Halley Research Station relocation

Moving Halley

Start date
5 April, 2015
End date
6 April, 2018

British Antarctic Survey relocated its Halley VI Research Station to a new site in the 2016/17 season.

The three-year operational project relocated Halley VI upstream of a previously dormant ice chasm that began to show signs of movement in 2012.  The chasm could eventually cut the station off from the rest of the ice shelf.  In 2015-16 austral summer a new location was identified and initial preparations for relocating began.  During the 2016-17 summer season station modules were uncoupled and transported 23km across the ice.  Completion is expected to be achieved in the 2017- 2018 season.  The relocation of the station further upstream moves it away from the chasm and ensure Halley’s continued safe operation into the future.

The Clean Air Sector Laboratory

As part of the relocation project, the Clean Air Sector Laboratory (CASLab) was moved to a new position during the 2018-18 field season.  In 2018-19 the laboratory will be set up on its supporting legs and power and functionality restored to enable the tropospheric chemistry programme to resume.  This research includes monitoring of a range of atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases, and process studies to understand naturally-produced reactive trace gases, including:

the first module leaves site 6 for site 6A
the first module leaves site 6 for site 6A

Halley VI is the first Antarctic research station to be designed specifically to cope primarily with the movement of the ice shelf towards the sea, as well as with the annual 1.5 m of snowfall and significant snowdrift. This was the first time that the station has been moved since it became operational in 2012.

Halley relocation - site 6 from the air (UAV)
Halley VI, with the temporary camp towards the top right and winter science camp lower left.

The Halley VI Research Station is an internationally important platform for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in a climate sensitive zone (Antarctica).

  • In 2013 Halley VI attained the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Global station status, becoming the 29th in the world and 3rd in Antarctica.
  • Ozone measurements that have been made continuously at Halley since 1956 (which led to the discovery of the ozone hole), contribute to the WMO’s Earth Observation strategy for co-operation and integrated systems for monitoring of the atmosphere.
  • Space weather data captured at Halley VI contributes to the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group that provides advice to Government on the impact of space weather on UK infrastructure and business.
  • An ongoing European Space Agency research experiment at Halley VI that focusses on preparation for prolonged space flight uses Antarctica (Halley VI and Concordia research stations) to test how people can adapt to life in remote and isolated locations. This project supports UK Government policy (2015) for the human exploration of space.
The Dobson being used at Halley VI to measure atmospheric ozone
The Dobson, being used to measure atmospheric ozone at Halley VI

The Brunt Ice Shelf is the floating extension of the grounded ice sheet. It is composed of freshwater ice that originally fell as snow, either in situ or inland and brought to the ice shelf by glaciers. Cracks appear continuously on ice shelves as the ice deforms. Frequently, cracks that form during the summer months heal again over winter. At Halley a long-term ice-monitoring project, that uses satellite and radar data, detected new growth in a chasm that has been dormant for around 30 years.

Observations reveal that this particular chasm has been growing continuously for over two years. The crack tip is moving gradually upstream of the station. Scientists estimate that if it continues to grow at its current rate it will take several years to cut Halley VI off from the portion of the ice shelf that is further inland.

Halley Research Station
Halley Research Station upon completion at site 6

About the Brunt ice shelf movement

  • Ice shelf movement is unpredictable. Scientists use a range of different technologies to monitor the changes to chasms and other ice features.
  • In 2012 satellite monitoring of the Brunt ice shelf revealed the first signs of movement in a chasm that had lain dormant for at least 35 years. Glaciologists classify very large cracks in the ice shelf which clearly go all the way through to the sea as “chasms”, and narrow cracks that go an indeterminate depth as crevasses or cracks.
  • glaciologists monitored this movement closely to determine whether or not the chasm was likely to grow
  • In 2015/16 field season glaciologists used ice penetrating radar technologies to ‘ground truth’ satellite images and calculated the most likely path and speed of the crack. Monitoring continues
  • In October 2016 a new crack emerged some 17km to the north of the research station across the route sometimes used to resupply Halley. This route will not now be used as alternative relief sites are available.  Glaciologists are monitoring routes closely.

 

Brunt Ice Shelf cracks_09Oct18
Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica

 

Relocation facts

Halley VI is made up of a series of eight pods (like the carriages of a train) that can be disconnected. The individual pods – which sit on skis – can be uncoupled and towed across the ice using specialist heavy vehicles.

The station was designed and built to provide excellent laboratory and living accommodation that is capable of withstanding extreme winter weather, of being raised sufficiently to stay above metres of annual snowfall, and of being relocated upstream periodically to avoid calving events as the floating ice shelf moves towards the sea.

  • In 2015/16 field season glaciologists and operational teams conducted a survey to identify a new site for Halley Research Station which is located 23 km upstream on the Brunt Ice Shelf.
  • Operational teams have identified a safe route across the ice to the new site named Halley VI a.
  • The relocation project will be carried out over three years. Work began in 2015-16 with in-depth site surveys, detailed ice monitoring and initial preparations to de-couple the modules.
Halley relocation - science module H2 on route to site 6A
The first module (H2 Science) to move to the new 6A site, being relocated by two bulldozers and one piston bully.
Halley relocation - group picture (Christmas 2016)
Halley VI Relocation Team Christmas 2016

 

 

The Halley relocation project aims to:

  • identify the most suitable site to relocate to
  • put support systems and infrastructure in place to facilitate the move
  • minimise disruption to science programmes
  • safely relocate the station to the new site

Relocation timeline:

2015/16          Operations and logistics preparations including scientific survey for the selection of the most appropriate new location

2016/17          Station modules will be moved to new location.

2017/18          Science equipment and instruments will be moved to new location.

 




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