New Halley Research Station Can Ski Across Ice in Antarctica

First Posted: Feb 06, 2013 11:15 AM EST

Britain's new Halley VI Research Station looks more like it should belong on an alternate planet than in the Antarctic. But it doesn't only look high-tech, it also has features that are essential for its icy environment. The research station is capable of moving across the ice on ski-clad stilts, according to researchers.

The station itself is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf, a floating sheet of ice at the edge of the South Atlantic which shifts during the seasons. Because of this constantly changing environment, architects had to design the research laboratory to stay ahead of the pounding snows and ice melt. The base is comprised of eight modules in all--seven blue ones which are work and habitation units, and one red one which acts as a social hub. The station itself is complete with dining room, bar and even a gym.

Largely constructed in South Africa, the station was then shipped to the Antarctic in easy-to-assemble units. The general idea was to prefabricate as much as possible before finally settling the base in its new location.

The station's most interesting feature is probably the hydraulic leg and ski system that it uses. This system allows the base to be raised above the annual snowfall, or be towed closer to land when ice conditions warrant it. This keeps the station from being buried or carried to the ice edge before dropping into the ocean.

This isn't the first research station, either. It's the sixth in a line of stations that have attempted to survive the Antarctic's harsh conditions. Most of the previous bases had to be abandoned after being crushed by the weight of polar snow. Because of Halley VI's forward-thinking features, however, it should last a bit longer. The hope is that the station will last between 30 to 40 years before a completely new structure is required.

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