How an abandoned base in Antarctica continues to work without people an engineering miracle

(ORDO NEWS) — In conditions of extremely low temperatures and darkness, the Halley VI research station, built among the Antarctic ice, continues to operate as usual – although people were forced to evacuate from there a few months ago.

The Halley VI research station, located on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, is intended for year-round residence of scientists.

But in recent years, fear of shelf cracks has led to the station being shut down during the Antarctic winter. But if in any other institution the evacuation of personnel means the cessation of any activity, including scientific, then this station is not at all going to stop there.

How a deserted polar base appeared in Antarctica

Halley VI – the British polar station – began to be built in Cape Town in 2007, and the station itself was opened in Antarctica in 2013. It replaced the previously demolished Halley V.

The sixth station of the Halley project consists of 26 blocks that can provide comfortable accommodation for 32 people. People really were on duty on it from 2013 to 2017, after which they decided to close the facility for a while.

However, despite this, Halley VI continued to make successful measurements of climate, ozone and space weather – even though not a single person went to it for several months.

This strategy, which the scientists themselves call “Ghost Base”, was made possible by an autonomous power system that supplies electricity to the scientific equipment of the station.

How an abandoned base in Antarctica continues to work without people an engineering miracle 2
How does Halley VI British polar station look

How the Halley VI station works

The core of this system is a microturbine installed in a temperature-controlled container, which is powered by a self-contained fuel dispenser and keeps the entire plant running.

Halley VI researchers liken it to a “jet engine in a box” that spins 24 hours a day without maintenance and lasts up to 9 months at that rate before the research team returns.

It sounds almost like science fiction in the harshest conditions of Antarctica, but the microturbine has already been doing its job for 136 days, and the BAS team is confident that the Antarctic polar base can survive the winter while maintaining a number of meteorological, ozone and atmospheric monitoring instruments.

And all this while transferring 1 GB of data every day, which is sent to researchers in the UK. Among these tools is a device called the AutoDobson, a fully automated version of the apparatus that allowed the Halley Research Station to first detect a hole in the ozone layer back in the 1980s (during the Halley IV iteration).


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