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February 5, 2013 10:09 pm
A century after Captain Scott’s ill-starred expedition to the Antarctic, an extraordinary research station has become fully functional.
Designed by British architects Hugh Broughton, Aecom, an engineering practice, and Galliford Try, a construction group, the £25.8m Halley VI Antarctic research station had to be built over four successive summers because the time window where construction is possible lasts only about nine weeks.
One intriguing aspect of the units that make up the station is that they are mobile. Standing on hydraulic legs that allow them to adapt and adjust to changing surface conditions and snow, the buildings look like a sci-fi centipede walking in the wintry wastes.
The British Antarctic Survey has had a presence in the south polar region since the 1950s and its work has led to scientific breakthroughs including the confirmation of the existence of the hole in the ozone layer in 1985. They have also studied the earth’s magnetic field and its “near-space” atmosphere.
The structure, the sixth to be built on the Brunt Ice Shelf since 1957, is able to respond to cracking in the ice by moving, in a manner reminiscent of the visionary drawings of Archigram, the 1960s architectural radicals who proposed the idea of a ‘Walking City’.
At an official launch at London’s Royal Society on Tuesday night, David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said: “The legacy of Captain Scott, together with our strong track record of scientific discovery in Antarctica, is set to continue in this excellent new facility.”
Professor Alan Rodger, interim director of British Antarctic Survey, said: “The long-term research investigations carried out at Halley since the 1950s have led to deeper understanding of our world ... The polar regions are the earth’s early warning system – it is here that the first signs of global change are observed.”
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