On January 16th, the British Antarctic Survey research team announced it is not going to spend the winter at the Halley VI station due to growing concerns regarding the staff’s safety amid changes in Antarctica’s ice sheet.
Last month preparations were in order to relocate the research station further inland while still remaining operational, because of the threat posed by the growing the crack in the ice sheet. However, the researchers now say the station will be completely shut down during the southern hemisphere’s winter months, between March and November. Furthermore, the people who were meant to winter in the Halley VI research station will move out.
The British Antarctic Survey claims the researchers have no way of accurately predicting future changes in the ice sheet for the forthcoming winter or beyond that, as a matter of fact. Before the researchers decided to move out, they ran simulations in order to determine how much of a threat the growing crack in the ice sheet really is. After they completed the simulations and created enough bathymetric maps, they found sufficient evidence to support their fears and subsequently decided to abandon the station for the winter.
For the winter months, only 16 people were due to stay at the Halley VI research station. During the summer months of the southern hemisphere, approximately 80 people work at the station. While it is easier to evacuate during the summer, in case of an emergency, it is almost impossible to safely retrieve the staff during winter in extremely low temperatures and 24-hour darkness.
As of now, the British Antarctic Survey officials say the crack poses no immediate threat to the researchers or the station. They deem the relocation as nothing more but a precautionary measure. Furthermore, the researchers plan to return to the station as soon as possible.
The Halley VI research station is composed of eight modules and rests on huge skies. It has been in place on the Brunt ice shelf since 2012 and was already designed for the possibility of relocation. Seven of the modules have already been moved 14 miles inland, away from the cracks in the ice shelf.
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