Antarctic research base can ski across ice

Britain’s newest Antarctic Research Station, set to become fully operational this month, should last longer than its predecessors thanks to the abiity to slide across the ice to safety when required.

The Halley VI Research Station is the sixth to be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf. Most of these earlier stations ended up crushed by the snow.

Its predecessor, the 20-year-old Halley V facility, lasted longer thanks to the ability to lift itself above the snow on extendable legs, but has now been abandoned due to fears that it would be lost were the ice sheet to split apart.

“The new Halley Research Station is a triumph of British design, innovation and engineering. The UK’s world-class polar science community now has a unique, cutting edge suite of laboratories on the ice,” says UK Minister for universities and science, David Willett.

“The legacy of Captain Scott, together ith our strong track record of scientific discovery in Antarctica, is set to continue in this excellent new facility.”

The £25.8 million station was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and engineers AECOM, and consists of a set of modules on legs, linked by enclosed tunnels.

When the modules are disconnected, it can be towed inland on hydraulic skis as required to avoid being stranded on an iceberg as the floating ice shelf moves towards the sea.

Construction was carried out during four Antarctic summers – each build season lasting just nine weeks.

“Halley VI is the latest NERC-supported Antarctic research station that demonstrates NERC’s long-term commitment to Antarctica,” says Professor Duncan Wingham, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council. “We look forward to the excellent science that is made possible by Halley’s unique location on the Earth’s largest ice cap.”