In the conditions of extremely low temperatures and darkness, the research base, built among the Antarctic ice, continues to work as usual – although people were forced to evacuate from there a few months ago.
The Halley VI research station, located on the Antarctic Brunt Ice Shelf, is intended for year-round living of scientists. But in recent years, the fear of cracks on the shelf has led to the closure of the station during the Antarctic winter. But if in any other institution the evacuation of personnel means the cessation of any activity, including scientific, then this station is not going to stop at all.
Last week, researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) announced that for the first time during one of these winter halley stops, Halley VI continued to successfully conduct measurements of climate, ozone and space weather – even considering that people had not set foot in the station since February. This strategy, which scientists themselves call the “Ghost Base”, became possible thanks to an autonomous power system that supplies electricity to the station’s scientific equipment.
The core of this system is a microturbine installed in a temperature-controlled container, which is powered by an autonomous fuel dispenser and allows you to maintain the work of the entire station. Researchers compare it with the “jet engine in the box”, which rotates 24 hours a day without maintenance and can withstand up to 9 months of work in this mode until the research team returns.
In the harshest conditions of Antarctica, it sounds almost like science fiction, but the microturbine is already doing its job for 136 days, and the BAS team is confident that it can survive the winter, while maintaining a number of meteorological, ozone and atmospheric monitoring devices. And all this – during the daily transfer of 1 GB of data that is sent to researchers in the UK. Among these tools is a device called AutoDobson, a fully automated version of the device that allowed Halley’s research station to detect a hole in the ozone layer for the first time back in the 1980s (during the Halley IV iteration).