BAS comissions Ramboll to support Antarctica research station move

20 December 2016 3 min. read
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To secure the future of the Halley VI research station on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, the British Antarctic Survey has commissioned Ramboll to provide technical advisory services related to the station's move. The firm's structural engineering Director, Ben Rowe, is on-site to support the move.

Halley VI is one of the major research stations operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in the Antarctic. The station is a centre of research into a host of fields, including space weather and atmospheric science – one of the centre’s most notable discoveries is the ozone hole, and its rapid expansion from pollution, in 1985. The first station, Halley I, was a wooden hut founded in 1956. The latest station, Halley VI, was launched in 2012 and is designed to have a longer shelf life than its predecessors – it stands well off the ground and has ski feet which allow it to be moved, when needed.

The station stands on the Brent Ice Shelf, which is a 150 meter deep. The shelf is not stable, however, sliding at around 400 meters per year towards the sea, where it breaks off, periodically, into ice bergs. The movement of the shelf brings with it a range of additional risks, including the formation of a large chasm near the station, which has, in recent years, started to grow actively.

To safeguard the future stability of the centre, which is in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the station is to be moved 23 kilometres. “Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be re-located in response to changes in the ice", remarks Tim Stockings, BAS’s Director of Operations.

BAS comissions Ramboll to support Antarctica research station move

Over the last couple of years operational teams have developed detailed plans for the move, with preparatory work completed last year. The move will require the station’s 8 modules to be pulled separately by tractors to their new location.  

Now that the summer season has again begun, the move itself can be attempted. Stockings: "Antarctica can be a very hostile environment. Each summer season is very short – about 9 weeks. And because the ice and the weather are unpredictable we have to be flexible in our approach. We are especially keen to minimise the disruption to the science programmes. We have planned the move in stages – the science infrastructure that captures environmental data will remain in place while the stations modules move.”

To support the move, Ramboll is providing technical advisory services to the BAS. One of the firm’s structural engineering Director, Ben Rowe, will be on-site throughout the move – which is projected to take three years.

Rowe, who left for the station at the start of December, says about the move of the station, “It is a privilege to be part of the operation to move Halley VI away from the chasm to ensure its continued safe operation into the future. While my primary role is as structural advisor, my experience of managing teams and projects in complex environments will be used to support the Station Leader and the project team, to contribute to the project’s overall management.”

Furthermore, the firm has also been supporting BAS with support relating = to the upgrade of BAS’s wharf and jetties facilities.

The centre, which is one of the world’s foremost research stations and in 2013 became one of 29 global stations of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW), will continue its research from temporary premises.