Hugh Broughton Architects’ £25.8 million Antarctic research station has been relocated to prevent it being left adrift on a giant iceberg in ‘probably the toughest moving job on Earth’
The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) successfully moved Halley VI, which was designed to be relocated, to its new home on the 150-metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf in February.
The relocation will be the focus of BBC’s Horizon programme tonight (Wednesday) night.
The Brunt Ice Shelf moves at a rate of 400 metres a year towards the sea. A crevasse six kilometres from the polar science centre’s original location had threatened to separate it from the rest of Antarctica and leave it stranded on an iceberg.
In what Horizon describes as ‘probably the toughest moving job on Earth’, a team of 90 people including architectural and engineering experts, plumbers, mechanics and farmers spent 13 weeks moving each of the base’s eight modules 23 kilometres inland across the ice. BBC filmmaker Natalie Hewit followed the progress.
The station is ready for re-occupation in November, at the end of the Antarctic winter. BAS announced in January that it had decided not to winter at the research station this year for safety reasons due to changes to the ice.
Architect Hugh Broughton said the relocation was not the first time Halley VI had been moved. ‘When we built it originally, the modules were constructed next to the previous station, Halley V,’ he said. ‘When finished on the outside, and 70 per cent on the inside, they were moved 15 kilometres to the [original] site of Halley VI.
‘What we hadn’t done was disconnect them and moved them [but] the principle of relocation had been proven.’
Broughton said the only difference between the original site of Halley VI and the new site was the lower risk of the ice fracturing. ‘Where it’s going to is very similar to where it is: it’s flat and white and cold,’ he said.
He visited the area at the start of the design process and again to help with the handover when it was finished. ‘It’s a bit like living in a minimalist Donald Judd painting,’ he said. ’It’s absolutely incredible.’
Designed with engineer AECOM, Halley VI provides laboratory and living accommodation. It is built on giant steel skis and has hydraulic legs that allow it to rise above the snowfall.
When it became operational in February 2013, the then UK minister for universities and science David Willetts described Halley VI as ‘a triumph of British design, innovation and engineering’.
¬ 7 t science module section short antennas