Halley Research Station

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Halley Research Station
Halley VI Station
Halley VI Station
Location of Halley within Antarctica
Location of Halley within Antarctica
Halley Research Station
Location of Halley within Antarctica
Coordinates: 75°36′45″S 26°11′52″W / 75.6125011°S 26.1977126°W / -75.6125011; -26.1977126Coordinates: 75°36′45″S 26°11′52″W / 75.6125011°S 26.1977126°W / -75.6125011; -26.1977126
Country United Kingdom
British Overseas TerritoryBritish Antarctic Territory
Location in AntarcticaBrunt Ice Shelf
Caird Coast
Administered byBritish Antarctic Survey
EstablishedJanuary 15, 1956 (1956-01-15)
Named forEdmond Halley
Elevation37 m (121 ft)
 • Summer
 • Winter
TypeAll-year round
WebsiteHalley VI @ bas.ac.uk
Halley VI
General information
Opened5 February 2013 (2013-02-05)
Technical details
Floor area2,000 m2 (22,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architecture firmHugh Broughton Architects
DeveloperBritish Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Main contractorGalliford Try
Halley Skiway
Airport typePrivate
LocationHalley Research Station
Brunt Ice Shelf
Coordinates75°35′00″S 26°39′36″W / 75.583332°S 26.659999°W / -75.583332; -26.659999
Halley Skiway is located in Antarctica
Halley Skiway
Halley Skiway
Location of airfield in Antarctica
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1,210 370 Snow
Halley Research Stations
Halley I1956–1967
Halley II1967–1973
Halley III1973–1983
Halley IV1983–1991
Halley V1990–2011
Halley VI2012–present
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 is a research facility in Antarctica[3] 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.[4] The current base is the sixth in a line of structures and includes design elements intended to overcome the challenge of building on a floating ice shelf without being buried and crushed by snow. As of 2020, the base has been left unstaffed through winter since 2017, due to concerns over the propagation of an ice crack and how this might cut off the evacuation route in an emergency. The Halley Bay Important Bird Area with its emperor penguin colony lies in the general vicinity of the base.


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.[5] It is the world's first fully relocatable terrestrial research station, and is distinguishable by its colourful modular structure built upon huge hydraulic skis.[6]

On 30 July 2014, the station lost its electrical and heating supply during record low temperatures (as low as -55 °C), due to coolant leakage. Plans were made to evacuate some of the eight modules and to shelter in the remaining few that still had heat. Power was partially restored 19 hours later, but all science activities, apart from meteorological observations essential for weather forecasting, were suspended for the season.[7][8][9]

The buildings[edit]

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.[10][11]

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.[12] The more recent structures have been designed to remain on the snow surface.

Halley I[edit]

  • Built: 1956
    • 1956: Main structure[13][14][15][16]
    • 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[17][18]
    • 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 six years.[12]

Halley III[edit]

  • Built: 1973
  • Abandoned: 1983
    • In 10 years the base was buried 12–15 m (39–49 ft) below the surface and access and ventilation problems led to its abandonment.[19] Years later it emerged from the ice cliff at the sea.[12]
  • Structure: Built inside Armco steel tubing designed to take the snow loadings building up over it

Halley IV[edit]

  • Built: 1983
  • Abandoned: 1994
  • Structure:
    • Two-storey buildings constructed inside four interconnected plywood tubes with access shafts to the surface. The tubes were 9 m (30 ft) in diameter and consisted of insulated reinforced panels designed to withstand the pressures of being buried in snow and ice.[20][21]
    • Designed to cope with being buried in snow.

Halley V[edit]

Halley V, Winter 1999
  • Built: completed 1990, operational 1989
  • Demolished: late 2012
    • Once its successor, Halley VI, was operational, Halley V was demolished.[22]
  • 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 became too close to the calving edge.[4]
    • Lawes platform: Main platform
    • Drewry summer accommodation: Two-storey building was on skis and could be dragged to a new higher location each year.[23]
      • The Drewry block was later moved to join the Halley VI base
    • Simpson Building (Ice and Climate Building) (ICB): On stilts[24] and was raised each year to counteract the buildup of snow
    • Piggott platform (Space Science Building): Used for upper atmosphere research.[25]

Halley VI[edit]

Halley VI, 2013
  • Built: Over four summers, first operational data 28 February 2012, officially opened 2013.[26][27]
  • Structure: Modular
  • Cost: Approximately £26 million[10]

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.[28][29][30][31][32]

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 (0.62 mi) from the station.

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.[10][6]

Halley VI was built in Cape Town, South Africa by a South African consortium.[33][34] A total of 26 modular accommodation pods were added in total, installed in eight modules,[35] 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,[36] then dragged one-by-one 15 km (9.3 mi) and reconnected.[37]

Halley VI 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.[38]

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 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.[10][6]

Another priority of the structure construction was to have the least environmental impact on the ice as possible.[10]


The British Antarctic Survey announced that it intended to move Halley VI to a new site in summer 2016–2017.[39] 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 km (14 mi) from its previous site, the first and as of 2020 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.[40] BAS completed the relocation of the base in February 2017.[41]

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 the BAS realised 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 from March to October.[42] Staff returned after the Antarctic winter in November 2017 and found the station in very good shape.[43] As of 2020 the staff have been removed every winter since.[44]


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.[4]

Climate data for Halley Research Station (extremes 1956–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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[45]
Source 2: Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[46]
Aurora Australis over Halley V 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, 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 52.[1]

Winter Crew[edit]

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.

1996 saw the first female winterers at Halley. In 2006, five out of sixteen winterers were women.[47]

Base life[edit]

Life in Antarctica is dominated by the seasons, with a short, hectic summer and a long winter.[48] 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 2020 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.

In popular culture[edit]

The 2019 movie Where'd You Go, Bernadette ends with footage and animated renderings of Halley VI.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Antarctic Station Catalogue (PDF) (catalogue). Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. August 2017. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-473-40409-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 January 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Halley Research Station". Great Circle Mapper. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Who We Are". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
  4. ^ a b c "Halley Research Station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 2008-01-13.
  5. ^ "12/13 Season – Official Launch & Demolition of Halley V". British Antarctic Survey. 8 January 2013. Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Piotrowski, Jan; Broughton, Hugh (13 March 2013). "Antarctic research: Resorting to skis". The Economist. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Antarctic Halley Station lost power and heat at -32C". BBC News. 7 August 2014.
  8. ^ "Power-down at British Antarctic Survey Halley Research Station". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  9. ^ "NEWS STORY: Power-down update".
  10. ^ a b c d e Piotrowski, Jan; Broughton, Hugh (13 March 2013). "Researching Antarctica: Resorting to skis". The Economist. Archived from the original (Video) on 2013-10-16. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  11. ^ Ferreira, Becky (23 February 2015). "This Antarctic Base Is More Remote Than the International Space Station". Motherboard. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Previous bases at Halley". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Halley Bay 1964-65". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Halley Bay 1964-65". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  15. ^ "Halley Bay - 1957-1958". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Halley Bay 1957". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  17. ^ "Halley II, Halley Bay Base Z, 1967-1973". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  18. ^ "Halley II after its first winter". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  19. ^ "Garage entrance to Halley III research station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  20. ^ "Halley IV 4 Antarctica historical building". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Halley IV tube construction". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Halley, Jan 2013". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Drewry building - summer accommodation". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  24. ^ "Ice and Climate Building (ICB) Halley 5". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  25. ^ "Piggott Platform at Halley. 2003-4". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  26. ^ "Halley VI Research Station". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
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  28. ^ Moore, Rowan (10 February 2013). "Halley VI research station, Antarctica – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
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  30. ^ "Halley VI - Red module on stilts". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
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  32. ^ "Halley VI from the air". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  33. ^ "Halley VI". Petrel Engineering. Archived from the original on 2012-01-27. Retrieved 7 Jan 2011.
  34. ^ "Halley VI". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 2010-12-23. Retrieved 7 Jan 2011.
  35. ^ "Halley VI pods in module frames - 2010". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  36. ^ "Aerial view of the construction line of Halley VI Research Station situated next to Halley V". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  37. ^ "Halley VI, May 2011". British Antarctic Survey. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  38. ^ Sella, Andrea; Geim, Andre (25 July 2013). "2D supermaterials; Inside an MRI; Antarctic architecture". BBC Inside Science. 17 minutes in. Retrieved 21 June 2015.
  39. ^ "Halley Research Station relocation". British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  40. ^ "Antarctica - Ice Station Rescue". Horizon. BBC Two. June 7, 2017. Archived from the original on June 9, 2017.
  41. ^ Jonathan Amos (3 February 2017). "UK completes Antarctic Halley base relocation". BBC News. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  42. ^ Jonathan Amos (16 January 2017). "Ice crack to put UK Antarctic base in shut-down". BBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  43. ^ "Halley VI Research Station ready for 2017 summer season". British Antarctic Survey. 10 November 2017. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  44. ^ "UK's Halley Antarctic base in third winter shutdown". BBC News. 28 February 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  45. ^ "Klimatafel von Halley Bay (Großbritannien) / Antarktis" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961-1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
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  48. ^ "Polar Operations". The British Antarctic Survey. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  49. ^ "How Richard Linklater's 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette' uses oddball architecture to reflect its heroine". Los Angeles Times. 14 August 2019. Retrieved August 14, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]