Extreme Building: Antarctic Research Facility on Skis

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It looks like a string of big buoys on a sea of white (or maybe just a little like the Imperial Walkers of the Star Wars franchise). We first read about the award-winning Halley VI Research Station in an ENR article. We were intrigued by the 250,000-hour safety record the team achieved under such extreme circumstances, and we wanted to know more about the project.

Quick Facts about the Halley VI

Location: Brunt Ice Shelf, Wendell Sea, Antarctica
What it is: a British atmospheric research facility founded in 1956
Why it might sound familiar: Measurements from the station led to discovery of ozone depletion (or the “ozone hole”) in the mid-1980s.
Who built the VI? A British construction company Galliford Try.
Extreme challenges: Located on over 650 of floating ice. Coldest climate on Earth. Try to let concrete set there? Ha!
What makes the facility unique: According to the website, the station is the “first fully re-locatable research station in the world.”

The Halley VI is the latest of 6 bases. Construction took more than 4 years to complete, in large part due to the fact that weather limited the 80-person team to 12-week stretches. Getting building materials to the site meant coordinating shipments by air and sea, and everything had to be loaded onto ice.

Before the Halley VI, earlier bases were made of wood and steel, and simply got buried in snow. The new eight-module structure features ski-fitted hydraulic legs, which means that should too much snow begin to accumulate, each module can detach and be relocated. The result of an international design competition, the facility boasts a central red module flanked by blue modules, causing it to stand out against the snow and ice.

Winter staff at the station (called “winterers”) consists of an electrician, mechanics, electronics engineers and a heating and ventilation engineer to keep things operational in extreme temperatures.

It’s hard to imagine the conditions these builders worked under, but this video from Galliford Try gives us a pretty good idea:

Photo via Antarctica.ac.uk

 

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