The Halley research station the Brunt ice shelf in Antarctica is being shut down due to the growing cracks in the ice shelf. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which runs the research station, was concerned about staff safety due to the changes in the ice shelf. The station will be shut from March to November 2017, and the 16 staff members there will move out.
The British Antarctic Survey is an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council. With an annual budget of 50 million pounds, the BAS has five research stations, two ships, and five aircraft around Antarctica. Founded in 1962, the BAS is located in Cambridge, England. The Brunt ice shelf, where the Halley research station is located, is between the Dawson-Lambton Glacier and the Stancomb-Willis Glacier Tongue on the Weddell Sea. The current research station, Halley VI research station was built in 2012 and is comprised of eight modules on stilts with large skis, according to Phys.org.
According to The Guardian, the growth of a new crack in the Brunt ice shelf meant that scientists were unable to predict, with certainty, what exactly what would occur to the ice and the area in the upcoming winter and beyond. The precautionary measure of closing Halley research station was taken, but currently, there was no “immediate risk.” The 88 people located at the research station will be leaving before the Antarctic winter starts.
In a press release, the BAS stated that a “second crack appeared” north of the station in October 2016. The Washington Post reported that large blocks of ice could shear off into the sea putting the research team in danger. While the BAS was confident that they could quickly come to the aid of anyone at the station, the winter months which include 24-hour darkness, low temperatures, and frozen seas would have made rescue difficult.
Captain Tim Stockings, Director of Operations, said that the research station sits on a “floating ice shelf.” Safety was the number one concern for the staff there, and the BAS’s goal would be to prepare the station for winter, leaving it ready to re-occupy as soon as possible following the Antarctic winter. The British Antarctic Survey is relocating the Halley research station further inland, approximately 14 miles from where it is currently at, and will be finished by March. BAS is making “every effort” to continue their experiments located at the research station.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy BAS