THE BRUNT ICE SHELF is not what you’d call the ideal location to build a manned scientific research station. More than 16,000km from home, this floating shelf of ice sits beneath a hole in the ozone layer, experiences temperatures exceeding -50C; is regularly pummeled by 145kph blizzards and endures winters that, for 50 days of year, blanket the area in 24-hour darkness.
Over the winter, snow accumulates at such a rate that buildings are swiftly buried in a tomb of crushing snow and ice. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the seemingly solid ice on which it is built, is actually a relentless frozen conveyor belt that carries anything on it towards a watery grave.
Despite these overwhelming odds, the British Antarctic Survey have been building scientific research stations on the Brunt Ice Shelf since 1957. Their latest, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station has just opened for business and is the culmination of almost sixty years of hard lessons and against-the-odds architectural and technological evolution.