Halley Research Station

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Halley V, Winter 1999
A balloon from NASA's BARREL program begins to rise over the brand new Halley VI Research Station, which had its grand opening in February 2013

Halley Research Station, run by the British Antarctic Survey, is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf floating on the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. It is a British research facility[1] dedicated to the study of the Earth's atmosphere. Measurements from Halley led to the discovery of the ozone hole in 1985.[2]

History[edit]

Halley was founded in 1956, for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, by an expedition from the Royal Society. The bay where the expedition decided to set up their base was named Halley Bay, after the astronomer Edmond Halley. The name was changed to Halley in 1977 as the original bay had disappeared due to changes in the ice shelf. The latest station, Halley VI, was officially opened in February 2013 after a test winter.[citation needed]

The buildings[edit]

There have been five previous bases at Halley. Various construction methods have been tried, from unprotected wooden huts to steel tunnels. The first four were all buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable.[3]

Halley I[edit]

Timber hut. Built 1956.[4] Abandoned 1968.

Office block on surface built in 1964, main living hut built in 1961

Halley II[edit]

1967-1973 In 1967 Halley II was built as a number of wooden huts.[5] The roofs were reinforced with steel supports to help support the weight of the snow but the station still had to be abandoned in 1973, after just seven years.[3]

Halley III[edit]

Built in 1973 inside Armco steel tubing designed to take the snow loadings building up over it. In 10 years the base was buried 12–15 metres below the surface and access and ventilation problems led to its abandonment.[6] Years later it emerged from the ice cliff at the sea.[3]

Halley IV[edit]

Built by 1983 - designed to cope with being buried in snow. 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.[7] It was engulfed and abandoned 1994.

Halley V[edit]

Operational 1989. Halley V had the main buildings built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep them above the snow surface. The stilts were fixed on the flowing ice shelf so it eventually got too close to the calving edge.[2]

The main platform was the Lawes platform.

The Drewry summer accommodation 2-storey building was on skis and could be dragged to a new higher location each year.[8] (The Drewry block was later moved to join the Halley VI base)

The Simpson Building (Ice and Climate Building) (ICB) is on stilts[9] and is raised each year to counteract the buildup of snow. It houses the Dobson spectrophotometer used to discover the ozone hole.

The Piggott platform (Space Science Building) is used for upper atmosphere research.[10]

Once Halley VI was operational, Halley V was demolished in late 2012.[11]

Halley VI[edit]

It is a structure which, like Halley V, is jacked up on legs to keep it above the accumulation of snow. Unlike Halley V, there are skis on the bottom of these legs which allows the building to be relocated periodically.

It is a string of 8 modules, each on stilts with skis.[12] It was operational from 28th Feb 2012.[13][14]

The Drewry summer accommodation building and the garage from Halley V were dragged to the Halley VI location and continue to be used.

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.[15][16] Servaccomm supplied modular accommodation pods for the new station through Galliford Try International.[17] The contract was for the manufacture of 26 pods in total, installed in eight modules,[18] 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,[19] then dragged one-by-one 15 km and reconnected.[20]

Halley VI Station was officially opened in Antarctica on 5 February 2013. Kirk Watson a filmmaker from Scotland recorded the building of this space age station over a 4-year period. A trailer to show you some more info can be seen at the links below.

Environment[edit]

Temperatures at Halley rarely rise above 0°C although temperatures around -10°C are common on sunny summer days. Typical winter temperatures are below -20°C with extreme lows of around -55°C.[2]

Aurora Australis over Halley 5, Winter 1998

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, 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.

Inhabitants[edit]

During the winter months there are usually around 14 overwintering staff. In a typical winter the team is isolated from when the last ship leaves in late February until the first plane arrives in early November. In the peak summer period, from late December to late February, staff numbers increase to around 70.

Often, none of the wintering team are scientists. Most are the technical specialists required to keep the station and the scientific experiments running. The current (2012) wintering team at Halley includes a chef, a doctor, a communications manager, a vehicle mechanic, an electrician, a plumber, a field assistant, two electronics engineers, two meteorologists and a data manager. In addition there is a Winter Base Commander who is sworn in as a magistrate prior to deployment. Their main role is to oversee the day-to-day management of the station.

1996 saw the first female winterers at Halley. There have been at least two women wintering every year until 2009.[21]

Base life[edit]

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 (currently the RRS Ernest Shackleton, before 1999 the 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 2 weeks.

The Halley summer season runs from early November when the first plane lands, until late February when the last ship leaves.

Significant dates in the winter are sun-down (last day when the sun can be seen) on Apr 29, midwinter (June 21) and sun-up (first day when the sun rises after winter) on Aug 13. Traditionally the oldest person on base lowers the tattered flag on sundown and the youngest raises a new one on sun-up. Midwinter is a week's holiday during which a member of the wintering team is chosen to keep the old flag. Hand made presents are also exchanged amongst the wintering team.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Videos

Coordinates: 75°35′S 26°34′W / 75.583°S 26.567°W / -75.583; -26.567