Station on skis

Sometime in the next decade the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research station, Halley V, could float off into the Southern Ocean, when the Brunt Ice Shelf, on which it is situated, calves off the Antarctic continent.

To prevent this scenario, BAS and the Royal Institute of British Architects launched a competition to design a new, relocatable station, to be situated 16km further inland. Out of 86 entries worldwide, Hugh Broughton Architects and engineering firm, Faber Maunsell, emerged victorious, with the first Antarctic station on skis.

Construction of the modular, mobile design will commence in 2007 on the existing station site and the completed station — Halley VI — will later be towed inland using bulldozers. The station will house 16 people during winter and 52 in summer.

Architect, Hugh Broughton, said the design consists of a series of interconnected, lightweight, steel modules on two platforms.

One platform provides the main living and sleeping areas and some plant and operational equipment, the other platform houses scientific and plant equipment. The two are separated by a walkway, in case of fire or other emergencies. Extra modules can be added as needed and each module is supported by jackable steel legs on skis. The legs enable the station to be raised above the surface in areas of very high snow accumulation, while the skis allow the whole structure to be moved inland as necessary.

A range of environmentally sensitive design and engineering options have also been added, including solar panels to augment hot water heating during summer, and infrastructure for the addition of photovoltaics and wind turbines.

‘The steel frames of each module will be shipped to Antarctica and offloaded onto the sea ice as one complete unit, with legs and skis attached. These will be towed onto the ice shelf and skied to the construction site,’ Mr Broughton told delegates at the symposium of the Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations.

‘The completed modules will weigh around 80 tonnes — light enough to be towed to a new site during their projected 20 year life time — making Halley VI a visitor to, rather than a resident of, Antarctica.’