Ice chasm forces relocation of Antarctic research station
The Halley VI Research Station provides crucial scientific data from its base on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antartica. However, a growing crack in the ice threatens to cut Halley VI off from the rest of the ice shelf, so it must be moved to a new location in some of the most extreme conditions on earth.
The Halley VI is active year-round and produces information on space weather events, atmospheric phenomena, and climate change. It's home to 70 staff during the summer season and around 16 over winter, including a chef, doctor, mechanic, an electrician, and several electronic engineers.
The floating Brunt Ice Shelf it's located upon is 130 m (426 ft)-thick and is carefully monitored at all times. Cracks are a regular occurrence, usually appearing in summer and re-freezing during winter. However, this particular crack is an old one that was dormant for roughly 35 years and has opened up again and continued to grow into a chasm.
We asked a British Antarctic Survey representative whether or not the crack is due to climate change and were told that the cause is deemed natural.
Preparatory work for the relocation was carried out between November 2015 and March 2016 and the big move will begin soon.
First, the Halley VI's eight station modules which make up the research station will be uncoupled from each other, then it will be towed by specialist bulldozers to a new site 23 km (14.3 miles) away. The research center was always intended to be movable and sits on hydraulic skis for this reason, though this will be the first change of location since becoming operational in 2013.
As the chasm is slow-moving and not deemed particularly threatening just yet, scientific research will continue in a temporary facility at the existing site and then move to the new location once all is up and running. The move is expected to be completed by April 6, 2018.