Archive for the 'Construction' Category

End of Season One

The Ernest Shackleton departed from Creek 4 on 5th March, marking the end of what has been a record-breaking season at Halley. It’s been the longest summer season for many years (the first flight arrived more than four months earlier). There have been more people on station (more than 100 at the height of relief) and more cargo offloaded (more than 300 sledges during first call alone). Most importantly a huge amount of construction work has been successfully achieved, putting the project on programme at the end of the first construction season.
Team photo of all the staff involved in the first construction season.

The first of the accommodation modules has been cladded, and has been raised on its hydraulic legs, making an imposing sight and giving a taste of what the new station will look like when complete.
Project Manager Karl Tuplin stands besides the completed module.

The steel frames and hydraulic legs are now in place for the other six standard modules. To protect these modules from the winter weather and to allow work to continue inside they have been covered by large custom-made canvas structures. These tents proved they were up to the task before the start of winter, when they held fast against a four day gale with wind speeds reaching 50 mph.
The construction site part way through the season. In this picture four of the modules have their tent covers on. Some buildings from the current station in the background show the scale of the new station.

Sheltered from the weather, a great deal of mechanical and electrical work has been completed inside the modules. All the main items of plant and prefabricated rooms have been lifted into place, and pipe fitting, heat and ventilation and electrical works are on schedule.
Inside one of the Halley VI bedrooms. Accommodation will be more spacious and comfortable than the current facilities. Photo by David Evans.

Although the majority of the construction work has been happening in the vicinity of Halley V station this year there has been some preliminary work to do out at the Halley VI site, so there has been a small team working at an isolated camp 15km from the main station.
The construction camp at the Halley VI site.

Once the site was surveyed their main job was to install building foundations, mast foundations and cables that will form the new site. The once flat site is now dotted with mounds of cable reels, the legs of what will be the new CASLab (Clean Air Sector Laboratory), and the familiar sight of 16 aligned towers that will make up the new SHARE radar. By next summer the main cable runs will be buried by the winter snow, ready to be connected to the science cabooses and other external structures.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on March 25th, 2008


The construction season is now in full swing, and the new station is starting to take shape. As the first module has been through all the various stages of construction it’s possible to see the process of building a module from start to finish. Here’s a pictorial guide to building a Halley VI module.

The steel space frames were towed to station on temporary skis. This reduces the weight of the frame for the journey across the sea ice. The frames were then depoted until the end of relief when work could begin.

Temporary skis are used to move the space frames to station.

The frames were then craned onto a levelling platform so the temporary skis can be removed.

The frames are lifted onto a platform so the permanent skis can be fitted.

The permanent legs, which include hydraulic rams for raising the level of the building and much larger skis are fitted. The frame is then towed to its build position.

The module is towed to its build position.

Much of the mechanical and electrical installation has been pre made in large sections to minimise work time on site. Here we see the main pipework being slide into the building undercroft.

Large pre made sections of pipework reduce the amount of work on site.

Next the floor panels are attached to the frame.

Wooden floor cassettes are attached to the frame.

At this point all the large items must be loaded onto the module. This includes large items such as the generator cabinets, fuel tanks and sewage treatment plant. Once the rest of the steelwork is in place it would be impossible to lift these items into place.

Generators, control panels and fuel tanks are added to one of the energy modules.

Many of the rooms come in the form of pods, with all the internal fittings already complete. The pods greatly speed up construction as they just need to be lifted into position and connected.

Bedrooms are pre made as pods and craned into position.

Once all the large items are in place the steel framework is built up and the module starts to take shape.

The steelwork is fitted.

External cladding panels for one of the modules being fitted.

Cladding panels are fixed to the outside of the steelwork.

The nose cone is fitted last of all, the first Halley VI module takes its final form.

The completed module. Photo Ian Prickett.

The external cladding panels for most of the modules will be arriving next year. Large tents are being used to protect the modules from the winter weather and allow internal fit out work to continue in bad weather.

Tents cover the rest of the modules. Photo Danny Wood.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on February 19th, 2008

Halley Relief

A lot has been happening at Halley in the last couple of weeks, so much so that it’s hard to summarise it all! On 20th December the Ernest Shackleton arrived at the coast, signalling the start of 24 hour relief. The site this year was Creek 4, and already Martin and Ben had been busy preparing a route by smoothing the snow down from the shelf onto the sea ice. With all plans made for the worse case scenario of a 56km N9 relief, running relief from just 12km gave our new vehicles some breathing room, and freed up much needed personnel to help load and unload the cargo onto sledges at either end.

The ramp at Creek 4 A Challenger pulling sledges back to the station
The Creek 4 ramp was extra wide this year to accommodate the construction cargo. Photo Mark Wales. A CAT Challenger towing three sledges of cargo back to Halley. Photo Mark Wales.

The first items off the ship were all needed quickly on site - new vehicles and sledges (including a huge Mantis crane on tracks), plus all the equipment needed to build extra accommodation for the coming season. After that came the usual supplies to keep the station running for another year, plus extra food and fuel to support the increased numbers. Just as we finished back-loading outgoing cargo and waste the Amderma arrived, right on cue. This enormous cargo vessel brought down all the supplies needed for the construction this season. First off were the seven steel spaceframes that form the basis of the modules followed quickly by an endless supply of wooden boxes and shipping containers. With everyone now in the swing of relief progress on the Halley VI cargo was rapid and before long there was a line of boxes and containers stretching across the site.

The Amderma moored up against the sea ice
The Amderma from the air, shortly after arriving at the coast. Photo Mark Wales.

Space frame being craned off the ship Working the sea ice next to the Amderma
The first space frame is unloaded from the ship. Photo Karl Tuplin. Working the sea ice next to the Amderma, with the RSS Ernest Shackleton visible in the distance. Photo Karl Tuplin.

After two weeks of non-stop activity, the last pieces of cargo (two nose-cones that will form the outer shell of a module) were finally unloaded and brought to the station. In total 346 sledges of cargo were hauled to station in 12 days by 205 vehicle rotations - a fantastic achievement by all involved!

Halley VI Cargo lines on the ice The last nose cone arrives at Halley
Halley VI Cargo lines stretch off into the distance. Photo Simon Coggins. The last nose cone arrives at Halley, signalling the end of relief. Photo Karl Tuplin.
Link | Posted by Simon in Vehicles, Construction on January 4th, 2008

Science Pack Up

The Science team have been extremely busy over the last few months packing up a lot of the science equipment in preparation for the arrival of the ship. To make room for the construction team and their supplies some of the science that has been happening at Halley must be interrupted for the duration of the build.

The geologger lab before and after Electronics lab before and after
The geologger lab, before and after it is converted into a conference room. One of our electronics labs had to be merged with another one to make space for the construction team.

Some of the experiments will be run at other locations before returning to refurbished facilities in two years time. Other experiments will be returned to Cambridge for upgrades and development work, while our most critical long term monitoring will continue at Halley throughout the construction project. This has meant a certain amount of relocation, with all our remaining experiments being crammed into a lot less space. Continuing experiments include Dobson Ozone measurements, the Search Coil Magnetometer, Ground ozone measurements, Bomem optical studies, Very Low Frequency radio studies, meteorology, daily weather balloon launches, air and snow sampling and more.

Ongoing science Boxes in a container
Ongoing science in the Dobson room and the new meteorology office. Boxes start to fill one of the outgoing shipping containers.

Since packing back in September, the science team have packaged and consigned approximately 6000kg of cargo in over 100 boxes. With the end now near I suspect none of them will miss the sight of bubble wrap or packing tape for some time!

An empty office Empty shelves ready to be filled
The Simpson Office is emptied to make room for supplies that need to be kept warm. Empty shelves ready to receive cargo during relief.
Link | Posted by Simon in Science, Construction on December 21st, 2007

The Season Begins

The start of the first construction season has now well and truly begun, in fact so much so that we haven’t had a chance to update the website for quite a while!

The Halley VI trial module is now complete, with the first module successfully assembled in Cape Town last month and now is disassembled ready to go onto the ship. The process of constructing the trial module identified some difficulties, which now resolved should help speed up progress at Halley when each module is finally put together.

A completed module in Cape Town

A completed module in Cape Town. It is without skis and pictured at its lowest setting, on site it will stand considerably higher off the snow.

The Ernest Shackleton has just finished loading cargo in Cape Town and set sail a few days ago heading for Halley. She is due to arrive before Christmas, but first has to work her way through a great deal of ice to reach the Halley coast. The Amderma, our huge cargo ship is now loading cargo in Cape Town, and will follow the Shackleton south in a few days time. You can see the progress of both ships, along with the Polar Stern (a German research vessel) on the chart below:

A tracking map showing the progress of the ships.

A tracking map showing the progress of the ships. The Ernest Shackleton is shown in green, the Amderma is in black. The red areas show regions currently covered in sea ice.

Although the most visible work will occur at the Halley V site this season (the building of the modules), there will be a team working out at the Halley VI site laying power and data cables and digging in the foundations for the masts and towers. So they know exactly where to put them we have been out to the Halley VI site to survey some of the key locations. Karl, the Project Manager and Steve the Building Supervisor have spent several days out at Halley VI precisely marking out the site. With a background in Civil Engineering, it seems an opportunity for Karl to get out the office and back behind the sights of a theodolite was not to be missed!

Karl surveying at the Halley VI site

Karl surveying at the Halley VI site

Another key task was to mark out the boundary of the Halley VI Clean Air Sector. This region will contain the new Clean Air Laboratory, so it is vitally important that we ensure the pristine snow is not polluted during construction. To avoid this we have set up a 1km exclusion zone around the site of the new lab, with a single access road and tight restrictions in place during construction.

Flags marking the boundary of the Clean Air Sector

Flags and a signpost marking the boundary of the Clean Air Sector

Link | Posted by Simon in Science, Construction on December 9th, 2007

Charter Ship

With ten times the normal quantity of cargo going into Halley this season it was clear that we were going to need a much bigger ship than the Ernest Shackleton, our normal resupply vessel. The photo below shows the cargo ship that we have chartered, the 177 metre, 34,000 tonne MV Amderma.

Comparison between the Shackleton and the new cargo ship
The MV Amderma, with the Ernest Shackleton shown to scale.

The Shackleton is due to reach Halley in the middle of December with the MV Amderma arriving a few days later.

Link | Posted by Simon in Vehicles, Construction on September 4th, 2007

Halley VI taking shape

The photo below shows the steel frame for one of the Halley VI modules, currently under construction in Cape Town.

Steel frame of a module

Construction workers (bottom left) dwarfed by the structure.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on July 20th, 2007

More Fabrication

Fabrication is continuing at a furious pace, with many recognisable parts of the new station starting to come off the production line. Various specialist contractors are involved, each with their own key roles and responsibilities that must fit into the project as a whole.

The Mechanical and Electrical Services construction continues with the detailed design and supply of the energy modules, the most complex technical element of Halley VI.

Energy Module Schematic
A CAD drawing of the mechanical and electrical services in one of the energy modules.

Before any actual module service fabrication can take place, the whole module is modelled in 3D by Merit Merrell, (our M&E supply subcontractor) using Faber Maunsell CAD construction drawings. This is the ensure that none of the services clash, while also checking and adjusting the layout design to give the most efficient use of space.
Once a system is built up and checked, each specialist service manufacturer can accurately build their systems in component form ready for shipping.
The Merit Merrell 3D model shown is an overview of all the services in energy module E1.

Generators during testing
Supervising the generator tests. The grey pipe network above the cells is the exhaust heat recovery system.

Four Westac Power generator units that have recently been built and tested. The units have been designed in a combined heat and power configuration, where the generator engine provides power and also makes use of the waste heat to warm the buildings. Testing is carried out using the same fuel and coolant used in the Antarctic, in order to determine the actual power output and heat recovery. The engine cooling circuits are the primary heating source for Halley VI, and Faber Maunsell were in attendance to confirm that the engine heat recovery profile matches heating design model.

The steelwork and external envelope of the building is being constructed in South Africa by a Consortium called Antarctic Marine & Climate Centre (AM&CC). This consists of Design Coordination and Project Management by Outsite, Structural Steelwork by Petrel Engineering Ltd and Cladding and Glazing by MMS Technologies.

Working on the cladding panels A finished cladding panel
Making the moulds for the exterior cladding panels. The moulds are filled with resin to create the Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) panels. A finished cladding panel for the underside of one of the standard modules..
Steelwork The steel space-frame
Construction of the steelwork that will form the upper framework of the modules. Part of the steel space-frame that forms the base of the modules. These are be mounted on skis and towed to base during relief.

In order to provide enough fresh water for the construction workers who will be on site during the building of Halley VI, one of the Halley VI water melting tanks will be commissioned this year. Merit Merrell is doing the melt tank design and fabrication work.

Schematic of melt tanks
The setup of the new melt tanks and the link bridge that will connect the two sides of the base at Halley VI.

In order to speed up construction on site, many of the rooms will be constructed as fully furnished pods in the UK and then just slotted into place on site. Bathroom, bedroom and plant room pods are already under construction by Servacomm Redhall Ltd. The photos below show pod detail from a recent site visit to the supplier’s works.

Pod from the outside Plantroom Pod
A bathroom pod from the outside. A plant room pod before fit out.
Bedroom pod Bathroom pod
Inside a bedroom pod. Inside a bathroom pod.

As previously described the Hydraulics for the platform legs are beginning to come off the production line. Titan Engineering are carrying out the hydraulic design and construction.

Other subcontractors involved in the project include Joyce and Reddington (Joinery), Framework CDM (Floor Cassettes), Trelleborg Woodville (Module connections), Marioff Ltd (Fire suppression), TAC (Building Management System), Gertsen & Olufsen (Sewage Treatment Works) and TSC (Masts and towers).

Floor cassette M & E cassette
A wooden floor cassette showing the area of a standard module. Mechanical and electrical pipe work for each module is also pre-fabricated in sections so it can be dropped in place on site.
Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on June 7th, 2007

Fabrication and Testing

With the construction due to start early next year, many of the different parts of the station are now being fabricated and tested before being shipped down to Antarctica.

On the mechanical and electrical front, the hydraulic leg construction and testing commenced during March, with the first four legs being produced at the manufacturers works in Halifax. They are due to be shipped to South Africa for fitting to the test module being assembled there.

This picture was taken during one of the leg tests, with the test leg fully extended. For ease of testing the leg was positioned upside down, allowing access to the hydraulic connections that would normally be encased inside the building at the top of the leg.

one of the Hydraulic legs
A hydraulic leg being tested.

The grey casing shown will be mostly concealed inside the building steel work and cladding, and has been treated with a special fireproof coating for structural protection.The white leg section is clad in a fibreglass wrap material, designed to protect against the severe temperature variations that the Brunt Ice Shelf experiences.

All of the hydraulics and control hardware were demonstrated to satisfaction during the visit, with many of the design innovations becoming apparent as the testing and demonstration progressed.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on April 24th, 2007

Fire Testing

The detailing of the Halley VI design continues and particularly for the composite panels that will be used to form the shell of the structure. The design and fabrication of these heavily insulated panels is being undertaken in South Africa where recently a series of fire tests were completed.

Fire is an ever present hazard in the Antarctic where humidity is very low. The loss of a structure can have a severe impact, particularly during the winter months when external temperatures are very low and there is no daylight. To alert station personnel if a fire starts in the new Halley VI station, a comprehensive fire detection system is to be installed. This is backed up by a water mist suppression system, which will stop most fires developing and engulfing the station.

To ensure the structure can withstand a fire both inside and outside, fire tests were completed to the standard required by the London Underground, which exceeds the normal British Standard requirements. Testing has been carried out both in South Africa and at the Building Research Establishment in the UK. The tests showed that the structure can withstand a fire lasting for over 30 minutes, which provides enough time to enable the occupants to escape the building safely.

Fire testing in South Africa Fire testing in South Africa
Fire testing in South Africa. Before and after the BRE test.
Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on April 3rd, 2007