On the surface, Antarctica might seem like a frozen, desolate place supporting only a handful of animals among the icy wind and snow. While this is mostly true, the continent is an important marker for environmental changes across the globe including weather, tidal flows, climate change and rising sea levels.
Of course, as our planet continues to change, Antarctica and other vulnerable locations are among the first to be affected. This is why it makes sense to have the Halley VI Research Station positioned directly in its heart. Read on to find out about the ground-breaking work that the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) team are doing on an everyday basis.
Where is the research station?
There is actually an interesting story behind the station’s location. As the name suggests, this isn’t the first Halley, with five previous buildings dating back to 1956. The first five structures sat on the Brunt Ice Shelf which floats on the Weddell Sea. The obvious problem with this is with ice constantly breaking off to form icebergs – putting the research station in danger.
To solve this problem, BAS ran a design competition for a new station in 2002. The winning design was a world first – a highly-functional, relocatable research station that can be moved throughout the year depending on weather and other factors. Resembling a caterpillar crossed with a spaceship, the Halley VI Research Station is a true leader in the field of Antarctic science – supporting 70 people during the summer and 16 in the winter.
At present, the research station is still sitting on the Brunt Ice Shelf, the best place for insight into space weather patterns and atmospheric recording in the auroral zone. You’ll be happy to know that the station uses seven GPS sensors to monitor the ice shelf movement to avoid any danger.
What research takes place at Halley VI?
According to BAS, the purpose of Halley VI is to provide polar researchers and scientists around the world with “state-of-the-art facilities for studying a wide range of disciplines, particularly in the field of atmospheric sciences, space weather and glaciology.” Essentially, there are four overarching projects currently at Halley VI – providing the science community with accurate data. These projects include:
1) Meteorology and Ozone Monitoring
One of the main research projects that scientists at Halley engage in is around meteorology and ozone monitoring. Throughout the day, scientists record everything from temperature and humidity to sunshine and pressure – with all this information collated with data from stations across the world. This helps to forecast the global weather and provide further evidence of climate change.
2) Quantifying energetic particle precipitation into the atmosphere (QEPPA)
This project is jointly operated between British Antarctic Survey and Lancaster University – focussing on space weather and the way that charged particles hit our atmosphere. These types of events are responsible for Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, phenomenon that continues to intrigue scientists at Halley.
Similar to the above project, SPACESTORM also studies space weather events, but this time around their effect on satellites. Telecommunications and technology across the globe rely on satellites, but due to the harsh radiation, heat and pressure of space weather storms, satellites can be knocked down or even destroyed. Understanding these events in greater detail will allow for better satellite design and construction in the future.
4) Testing space flight missions at Halley
Antarctica is very similar to space – isolated, cold and dark. As such, it makes sense to send astronauts to Halley to expose them to just a snapshot of the conditions. During the winter months, Antarctica experiences 24 hours of darkness which can take a mental toll on people – perfect for assessing suitability for astronauts. Through elements such as the SIMSKILL space flight simulator and the Computerised Analysis of Language and Somnopole, Halley provides the ideal conditions for space preparation.
Historic discoveries at Halley Research Station
When the first Halley research station was established in 1956, meteorological science was quite limited around the world. This marked a major step in the science community with meteorology, and ozone measurements among the first measures made in Antarctica. In fact, it was research at Halley that lead to the first of many scientific breakthroughs – with the hole in the ozone layer first discovered in 1985.
As a protective layer in the Earth’s atmosphere, the ozone shields us from the full brunt of the sun’s rays. However, emissions from industry and various products were burning through this layer – first spotted by the BAS team at Halley.
Of course, the ongoing data and information collected works in tandem with similar stations around the world to provide up to date, accurate weather and atmospheric predictions.
Weather conditions at Halley VI research station
Should you venture south with Aurora Expeditions, you’ll experience some bitter weather conditions whether summer or winter. Most days, the temperature doesn’t reach higher than -10 degrees Celsius, with strong easterly winds picking up the surface snow which can render visibility to close to zero.
Of course, while Antarctica is a barren and hostile environment, the work at Halley VI research station shows how important the facility is and why we as a society need to put in more effort to protect this special continent.
For more information about Antarctica trips with Aurora Expeditions, contact our expert team today.