Halley Research Station

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Halley Research Station
Halley Research Station is located in Antarctica
Halley Research Station
Location of Halley within Antarctica
General information
Type Modular
Location Brunt Ice Shelf
Caird Coast
Coordinates 75°35′0″S 26°39′36″W / 75.58333°S 26.66000°W / -75.58333; -26.66000Coordinates: 75°35′0″S 26°39′36″W / 75.58333°S 26.66000°W / -75.58333; -26.66000
Elevation 1,270 metres (4,170 ft)
Named for Edmond Halley
Construction started 15 January 1956
Opening 5 February 2013
Owner British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Technical details
Floor area 2,000 m2 (22,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architecture firm Hugh Broughton Architects
Developer British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Engineer AECOM
Main contractor Galliford Try
Halley VI @ bas.ac.uk
Halley Research Stations
Halley I 1956–1967
Halley II 1967–1973
Halley III 1973–1983
Halley IV 1983–1991
Halley V 1990–2011
Halley VI 2012–present
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 (BAS), is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf floating on the Weddell Sea in Antarctica. Unique to its remote location is the fact the station is on top of ice in the sea, versus being located on solid land on the continent of Antarctica. Because the area is constantly moving, the ice will calve off, creating an iceberg that breaks off.[1][2]

In 2002, the BAS realized there was a calving event that would destroy Halley V, so a competition was undertaken to design a replacement station. The current base structure, the Halley VI, is notable for being the first fully relocatable research station in the world, and is distinguishable by its colorful modular structure that is built upon huge hydraulic skis.[3]

It is a British research facility[4] dedicated to the study of the Earth's atmosphere. Measurements from Halley led to the discovery of the ozone hole in 1985.[5]


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.[6]

On 30 July 2014, the station lost its electrical and heating supply for 19 hours.[7] During the outage, there were record low temperatures. Power was partially restored, but all science activities, apart from meteorological observations essential for weather forecasting, were suspended.[7] Plans were made to abandon some of the eight modules and to shelter in the remaining few.[8]

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.[9]

Halley I[edit]

  • Built: 1956
    • 1956: Main structure[10][11][12][13]
    • 1961: Main living hut
    • 1964: Office block on surface
  • Abandoned: 1968
  • Structure: Timber hut

Halley II[edit]

  • Built: 1967
  • Abandoned: 1973
  • Structure: A series of wooden huts[14][15]
    • 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.[9]

Halley III[edit]

  • Built: 1973
  • Abandoned: 1983
    • In 10 years the base was buried 12–15 metres below the surface and access and ventilation problems led to its abandonment.[16] Years later it emerged from the ice cliff at the sea.[9]
  • Structure: Built inside Armco steel tubing designed to take the snow loadings building up over it

Halley IV[edit]

  • Built: 1983
  • Abandoned: 1994, engulfed and abandoned
  • Structure:
    • 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.[17][18]
    • Designed to cope with being buried in snow.

Halley V[edit]

  • Built: 1990; operational 1989
  • Demolished: late 2012
    • Once its successor, Halley VI, was operational, Halley V was demolished[19]
  • Structure:
    • 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 got too close to the calving edge.[5]
    • Lawes platform: Main platform
    • Drewry summer accommodation: 2-storey building was on skis and could be dragged to a new higher location each year.[20]
      • The Drewry block was later moved to join the Halley VI base
    • Simpson Building (Ice and Climate Building) (ICB): On stilts[21] and is raised each year to counteract the buildup of snow
    • Piggott platform (Space Science Building): Used for upper atmosphere research.[22]

Halley VI[edit]

  • Built: 2013; operational 28 February 2012[23][24]
  • Structure: Modular
  • Cost: Approximately £26 million[1]

It is a structure which, like Halley V, is 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 allows the building to be relocated periodically.[25]

It is a string of 8 modules, each on stilts with skis.[26][27][28][29]

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

Design competition[edit]

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.[3][1]

Halley VI was built in Cape Town, South Africa by a South African consortium.[30][31] Servaccomm supplied modular accommodation pods for the new station through Galliford Try International.[32] The contract was for the manufacture of 26 pods in total, installed in eight modules,[33] 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,[34] then dragged one-by-one 15 km and reconnected.[35]

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 with further information can be seen at the links below. A description of the engineering challenges and the creation of the consortium was provided by Adam Rutherford to coincide with an exhibition in Glasgow.[36]

Design elements[edit]

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 color psychologist to create a special color 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.[3][1]

Another priority of the structure construction was to have the least environmental impact on the ice as possible.[1]


Aurora Australis over Halley V Winter 1998

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.[5]

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.


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.

Sometimes, none of the wintering team are scientists. Most are the technical specialists required to keep the station and the scientific experiments running. The 2012 wintering team at Halley included 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.[37]

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 two 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]


  1. ^ a b c d e Piotrowski, Jan; Broughton, Hugh (13 March 2013). "Researching Antarctica: Resorting to skis" (Video). The Economist. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  2. ^ Ferreira, Becky (23 February 2015). "This Antarctic Base Is More Remote Than the International Space Station". Motherboard. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Piotrowski, Jan; Broughton, Hugh (13 March 2013). "Antarctic research: Resorting to skis". The Economist. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Who We Are". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 2007-11-11. 
  5. ^ a b c "Halley Research Station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  6. ^ "12/13 Season – Official Launch & Demolition of Halley V". British Antarctic Survey. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Power-down at British Antarctic Survey Halley Research Station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "British Antarctic Survey trapped without power during record cold -55.4° C". Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c "Previous bases at Halley". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Halley Bay 1964-65". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  11. ^ "Halley Bay 1964-65". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  12. ^ "Halley Bay - 1957-1958". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "Halley Bay 1957". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  14. ^ "Halley II, Halley Bay Base Z, 1967-1973". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Halley II after its first winter". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  16. ^ "Garage entrance to Halley III research station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  17. ^ "Halley IV 4 Antarctica historical building". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Halley IV tube construction". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "Halley, Jan 2013". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Drewry building - summer accommodation". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "Ice and Climate Building (ICB) Halley 5". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "Piggott Platform at Halley. 2003-4". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  23. ^ "Halley VI, March 2012". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  24. ^ "Halley VI - module designations". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Moore, Rowan (10 February 2013). "Halley VI research station, Antarctica – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2016. 
  26. ^ "Halley VI from the air. 2010-11". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  27. ^ "Halley VI - Red module on stilts". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  28. ^ "Halley VI space frame newly fitted with its hydraulic legs and skis". 
  29. ^ "Halley VI from the air". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  30. ^ "Halley VI". Petrel Engineering. Retrieved 7 Jan 2011. 
  31. ^ "Halley VI". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 7 Jan 2011. 
  32. ^ "Our Case Studies". Servaccomm. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  33. ^ "Halley VI pods in module frames - 2010". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  34. ^ "Aerial view of the construction line of Halley VI Research Station situated next to Halley V". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  35. ^ "Halley VI, May 2011". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014. 
  36. ^ Sella, Andrea; Geim, Andre (25 July 2013). "2D supermaterials; Inside an MRI; Antarctic architecture". BBC Inside Science. 17 minutes in. Retrieved 21 June 2015. 
  37. ^ "Halley Bay - 2010". Z-Fids. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]