Halley Research Station
Halley Research Station is a research facility in Antarctica on the Brunt Ice Shelf operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The base was established in 1956 to study the Earth's atmosphere. Measurements from Halley led to the discovery of the ozone hole in 1985. The current base is the sixth in a line of designs to overcome the challenge of building structures on a floating ice shelf without them getting buried and crushed by snow. As of 2020[update], the base has been left unmanned through winter since 2017, because of concerns over the propagation of an ice crack and how this might cut off the evacuation route in an emergency.
|Halley Research Station|
Halley VI Station
|Location||Brunt Ice Shelf|
|Elevation||30 metres (98 ft)|
|Named for||Edmond Halley|
|Construction started||15 January 1956 (Halley I)|
|Opened||5 February 2013 (Halley VI)|
|Owner||British Antarctic Survey (BAS)|
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
|Floor area||2,000 m2 (22,000 sq ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Architecture firm||Hugh Broughton Architects|
|Developer||British Antarctic Survey (BAS)|
|Main contractor||Galliford Try|
|Halley VI @ bas.ac.uk|
Halley Research Station
|Location||Halley Research Station|
Brunt Ice Shelf
|Halley Research Stations|
Halley Bay base was founded in 1956, for the International Geophysical Year of 1957–1958, by an expedition from the Royal Society. The bay where the expedition decided to set up their base was named after the astronomer Edmond Halley. Taken over by FIDS (subsequently BAS), it was designated as Base Z. The name was changed to Halley in 1977 as the original bay had disappeared because of changes in the ice shelf.
In 2002, BAS realised that a calving event was possible which could destroy Halley V, so a competition was undertaken to design a replacement station. The current base, Halley VI officially opened in February 2013 after a test winter. It is the world's first fully relocatable terrestrial research station, and is distinguishable by its colourful modular structure built upon huge hydraulic skis. The station is depicted at the conclusion of Where'd You Go, Bernadette (film).
On 30 July 2014, the station lost its electrical and heating supply for 19 hours. During the power cut, there were record low temperatures. Power was partially restored, but all science activities, apart from meteorological observations essential for weather forecasting, were suspended. Plans were made to evacuate some of the eight modules and to shelter in the remaining few that still had heat.[better source needed]
As with the German Neumayer-Station III, the base floats on an ice shelf in the Weddell Sea rather than being built on solid land of the continent of Antarctica. This ice shelf is slowly moving towards the open ocean and, if not relocated, each base would eventually calve off into a drifting iceberg.
There have been five previous bases at Halley. Various construction methods have been tried, from unprotected wooden huts to buildings within steel tunnels. The first four all became buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable. The more recent structures have been designed to remain on the snow surface.
- Built: 1956
- Abandoned: 1968
- Structure: Timber hut
- Built: 1967
- Abandoned: 1973
- Structure: A series of wooden huts
- Built: 1973
- Abandoned: 1983
- Structure: Built inside Armco steel tubing designed to take the snow loadings building up over it
- Built: 1983
- Abandoned: 1994
- Two-storey buildings constructed inside four interconnected plywood tubes with access shafts to the surface. The tubes were 9 metres in diameter and consisted of insulated reinforced panels designed to withstand the pressures of being buried in snow and ice.
- Designed to cope with being buried in snow.
- Built: completed 1990, operational 1989
- Demolished: late 2012
- Main buildings were built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep them above the snow surface.
- Stilts were fixed on the flowing ice shelf so it eventually became too close to the calving edge.
- Lawes platform: Main platform
- Drewry summer accommodation: Two-storey building was on skis and could be dragged to a new higher location each year.
- The Drewry block was later moved to join the Halley VI base
- Simpson Building (Ice and Climate Building) (ICB): On stilts and was raised each year to counteract the buildup of snow
- It housed the Dobson spectrophotometer used to discover the ozone hole.
- Piggott platform (Space Science Building): Used for upper atmosphere research.
- Built: Over four summers, first operational data 28 February 2012, officially opened 2013.
- Structure: Modular
- Cost: Approximately £26 million
Halley VI is a string of eight modules which, like Halley V, are jacked up on hydraulic legs to keep it above the accumulation of snow. Unlike Halley V, there are retractable giant skis on the bottom of these legs, which allow the building to be relocated periodically.
The Drewry summer accommodation building and the garage from Halley V were dragged to the Halley VI location and continue to be used. The Workshop and Storage Platform (WASP) provides storage for field equipment and a workshop for technical services. There are six external science cabooses which house scientific equipment for each experiment spread across the site and the Clean Air Sector Laboratory (CASLab) 1 km from the station.
An architectural design competition was launched by RIBA Competitions and the British Antarctic Survey in June 2004 to provide a new design for Halley VI. The competition was entered by a number of architectural and engineering firms. The winning design, by Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects was chosen in July 2005.
Halley VI was built in Cape Town, South Africa by a South African consortium. A total of 26 modular accommodation pods were added in total, installed in eight modules, which provides fully serviced accommodation for 32 people. The first sections were shipped to Antarctica in December 2007. It was assembled next to Halley V, then dragged one-by-one 15 km and reconnected.
Halley VI Station was officially opened in Antarctica on 5 February 2013. Kirk Watson, a filmmaker from Scotland, recorded the building of the station over a four-year period for a short film. A description of the engineering challenges and the creation of the consortium was provided by Adam Rutherford to coincide with an exhibition in Glasgow.
A focus of the new architecture was the desire to improve the living conditions of the scientists and staff on the station. Solutions included consulting a colour psychologist to create a special colour palette to offset the more than 100 days of darkness each year, daylight simulation lamp alarm clocks to address biorhythm issues, the use of special wood veneers to imbue the scent of nature and address the lack of green growth, as well as lighting design and space planning to address social interaction needs and issues of living and working in isolation.
The British Antarctic Survey announced that it intended to move Halley VI to a new site in summer 2016-2017. A large crack had been propagating through the ice and threatened to cut the station off from the main body of the ice shelf, prompting the decision to move. This shifted the station 23 kilometres (14 mi) from its previous site, the first and as of 2020[update] only time the station has been moved since it became operational in 2012. Horizon, the long-running BBC documentary series, sent film-maker Natalie Hewit to Antarctica for three months to document the move. BAS completed the relocation of the base in February 2017.
Whilst the station was being relocated, concerns over another crack (dubbed the "Halloween Crack") emerged. This crack had been discovered on 31 October 2016, and now the BAS realized that it too could cut off the station, and possibly make it drift out to sea. Since evacuating the crew is all but impossible during winter, the BAS announced in March 2017 it would withdraw its staff from the base during March through October. Staff returned after the Antarctic winter in November 2017 and found the station in very good shape. As of 2020[update] the staff has been removed every winter since.
|Climate data for Halley Research Station (extremes 1956–present)|
|Record high °C (°F)||7.2
|Average high °C (°F)||−2.0
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−4.8
|Average low °C (°F)||−6.5
|Record low °C (°F)||−22.9
|Average relative humidity (%)||82||79||79||78||77||77||70||72||72||76||80||82||77|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||251.1||194.9||117.8||45.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||24.8||87.0||204.6||255.0||244.9||1,425.1|
|Mean daily sunshine hours||8.1||6.9||3.8||1.5||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.8||2.9||6.6||8.5||7.9||3.9|
|Source 1: Deutscher Wetterdienst|
|Source 2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)|
Winds are predominantly from the east; strong winds often picking up the dusty surface snow reducing visibility to a few metres.
One of the reasons for the location of Halley is that it is under the auroral oval, making it ideally located for geospace research and resulting in frequent displays of the Aurora Australis overhead. These are easiest to see during the 105 days (29 Apr - 13 Aug) when the Sun does not rise above the horizon.
In the peak summer period, from late December to late February, staff numbers count about 70.
In a typical winter the team is isolated from when the last aircraft leaves in early March until the first plane arrives in late October.
Before BAS shut down winter operations, there were around 13 overwintering staff. Most are the technical specialists required to keep the station and the scientific experiments running. The 2016 wintering team at Halley included a chef, a doctor, a communications manager, a vehicle mechanic, a generator mechanic, an electrician, a plumber, a field assistant, two electronics engineers, a meteorologist and a data manager. In addition there is a winter station leader who is sworn in as a magistrate prior to deployment and whose main role is to oversee the day-to-day management of the station.
Life in Antarctica is dominated by the seasons, with a short, hectic summer and a long winter. In bases such as Halley that are resupplied by sea, the most significant event of the year is the arrival of the resupply ship (planned RRS Sir David Attenborough, until 2019 RRS Ernest Shackleton, before 1999, RRS Bransfield) in late December. This is followed by intense activity to unload all supplies before the ship has to leave again; typically, this is done in less than two weeks.
The Halley summer season runs from as early as mid-October when the first plane lands, until early March when the ship has left and the last aircraft leaves transiting through Halley and on to Rothera Research Station before heading to South America.
Significant dates in the winter are sundown (last day when the Sun can be seen) on April 29, midwinter on June 21 and sunrise (first day when the Sun rises after winter) on August 13. Traditionally, the oldest person on base lowers the tattered flag on sundown and the youngest raises a new one on sunrise. Midwinter is a week-long holiday, during which a member of the wintering team is chosen to keep the old flag.
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