The ice base from which the hole in the ozone layer was first detected is in danger of falling into a huge chasm.

The Halley VI Research Station, which is home to the British Antarctic Survey, is moving nearly 25km across Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf to escape an encroaching fissure in the ice.

In 2012, satellite monitoring of the ice shelf revealed the first signs of movement in the chasm that had lain dormant for at least 35 years. By 2013, it began opening at an alarming pace of 1.6km a year. If the base does not move, it could be in danger of tumbling into the chasm by 2020.

To make matters more critical, in October, a new crack emerged 15km north of the research station across the route sometimes used to resupply the base.


The team has just nine weeks to move before the harsh winter begins, making it difficult to move the structure amid complete darkness, plummeting temperatures and gale-force winds.

The base will be broken up into eight modules and driven inland on the back of large tractors. Scientific research at Halley will continue in temporary facilities at the existing site and move to the new location next season.

Tim Stockings, director of operations at the British Antarctic Survey, said: "Halley Research Station was designed and engineered specifically to be re-located in response to changes in the ice.

"Over the last couple of years, our operational teams have been meticulous in developing very detailed plans for the move.

"Antarctica can be a very hostile environment. Each summer season is very short - about nine weeks. And because the ice and the weather are unpredictable, we have to be flexible in our approach. We are especially keen to minimise the disruption to the science programmes.

"We have planned the move in stages - the science infrastructure that captures environmental data will remain in place while the station's modules move."

The base is monitoring the impact of extreme space weather events and climate change. Photo / British Antarctic Survey
The base is monitoring the impact of extreme space weather events and climate change. Photo / British Antarctic Survey

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 scientific investigations there 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.