Antarctica isn't the friendliest place on earth. It's cold. It's snowy. It's tough on researchers and tough on their research stations. The cold continent has seen its fair share of stations abandoned as they're slowly consumed by layers of snow and ice. A new research station is looking to outlast its predecessors by crawling up above the snow when needed.
The Halley VI research station is the newest addition to the family for the British Antarctic Survey. It's known as the "first fully re-locatable research station in the world." That means it's got legs and it knows how to use them.
The Halley VI consists of eight modules fitted with ski-fitted hydraulic legs. The legs can be raised individually to get the station up above the snow accumulation. They can also be towed and relocated. It's a bit like having scientist-friendly AT-ATs, minus the laser cannons.
It took four years to build the moveable station. The modules include a dining hall, accommodations, offices, labs, and an observation platform where scientists can keep an eye out for Sasquatches, shape-shifting aliens, and Kurt Russell.
Scientists at the Halley VI are investigating subjects like ozone depletion, climate change, and the chemistry of the polar atmosphere. In the summer, the station houses up to 70 people.
The area around the station accumulates about 4 feet of snow each year. Four of the previous Halley stations were crushed and left uninhabitable by the weight of the snow. Researchers tried everything from wooden huts to steel tunnels to stilts, but nothing lasted. It looks like legs and ski feet are the big design breakthrough they needed.
Instead of continuing the cycle of abandoning or demolishing stations, the Halley VI should become the new model for keeping scientists afloat above the snow line for many years to come. Whether it could stand up to a shape-shifting alien attack remains to be seen.