5 February, 2013 Press releases

New state-of-the-art Antarctic research station becomes fully operational this month

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.

Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt ice shelf Antarctica
Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt ice shelf Antarctica

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.”

Greeting from Halley VI

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Halley VI Introduction Video


Issued by British Antarctic Survey Press Office

British Antarctic Survey media contacts

  • Paul Seagrove, Tel: +44 (0) 1223 221414; Mob: +44 (0)7736 921693; email: psea@bas.ac.uk
  • Audrey Stevens, Tel: +44 (0) 1223 221272; email: auev@bas.ac.uk

Notes for Editors

To arrange media interviews with British Antarctic Survey scientists and technical teams, or obtain stunning broadcast-quality footage of Halley Research Station please contact the BAS Press Officers listed above.

Contact details for Architects, Engineers and Construction company

Hugh Broughton Architects


  • Peter Ayres, Building Engineering Director, AECOM – Tel: +44 (0)7801 397 816; email: peter.ayres@aecom.com
  • Press enquiries: Gaye Charlton, Tel: +44 (0)207 0617710; Mob: +44 (0)7825 512962; email: Gaye.Charlton@aecom.com

Galliford Try

Background notes

UK Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts will give a guest address at an event to celebrate the new Antarctic station becoming operational at the Royal Society, London on Tuesday 5 February at 5.30pm.

About Halley

There have been five Halley Research Stations prior to this one on the Brunt Ice Shelf. When they became buried by snow and ice over time, they were crushed by the weight and had to be abandoned. The 150 metre-thick floating ice shelf is connected to ice on land but it flows at a rate of 0.4 km per year northwest from Coats Land towards the sea where, at irregular intervals, it calves off as vast icebergs. Whilst the previous ‘static’ research stations moved with ice flow the new station is designed to be relocated inland to avoid being lost as the ice breaks off as bergs.

The new complex, replacing the current Halley V Research Station, is located 10,000 miles from the UK on the Brunt Ice Shelf. It was commissioned because of the growing risk that ice on which the former Halley Research Station was located could break off in the coming years. The former Halley (V) was demolished and removed.

The research station was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and AECOM after winning the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Competition in 2005. The competition, launched by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and RIBA in June 2004, attracted 86 expressions of interest. Six of which were selected to submit concept ideas and, in October 2004, three were commissioned by BAS to develop their concepts. The winning concept was then constructed by Galliford Try.

The new research station is built with an innovative concept featuring hydraulically elevated ski based modules, ensuring the station can be fully re-locatable — a world first. The station is a series of modules that are designed to suit the changing needs of the science programmes; and can be re-arranged or relocated inland periodically as the ice shelf flows towards the sea.

Halley VI combines seven interlinking blue modules used for bedrooms, laboratories, offices and energy plants, with a central two-storey red module featuring a double-height light filled social space. Interiors have been specially designed to support crew numbers ranging from 52 in summer to 16 during the three months of total darkness in winter when temperatures at the base drop as low as −56°C.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), delivers and enables world-leading interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions. Its skilled science and support staff based in Cambridge, Antarctica and the Arctic, work together to deliver research that uses the Polar Regions to advance our understanding of Earth as a sustainable planet. Through its extensive logistic capability and know-how BAS facilitates access for the British and international science community to the UK polar research operation. Numerous national and international collaborations, combined with an excellent infrastructure help sustain a world leading position for the UK in Antarctic affairs.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK’s main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world’s most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more. NERC receives around £320 million a year from the government’s science budget, which it uses to fund independent research and training in universities and its own research centres.

Hugh Broughton Architects are one of the established talents of contemporary British architecture with a portfolio of high quality and elegant designs spanning the cultural, science and business sectors. Pushing the frontiers of design and technology their projects are characterised by innovative, well-built spaces, which are a delight to use.

AECOM is a global provider of design, engineering, consultancy and infrastructure services. Across its spectrum of expertise, it makes the connections for each client that best serve their immediate objective while fulfilling shared purposes – to create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.

Galliford Try is one of the UK’s leading construction and house-building groups and a FTSE 250 construction company with turnover in excess of £1.5bn per annum. The Group provides whole life solutions to projects for the built environment, delivering housing and regeneration schemes and carrying out construction projects from public and commercial buildings to major civil engineering schemes.