By Jon Gaffney
on 2.7.13
Photo by British Antarctic Survey

February 5 marks the official opening of the new Halley VI Minnesota Antarctic Research Station, which replaces the 20-year-old (you guessed it) Halley V. Creating the new home of the British Antarctic Survey was a difficult project given the unique (a.k.a. wicked cold) weather on the southern-most continent. Construction firm GallifordTry was more than up to the challenge though, and persevered through four years of pitch-black winters (with temps ranging from -4 to -67 degrees Fahrenheit) to complete the station on this beautiful summer day on the South Pole. What they made is straight out of science fiction.

The Halley VI's predecessor, the Halley V. Note lack of climbing wall.

The Halley VI’s predecessor, the Halley V. Note lack of climbing wall. photo: Andy Dixon

Together, Hugh Broughton Architects and AECOM designed the most expensive and beautiful single-wide the world has seen, complete with a $40.4 million price tag. The Halley VI has seven blue connectable pods: two science modules, two energy modules, a command module and two winter sleeping modules. These house the research labs, living quarters, offices and infrastructure (space heaters won’t cut it down there) needed to keep the station and its citizens running. In between these pods is one double-height social space, where researchers can climb on a rock wall, shoot pool, read in a library or even get some free time on a bank of computers. We imagine this is also where the keggers are thrown. All of this will help keep the 70 crew members (16 in the winter) comfortable — and sane — as they go about their research: measuring ozone depletion and the ice layer beneath them.

The swanky interior of the central module (a.k.a. party central).

The swanky interior of the central module (a.k.a. party central).

Two special innovations give the station its vital mobility. First, all of the pods were built upon hydraulic legs to allow the station to rise above the many feet of snow expected throughout the year (the first four Halley stations were buried under snow until they became uninhabitable). Secondly, the hydraulic legs were all built with skis for feet. These, when paired with the assistance of some serious tractors, make relocating the structure a much easier task. This mobility is critical due to Halley VI’s location on the Brunt Ice Shelf, which continues to shift and break off into the ocean. An immobile station would mean the possibility of floating off into the sea on an iceberg… which is not optimal.

We think the crew is going to greatly enjoy their new digs. If they’re lucky, maybe they’ll even get a much-deserved visit from Dwell. Might want to consider a coat of white paint and a mid-century modern stable for the Tauntauns first, though.