Halley is one of the four research stations operated by the BAS (Briitsh Antarctic Survey) in the Antarctic regions. It is sited in Coates Land on the Brunt Ice Shelf (to the right of the Antarctic Peninsula). The base is named after Edmond Halley, the famous astronomer and discoverer of Halley's Comet, and was founded in 1956 as a meterological and glacial observation centre. SInce then there have been several generations of the Halley base, the current one being Halley V. The previous ice stations have all been crushed under the ice, as they were built directly onto the surface of Antarctica. Halley V is built on telescopic steel legs which can be extended above the snow line each year to prevent this occuring. Some of the buildings are built on skis and can be towed to a new location every year over the shifting surface.

The base is occupied all year round, with aproximately 65 people coming out to undertake scientific research in the summer months (November to February) and about 15 'winterers' staying on through the Long Dark of the Antarctic Winter, (Late March to Early October). The base is totally cut off, there are no roads or railways on the Antarctic Continent, the only way to get in and out is by icebreaker. The ship that supplies the Halley base is the RRS Ernest Shackleton and this arrives at the beginning of November, filled with fuel, supplies and scientists and then returns in February to take away those who are not wintering and drop off more supplies. The base is sited some 12km from the sea and all supplies are slowly transported to the base on sledges, towed by skidoos or sno-cats. The process is long and arduous and takes several days, special care also having to be taken due to the unstable sea ice that forms over the ocean where the ship docks. This ice is very fragile and liable to break up, so only old vehicles are used on it (with roof and windows open in case the driver needs to make a quick exit!), their contents having to be shipped off onto the newer vehicles on the stronger land ice. Also suitable sites for unloading can be much further than 12km away. In 2000 the drive by sno-cat was 20 miles!

Halley is a centre for the following studies:

most of which have been researched there since the base was founded. The CFC laws passed in the late eighties were a direct result of observations in the spring depletion of stratigraphic ozone from the Halley base.

There are few places on earth that are more inhospitable than Halley. As my friend, a BAS meteorologist1, described it:

There is just nothing there - nothing at all but snow as far as the eye can see. And it's not as though there are even any uppy-downy bits to make it interesting. It's just flat. And plonked in the middle of the nothingness is Halley.

So not a place to go on your holidays then, but one of the more important of the BAS bases. If you ever think that life is hard, think about all the poor souls stuck out in that godforsaken wasteland for several months on end!

Thanks to Andy Rankin for his personal communications from Halley.
Also see:
http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/Living/Stations/Halley.html for further information

1 Andy doesn't think he is a meterologist... he's either a glaciochemical paleoclimatologist, or a paleoclimatological glaciochemist, whatever one of those is!

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