Quirks & Quarks

Unstable ice and a massive chasm force Antarctic evacuation

The Halley VI research station is going to be evacuated. The push is on for it to happen before winter descends.
The Halley VI research station, run by the British Antarctic Survey, is being evacuated as a precaution. Glaciologists have determined that two large cracks in the ice make it hard to predict its behaviour over the coming months. (British Antarctic Survey)
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A new crack in the Antarctic sea ice found at the end of October is growing, and glaciologists from the British Antarctic Survey are concerned.

As a result, the Halley VI Research Station will be fully evacuated by March, and the station will be shutdown until next November. 

A map that shows the location of the Halley VI research station in relation to the two cracks that are motivating the evacuation of a team of researchers. (British Antarctic Survey)

Halley VI is built on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf, so it's subject to forces and pressure from below. The cracks that have appeared aren't entirely unusual, but on this occasion, glaciologists were already monitoring another substantial crack to the south of the research station. It's the combination of these cracks which prompted the BAS to make the decision.

Director of Operations at the BAS, Captain Tim Stockings, explains that the evacuation is a precaution because scientists are unable to predict what might happen with the ice. If anything were to happen in the coming months, the BAS says the harsh winter conditions would make an emergency evacuation almost impossible. 

More from The British Antarctic Survey

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