Scientists Hope to Save a Frozen Research Base in Antarctica

Friday, 03 November 2017 - 7:05PM
Technology
Earth
Friday, 03 November 2017 - 7:05PM
Scientists Hope to Save a Frozen Research Base in Antarctica
Wikimedia Commons
If movies and games have taught us anything, it's that scientific research outposts can be absolutely terrifying when left abandoned for an extended period. Dark corridors, dust, and dormant computer equipment make for a spooky environment, especially if the base is made of unfeeling metal sheets, or frozen under snow in the middle of Antarctica.

This scenario has all the makings of a terrifying horror movie, particularly anything from John Carpenter, but it's not going to deter people from exploring such an eerie environment in the name of academic research. Inherent The Thing dangers aside, scientists are attempting to do something that's never before been attempted, as they aim to regain control of Halley VI, an abandoned scientific research that's been dormant since March.



The problem was a crack in the ice - as the weather got worse at the Antarctic station, which faced a cold winter from April to September (since it's in the Southern hemisphere), researchers worried for the safety of the base. Temperatures began to drop, and in order to keep the scientists nice and safe, the base was left abandoned, shut down and empty as the Antarctic winter hit.

Now, the dangers of the 300 foot wide crack in the ice sheet below the base have subsided, and the weather is beginning to warm. The plan is to return to the base, clear out any messy areas, and get the scientists back to work.

This hasn't been possible at previous research bases - Halleys I to V have all been lost to the elements over time, but Halley VI is built on tall legs that stick out of the ice, which scientists hope will mean that it can be salvaged despite its time left unoccupied. According to the base's science director David Vaughan:

Opening quote
"We know it's standing, we know it's not buried in snow. We might find some snow inside, and there is always the possibility that windows have been broken."
Closing quote


There is some debate as to how well the scientific equipment that's been left at the base will function. Temperatures have plummeted to -67° Fahrenheit while the base was abandoned, and where under normal circumstances the local scientists would have ensured that their resources were kept safe and warm in order to function properly, there hasn't been anyone available to keep the heating on.

Initially, the returning team will be forced to live out of a shipping container as they work to repair the base. The intense cold will likely have caused different materials to contract and expand, causing things to break down, or equipment at the base to break entirely.

The first step will be firing up the generators - these are powered by jet turbine fuel which can be safely stored at -53 degrees. There's no guarantee that the generators will work as they did previously, but the team are hopeful that they'll be able to get them up and running again now that the weather is warming up a little.

Whatever the team finds, here's hoping that there isn't a terrifying shape-shifting alien lying dormant in the snow. Exploring dark, empty corridors in the snow will be disconcerting enough without something lurking in the shadows.
Science
Science News
Technology
Earth
No