This article was originally featured on our sister site ARCHITECT.
When the the Halley VI Antarctic Research Center was built back in 2012, designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and AECOM, its technologically savvy approach marked a turning point for exploration in Antarctica. Commissioned for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an arm of the U.K.'s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) which leads interdisciplinary research in the Polar Regions, the eight-part blue-and-red structure was designed with the use of hydraulically elevated ski-based modules that anticipate movements within the ice shelf on which it was sited. On Dec. 6, the NERC announced that the structure would need to be moved for the first time.
According to a BAS press release, the Brunt Ice Shelf—the nearly 1-mile-thick area of the continent where the station is located—has two chasms nearby that are growing larger and concerning enough to relocate. The first chasm, about 4 miles away, had remained unchanged for the last 35 years, but started showing movement at the same time as the Halley VI center was first established. The second chasm is about 11 miles north, along one of the service routes used to resupply the base. These two developing situations risk the station being cut off from the rest of the ice shelf, leaving it stranded on an iceberg. As of press time, the shifting is being described as a part of natural glacial movement.
As the first relocation project for the $32.7 million (£25.8 million) structure, it is expected to be carried out over the next three years, each year during the Antarctic Summer season, which occurs between November and March. Prep work was done last summer and involved in-depth site surveys, detailed ice monitoring, and initial preparations.
Now, operational teams are gearing up to transition the station to its new home 14 miles inland. This will involve separating the eight interlinked modules and transporting each one with tractors to a new site named “Halley VI a.” In the meantime, research will carry on in temporary facilities at the existing site, alongside the initial preparations to decouple the modules.
The Halley research center has served an important role in research of climate change, atmospheric phenomena, and extreme space weather events (the last of which, according to the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, if one occurred, would cause an economic loss that ranges to $6 to $45 billion for the U.S. alone).