Tag Archives: antarctica

Halley VI Research Station

brunt-ice-shelfThe Brunt Ice Shelf, with the Brunt Ice Falls behind it.

One of the problems with building a research station located* on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica is that the Brunt Ice Shelf is floating on the Weddell Sea. Not only do you have to keep jacking-up the base of the station to prevent it from being buried by accumulating snow, but you also run the risk of the entire ice shelf calving away as an iceberg.

The UK’s Halley VI Research Station, which was officially opened on 5th February, has been designed to combat both of these issues. The base sits on legs that can be hydraulically raised to prevent it from being submerged by snow, and at the end of each leg are skis that allow the entire base to be moved to a new location if and when it becomes necessary.



Close-up view of Halley VI’s legs.


The station is designed to be modular, making construction and maintenance easier. The blue modules are science modules, and the central red module is the main space for eating, drinking and recreation.


Halley’s primary purpose is atmospheric research. It was at Halley in 1985 that the hole in the ozone layer was discovered.

* The Brunt Ice Shelf is in the north-west quadrant of Antarctica, in an area claimed by the UK but also by Argentina and Chile.

Unclaimed Antarctica

Officially, Antarctica is not ruled by anybody; the entire continent is terra nullius: land that belongs to noone. After the Moon, it is the largest terra nullius area that men have walked on.

Seven countries (the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, Chile and Argentina) have claimed sections of Antarctica, but those claims are not universally recognised, and in some cases overlap.

L-R: The Australian and New Zealander claims. Both were previously part of the UK’s claim.

L-R: The overlapping Argentinian and Chilean claims.

L-R: The Norwegian and French claims.

The United Kingdom’s claim. Note the overlap with the Argentinian and Chilean claims.

When all the existing claims are taken into account that still leaves a small area adjacent to the Norwegian claim, and the entire area between 90°W and 150°W (1.6 million square kilometres, three times the size of France) unclaimed by anyone.

Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty Peru, South Africa, the USA and Russia have formally reserved the right to make a claim to land in Antarctica, but have yet failed to do so.