05:12 GMT +324 July 2019
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    Mission Begins to Save Crucial Antarctic Base From Massive Ice Chasm

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    A huge ice chasm in the Antarctic has become active after being dormant for over three decades, threatening the Halley VI Research Station, the research facility that first identified the hole in the ozone layer of our planet’s atmosphere.

    The ice fissure began to split open again in 2012, and is now moving toward the research station at the alarming rate of some 1.7 kilometers per year, threatening to cut it off from the majority of the Brunt Ice Shelf on which it is located.

    "If [the chasm] continues to move and the ice breaks off, the station would be on the wrong side of the crack," Athena Dinar, a spokesperson for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that operates the station, told Gizmodo.

    To save the base, researchers must promptly relocate it to as far as 23 kilometers to the east. Presciently, Halley VI was constructed as a mobile facility, with consideration for such natural phenomena.

    The station consists of eight connected modules held up by hydraulic legs fitted with skis. Once these modules are unattached from one another, they can be pulled inland by large tractors.

    "Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be relocated in response to changes in the ice," said Tim Stockings, BAS director of operations.

    "Over the last couple of years our operational teams have been meticulous in developing very detailed plans for the move and we are excited by the challenge."

    Each year researchers have just nine weeks during the Antarctic field season to devote to the mission, before hostile winter conditions take control of the ice shelf. The process of moving the station is expected to take three years, and there's no guarantee that the crack will not behave unpredictably during that period.

    Another new crack emerged some 15 kilometers north of the research station, across the route often used to resupply Halley VI, complicating the issue.

    While relocation efforts are underway, scientific research will continue in temporary facilities at the existing site.     


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