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3 February 2017

British Antarctic Survey Announce Successful Relocation of Halley VI Research Station

The Halley VI Research Station in place at the new site, alongside temporary summer camp & winter science camp (BAS)
We reported back in December that, due to the expansion of a massive chasm resulting in a weakening of the Brunt Ice Shelf, the UK’s Halley VI Antarctic Research Station would be relocated 23km further inland. On February 2nd 2017, BAS announced that the relocation project had been successful, with all 8 of the research station’s modules now in place at the new site.

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of BAS, said of the relocation project, “The relocation is a terrific achievement for our operational teams.  Everyone who has worked so hard is absolutely buoyant about the success of the move. They talk about the great collegiality, what a great team they made, and how much they will miss working together. They are very proud of what they achieved – and I am proud of them all.”

The 13-week-long operation was made easier by the station’s modular design, which was created from the beginning with relocation in mind. This allows the station to be easily broken down and dragged along the ice by tractor to its new location. Now in place, the station sits ready for re-occupation at the end of the Antarctic winter in November 2017.

An image showing the sequence of the module relocation   - Img source: Adam Bradley/BAS
The steadily growing crack in the Brunt Ice Shelf is largely the reason as to why BAS made the decision to shut down station operations over the winter as, although there is no immediate threat to the safety of workers, the unpredictability of both the weakening ice shelf and the weather of the Antarctic winter makes access difficult. Following the running of computer models and the creation of bathymetric maps in an effort to predict future changes to the ice shelf, glaciologists have concluded that they are “unable to predict with certainty what will happen to the ice shelf during the forthcoming Antarctic winter and beyond.” As such, the precautionary measure was taken to close the station over winter, lest staff be stranded in an emergency.

BAS science and operational teams have made efforts to minimise disruption during the time of the closure. Some of the scientific instruments and equipment have been ‘winterised’ at the new site, whilst others are being brought back to the UK. Meteorological and ozone equipment, vital to the specific areas of research for which the Halley VI Station is famed, will be readied at temporary facilities so that standard operations can resume as early as possible when the station reopens at the beginning of the next Antarctic summer.

You can watch the relocation of the station’s living module, nicknamed ‘Big Red’, in the video below:

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.