Monday, December 12, 2016

News: Clever design aids ice station relocation

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The British Antarctic Survey is getting ready to move its Halley VI Research Station 23 km across the ice and Rotherham-based design engineers are key to this mammoth task.

Halley VI is a series of modules built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf, 10,000 miles from the UK, an icon for British science, architecture and engineering.

In 2007, Whiston-based M G Bennett and Associates (since acquired by Atkins, Europe's largest design and engineering consultancy) were responsible for designing the hydraulic leg jacking system for each module and producing detailed designs for the structure.

The legs were designed to resist the harsh Antarctic environment including temperatures as low as –50°C, as well as the high structural and wind loads. Added to that, the main problems of constructing a research station in the region are the build up of wind blown snow over time, as well as the gradual flow of the ice out to sea.

The design means that Halley VI can be moved vertically and even relocated – a world first.

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Once a year, the legs can be lifted up and snow piled underneath the feet to enable the level of the entire station to be raised. Previous stations became buried by snow and ice over time and were crushed by the weight and had to be abandoned.

The legs are also mounted on skis so that it is possible to pull individual modules to a new location on the ice shelf and re-assemble them into a station, avoiding the possibility that it could float out to sea on an iceberg.

Now that the station has emerged from months of winter darkness, operational teams are ready to tow the station to its new home. This involves uncoupling the eight station modules and using large tractors to transport each module further inland. Scientific research at Halley will continue in temporary facilities at the existing site and move to the new location next season.

Tim Stockings, director of operations at the British Antarctic Survey, said: "Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be re-located in response to changes in the ice. Over the last couple of years our operational teams have been meticulous in developing very detailed plans for the move and we are excited by the challenge.

"Antarctica can be a very hostile environment. Each summer season is very short – about nine weeks. And because the ice and the weather are unpredictable we have to be flexible in our approach. We are especially keen to minimise the disruption to the science programmes. We have planned the move in stages – the science infrastructure that captures environmental data will remain in place while the stations modules move."

The relocation project will be carried out over three years.

Atkins website


Images: Hugh Broughton Architects


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