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'HALLOWEEN CRACK' FORCES BRITISH ANTARCTIC SURVEY TO ABANDON RESEARCH STATION FOR SECOND TIME 

31.10.2017
A satellite image from the European Space Agency showing the Halloween crack 
Credit: ESA

The future of the British Antarctic Survey at the south pole is in doubt after scientists were forced to abandon their research station for the second time after cracks lengthened in the ice sheet.

The renowned Halley VI ice base, from which the hole in the ozone layer was first detected, has already been relocated 14 miles across the Brunt Ice Shelf because of an encroaching fissure in the ice.

But another fracture in the floating ice shelf - dubbed the Halloween Crack - has been steadily growing to the north of the base since last year.

Crews were evacuated earlier this year, and today the BAS announced that, for safety reasons it will be closing its research station - Halley VIa - for the Antarctic winter, which runs between March and November.

Although the BAS says nobody is immediate danger, they cannot be sure that conditions would not worsen during the difficult conditions of the southern polar winter when an evacuation would be impossible.

Dame Jane Francis, Director of BAS, said: “What we are witnessing is the power and unpredictability of Nature.  

“The safety of our staff is our priority in these circumstances.  Our Antarctic summer research operation will continue as planned, and we are confident of mounting a fast uplift of personnel should fracturing of the ice shelf occur.  

“However, because access to the station by ship or aircraft is extremely difficult during the winter months of 24-hour darkness, extremely low temperatures and the frozen sea, we will once again take the precaution of shutting down the station before the 2018 Antarctic winter begins.”

The latest assessment from BAS glaciologists confirms that the northern movement of the chasm in the Brunt Ice Shelf, which had previously been dormant for around 35 years accelerated during the last 7 months, and the second ‘Halloween’ crack - continues to extend eastwards.

The 14 members of staff who expected to spend winter at Halley will be redeployed, either at other BAS-operated Antarctic research stations or in its Cambridge headquarters.

The base is crucial to studies into global issues such as the impact of extreme space weather events, climate change, and atmospheric phenomena.  

Ozone measurements have also been made continuously at Halley since 1956 and it was scientific investigations from this location that led to the discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole in 1985.

Space weather data captured at Halley VI contributes to the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group that provides advice to Government on the impact of space weather on UK infrastructure and business.

The station is also home to an ongoing European Space Agency (ESA) experiment which is testing how well people can adapt to life in remote and isolated locations in preparations for long space flights, such as the first Mars landing.

 




source:  telegraph.co.uk