) used to set off at the beginning of November but ice conditions prevented the vessel from reaching the station. At the time a helicopter took over, flying from Astrolabe to carry supplies and personnel over the ice pack several tens of kilometres from the coast. But some years ago, with the pack ice more often remaining extremely compact, Rotation 0 was cancelled and replaced by an air freight service.

As soon as they arrive, the French polar institute technicians get down to preparing the first land convoy for Concordia, planned for around mid-November. On the subsequent services (R1-R4), Astrolabe can usually berth at Dumont d’Urville and the heavy freight unloaded by the standard methods.

In the Antarctic summer, about 80 persons can stay at Dumont d’Urville. An atmosphere of intense activity reigns, involving unloading Astrolabe, preparation of land convoys, a range of technical work on the various facilities and fluid systems and also scientific projects.

During overwintering, from March to November, the station accommodates about 30 Ant-DumontDUrville-Equipe-EduardoDAFORNO-2014-IPEV (15)personnel, spread between the general and scientific services which focus on data acquisition for the French laboratories involved in the polar programmes.
For further information:


66°40’S – 140°01’E
20 m d’altitude
1er hivernage en 1952
25 à 35 hivernants et jusqu’à 100 personnes en été