Aerosol samples have been collected at three stations on the coast of Antarctica. At Dumont d’Urville Station, samples have been collected for 4 years, at Halley Station for 2 years, and at Neumayer Station for 12 years. Fresh snow samples have also been collected at the three sites. At Halley, daily surface snow samples were taken, as well as firn cores covering the sampling period. Meteorological (including upper air) data are available at the three sites. In the subsequent papers of this special section, the data from the three stations have been combined in order to make general statements about the chemistry of aerosol in coastal Antarctica, about the differences between sectors of Antarctica, and about the relationship between air concentrations and the chemistry that is eventually seen in ice cores. This paper summarizes the samples collected and the sampling methods used at the three sites. It also highlights the main role of each paper in this special section.