Sarens Sennebogen crawlers in Antarctica

By Alex Dahm17 October 2008

One of two 125 tonne capacity Sennebogen Star-Lifter lattice boom crawler cranes owned by Sarens at

One of two 125 tonne capacity Sennebogen Star-Lifter lattice boom crawler cranes owned by Sarens at work constructing the Neumayer III German research station in Antarctica

On 17 November 2007 everything was ready for a pair of crawler cranes to begin a long journey to one of the least hospitable parts of the world. After much preparation and planning, the Danish freighter Naja Arctica left Bremerhaven in Germany and started its journey to the Antarctic Ocean. On board was the new German Antarctic station Neumayer III. It was shipped in its component parts with all the machines and equipment required for its installation. A total of 3,500 tonnes of material were transported to one of the most unusual construction sites in the world. Included in the shipment were two Sennebogen 3300 Star-Lifter crawler cranes.

Both 125 tonne capacity cranes were leased from Belgium-based international heavy lift and transport specialist, Sarens, on a long-term contract, by the Neumayer III joint venture of Kaefer GmbH and J.H.K. Anlagenbau und Service GmbH. They are constructing and erecting the new polar station for the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

Sarens is a well-known specialist in developing solutions for the most difficult tasks. To cope with the extreme operating conditions in Antarctica, Sarens equipped both cranes with a low-temperature package.


Neumayer III is the third German research station in Antarctica. With a service life of up to 30 years, the Neumayer III is designed for long-term operation, contrary to its predecessors. While the first two stations were slowly sinking into the ice and snow, the new station will be held above the growing layers of ice and snow with the help of hydraulic supports. The design concept of the Neumayer III station is a patented development by the Alfred Wegener Institute. It combines research, operation, and living on one platform above the snow surface. If everything goes according to plan and the weather co-operates, the first researchers will move into the two-story platform in February 2009. It is 30 m high and covers 4,473 m².

The first major challenge for the 40 people in the construction team was to transport material and machines to the construction site, which is about 20 km inland. Shortly after arrival, the first construction phase was completed. Lack of time meant that one of the crawler cranes worked around the clock and the second machine was used on the day shift. Storms and low temperatures continuously pushed the team to its limits.

Three experienced Sarens employees are responsible for the smooth operation of the crawler cranes. At the time of writing in late September both cranes had operated reliably without downtime. A wide range of lifting operations were executed and both cranes met all challenges, including, containers, steel beams, and heavy materials, according to the manufacturer.

Temperatures as low as -40 degrees and wind speeds of 25 metres per second give an idea of the extreme conditions for humans and machines in Antarctica. The 900 mm wide crawler track shoes are designed to maximise stability and traction in snow and ice. Robust construction, no unnecessary over-engineering, plus good accessibility of service and maintenance points, make these machines good for such a harsh environment, according to the manufacturer.

Completion of the garage in mid-March 2008 is where the first stage of the construction ended. It was an important step in making the station winter-proof and in protecting the ongoing construction work against storms and snowdrifts. The lattice booms were removed from both cranes, the cabins were covered with wood, and all openings were sealed.

The construction team returns in November 2008 to complete the research station and members are already anxious to see what condition the construction site will be in on their return.

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