Lola Gayle, STEAM Register
Whether it’s due to natural causes or man-made global warming, it appears that Antarctica is undergoing a major upheaval of sorts.
For example, a massive rift was discovered in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf in December 2016. A further warning was issued this month that an iceberg — predicted to be one of the 10 largest on record — is poised to break away from the Antarctic shelf, potentially sparking a rise in sea levels.
A mysterious crater was also spotted on the East Antarctic King Baudouin ice shelf in December, although this one has been growing steadily since the late 1980s. Despite the age of the crater, scientists said its size clearly increases during warmer years.
Now, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) officials have decided to shut down the Halley VI Research Station, located on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, due to the alarming growth of a new crack in the ice shelf. In fact, according to a ScienceAlert report, the crack appears to have nearly doubled in length in less than three months.
Watch the drone footage below to see for yourself.
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In an announcement on their website, BAS officials said the station, which is a platform for global Earth, atmospheric and space weather observation in a climate-sensitive zone, will be shut down during the forthcoming Antarctic winter. All personnel will be removed before the winter season begins in March.
The station was already in the process of being relocated from its present site to put it upstream of a previously dormant ice chasm that began to show signs of growth in 2012. The new crack appeared 17 km to the north of the research station in October 2016, but so far they have been unable to determine what will happen to the ice shelf during the forthcoming Antarctic winter and beyond.
On the maiden flight of Operation IceBridge’s Antarctica 2011 campaign NASA’s DC-8 took in this view of clean line of the Brunt Ice Shelf and the massive extent of its smooth surface. Credit: Michael Studinger/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
While there is no immediate risk to the people currently at the station, or to the station itself, the Director of BAS decided that it was prudent for safety reasons to shut down the station as a precautionary measure and remove its people before the Antarctic winter begins.
There are currently 88 people on station including summer-only staff working on the relocation project and 16 who were scheduled to over-winter. Options to temporarily redeploy research and technical support teams to other parts of BAS are being explored.
“We want to do the right thing for our people,” said Director of Operations Captain Tim Stockings. “Bringing them home for winter is a prudent precaution given the changes that our glaciologists have seen in the ice shelf in recent months. Our goal is to winterize the station and leave it ready for re-occupation as soon as possible after the Antarctic winter.”
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