Latest News

09/10 Season - Module Move

When the early input team arrived on site at the end of winter one of the first jobs was to flatten out all the wind tails in front of buildings and containers and in all other working areas. The snow surface for the construction site and the main thoroughfares was compacted and groomed to provide a hard and safe working surface for men and machines. Each of the modules was then dug out of their wintering positions. To do this a huge amount of snow was removed and battered back around each module to provide working space. A shallow ramp was also formed in front of each module to enable it to be towed out to its new position on the summer construction line. Before towing the clad module the jacking concept was first tested. To do this each leg had to be raised, a 1m high pile of snow pushed underneath and then the leg lowered on to the pile before repeating the process on the next leg. Once all four legs were sitting on piles of compacted snow (no mean feat for a building weighing approximately 60 tonnes) the module then used its hydraulics to raise itself to a full operating height of about 4m. This allowed a bulldozer to get underneath and level the snow surface all around the skis providing a working surface for the team to fit the towing frame. Once the towing frame was fitted the module was lowered and a CAT Challenger together with a bulldozer were hitched to the front. The module was towed slowly up the ramp to the construction line.

Blue module move start Blue module moving
Starting the move of the blue module Blue Module moving

The skis do stick to the ice but once this “sticktion” is broken the module moves very easily.  The same jacking and towing regime was followed for all of the tented modules. The only change in the process was the tent skirts had to be raised and secured to allow access to the skis. Once on the construction line the modules were ready for the next stage of construction.

Site in 09 10 season
Construction site 09/10 season

Link | Posted by Mike in Construction on December 10th, 2009

After Winter 2009

After their second winter the clad module and tented modules were left in large wind scoops. The scoops around the tents were over 3m deep in places with even bigger wind tails of snow accumulated behind. The landscape around Halley station was no longer flat! It is planned to jack each module up every year to keep them above the surface and out of the wind scoops, although computer modelling and a 1:50 scale model test in the 06/07 season suggested that the station could survive two years if necessary as the aerodynamics of the station would prevent it from burying. The scoop around the clad module, which has remained static for two winters, has validated the testing. In the final layout all the modules will be orientated long-side on to the prevailing wind to keep the size of the wind scoops and wind tails to a minimum. Even though the blue module was left nose-on to the wind the shape of the scoop indicates how the aerodynamics of the module have worked especially when compared with the tents.

Module in Scoop Tent in scoop
Blue module in its wind scoop Tented module in its wind scoop
Link | Posted by Mike in Construction on December 1st, 2009

Halley VI poised for a busy construction season

The contractor Morrison have successfully completed a trial build of the big red central module for the Halley VI Project.  It was an impressive sight in the suburbs of Cape Town, attracting a lot of attention including a visit from the British High Consulate. Once built the central module will be the largest enclosed space BAS has ever built at Halley providing a focus for social and recreational activities on the station.

Module A Trial Build
Module A Trial Build

Trial construction team
The Construction Team

The module has now been dismantled and along with all the blue cladding panels is being transported to the docks in Cape Town ready for loading on to the Russian cargo ship the M V Igarka in early December. The season is fast approaching with the first members of the BAS team departing for Halley in the last week of October. At its peak during relief there will be 120 people on station with construction continuing right up to the end of February. This is going to be a very busy and long season, but hopefully if the weather holds a very fruitful season with the cladding of the red and all the blue modules completed.

Cape Town Docks
Halley VI loads arriving at the Docks.

Even though the modules will not be towed to the Halley VI site until Nov/Dec 2011 work will commence this season to start compacting the haul route from Halley V to Halley VI, a distance of about 15km. BAS are collaborating with the Scot Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in a project sponsored by Lankelma to trial newly developed test equipment and interpretation techniques to verify bearing capacities of the compacted snow route. Lankelma and SPRI have modified traditional Cone Penetrating Testing equipment, normally used for geotechnical surveys on UK construction sites, for use on polar snow. This should be a very interesting trial which if successful will aid the design and construction of future infrastructure works not only at Halley but at other polar stations. Further information is on the Lankelma web site .

Link | Posted by Mike in Construction on October 27th, 2009

Halley VI Progress Update

It’s been a long time since the last update, so we thought it’s about time to post some more photos of progress on the project. The clad module and tents survived the winter intact, and progress continues to be made with the remaining cladding panels in Cape Town.

The module and tent after winter
The module and tents after their first winter.

The focus has now shifted to producing the panels for the red central module, and consolidating the panels ready for shipment down to Halley. Here are some photos of the finished panels in Cape Town.

Leg panels lined up ready for packing in Cape Town
Leg panels lined up ready for packing in Cape Town

The large nose cone panels stacked ready for shipping.
The large nose cone panels stacked ready for shipping.

Leg panels for the central module coming off the production line.
Leg panels for the central module coming off the production line.

A trial build of the central module is due to start in Cape Town in July. This will give time to solve any minor issues with the panels and to give the construction team experience of what is involved in less difficult conditions than they will face on the ice shelf.

Next season construction will focus on cladding the remaining blue modules, plus building the steelwork for the large central module. By the end of next season we expect the station to really start to take shape.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on April 22nd, 2009

Halley VI in winter

Here’s a picture of the completed module now that winter has started to set in:

Module in winter
One of the Halley VI modules with aurora in the background. Photo by Richard Burt.

Link | Posted by Simon in Construction on May 27th, 2008

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