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article imageHuge chasm in East Antarctic ice shelf threatens research station

By Karen Graham     Dec 8, 2016 in Environment
The British Antarctic Survey is getting ready to move its Halley VI research station because a giant chasm in the ice shelf is threatening to break off, leaving the portion of the ice shelf the station is sitting on floating in the sea.
The British Antarctic Survey's (BAS) Halley VI research station sits on the 150 meters (452 feet) thick floating Brunt ice shelf in East Antarctica. Chasm 1, (one of two near the research station), has scientists concerned because it has been dormant for around 35 years.
In 2012, Chasm 1 became active again, and the crack in the ice shelf is moving North toward the Halley VI station at the rate of about 1.7 kilometers (one mile) per year, threatening to cut the station off if it's not relocated. Luckily, the BAS's latest Halley station was constructed with a possible move in mind, according to Mashable.
Location of the cracks on December 8  2016.
Location of the cracks on December 8, 2016.
British Antarctic Survey
The BAS Director of Operations, Tim Stockings said in a statement on Tuesday, “Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be relocated 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."
The Halley VI station is made up of eight connected station modules on ski-fitted hydraulic legs. When the modules are unconnected from each other, they can be towed by large tractors to new locations, and that is the current plan.
From November 2015 until March 2016, ice-penetrating radar technologies were employed to determine the chasm's most likely path and speed. The operations crews have already mapped out a safe route over the ice to a new location, located 23 kilometers (14 miles) upstream on the Brunt Ice Shelf.
One of the modules being towed to the current Halley Research Station location.
One of the modules being towed to the current Halley Research Station location.
British Antarctic Survey
The relocation effort will take three years. This is because the Antarctic summer only lasts for about nine weeks, a very short window of time. During the 2015-2016 season, the preliminary work, including in-depth site surveys, detailed ice monitoring, and decoupling of the modules was carried out.
The 2016-2017 season will focus on establishing temporary camps for housing the workforce and starting to move some station infrastructure to the new site.
The Halley research station is a world-class research facility for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in the climate-sensitive Antarctic. The Halley research station is credited with originally discovering the Antarctic ozone hole in Earth's atmosphere during the 1980s.
More about brunt ice shelf, massive chasm, Halley VI research station, antarctic ozone hole, Britisn Antarctic Survey
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