British Antarctic Base Halley VI

Halley VI, British Antarctic Base

Yes, it certainly looks like it! In a fascinating interview yesterday with the Economist, the architect for the Halley VI base, Hugh Broughton, explained how and why it was designed. Halley VI is the new Antarctic base inaugurated in February by the British Antarctic Survey, BAS. The base is in effect the sixth to be positioned on the Brunt Ice Shelf (shown on the map below) and is required because the others have always eventually drifted off the ice shelf as it calves, thus requiring replacement.

Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Location of Brunt Ice Shelf (map courtesy Wikipedia)

The new base, costing around $40m, looks like something out of a science fiction film. Given that snow drifts can quickly cover up buildings and obstacles, the buildings are on stilts so that they can be raised progressively as the snow level rises. And to counter the problem of an ice shelf constantly moving towards the open sea, the buildings are modular so that they can be towed by bulldozers to a new site. The architect explained also how design took into account the special requirements of living in an environment as remote and hostile as the Antarctic.

For example, given the permanent darkness lasting 100 days or more, lights in certain areas replicate the tones and warmth of sunlight. Colour schemes have been carefully chosen for maximum psychological support. Social areas aim to give people quite time on their own, or meet with another person, or as larger groups. Building of the project took 4 years as it could only take place in summer, which lasts just 9 weeks.

The first Halley base was established in 1957 during the International Geophysical Year, and it was in 1985 at the Halley base that the ozone hole was first discovered by BAS. Halley V, which the new base now replaces, was functioning for 20 years.

Video of the interview with Hugh Broughton, architect for Halley VI:-