Britain’s latest Antarctic Research Station becomes fully operational this month, signalling a new dawn for 21st Century polar research. Opening one hundred years after Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expeditions, the new state-of-the-art research facility demonstrates the UK’s ambition to remain at the forefront of scientific endeavour.
Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, the British Antarctic Survey’s (BAS) Halley VI Research Station is set to become an icon for British science, architecture and engineering.
The new research station, which replaces the 20-year old Halley V facility, is the sixth to be built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf. The first station, occupied in 1957 for a Royal Society expedition during the International Geophysical Year, established the region as an important natural laboratory for studying the Earth’s magnetic field and the near-space atmosphere. It was data from Halley that led to the 1985 BAS discovery of the ozone hole.
Speaking at an event in London to celebrate the opening of the new station UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts says,
“The new Halley Research Station is a triumph of British design, innovation and engineering. The UK’s world-class polar science community now has a unique, cutting edge
suite of laboratories on the ice. The legacy of Captain Scott, together with our strong track record of scientific discovery in Antarctica, is set to continue in this excellent new facility.”
Hugh Broughton Architects and multidisciplinary engineers AECOM won the international competition to design a new research station. Their challenge was to create excellent laboratory and living accommodation that was capable of withstanding extreme winter weather, of being raised sufficiently to stay above metres of annual snowfall, and of being relocated inland periodically to avoid being stranded on an iceberg as the floating ice shelf moves towards the sea.
Galliford Try won the £25.8 million construction contract and worked in partnership with technical teams from British Antarctic Survey. Construction was carried out during four Antarctic summers – each build season lasting just nine weeks. Construction teams worked round the clock in freezing conditions to complete this extreme challenge.
Professor Alan Rodger, Interim Director of British Antarctic Survey says,
“The long-term research investigations carried out at Halley since the 1950s have led to deeper understanding of our world. In half a century, society has been alerted to our changing climate, about the possibility that melting ice in the Polar Regions will increase sea-level rise, and that human activity can have an impact on the natural environment. The Polar Regions are the Earth’s early warning system – it is here that the first signs of global change are observed. This is the first summer field season for Halley and already, our scientists there are working collaboratively with colleagues from USA including NASA on studies that will gain new knowledge about how our world works. I am proud and grateful that our Government and the public recognise the importance of investing in this new research facility.”
Professor Duncan Wingham, Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council says,
"Halley VI is the latest NERC-supported Antarctic research station that demonstrates NERC's long-term commitment to Antarctica. We look forward to the excellent science that is made possible by Halley's unique location on the Earth's largest ice cap."