Perched on a Nunatack Near Jango Bingo

This is from a pamphlet that accompanied the British Council’s exhibition a few years ago, subtitled New Architecture and Science In Antarctica. What little I know of life in the Antarctic comes largely from Werner Herzog’s film Encounters at the End of the World, of the US base, which is a sprawling ugly place full of eccentrics, but the latest research stations being built there have been based on cutting edge green architecture, with some truly surprising results.

“Halley VI, Brunt Ice Shelf, is the first fully relocatable polar research station in the world, and one of only 2 research stations in Antarctica sited on a floating ice shelf. The new modular station is designed to be self-sufficient, able to withstand freezing witner temperatures of -55C, to have minimal impact on Antarctica’s pistine environment and to be an aesthetically stimulating plce to live and work. Opened 2013 by British Antarctic Survey, Hugh Broughton Architects UK.

Princess Elisabeth, Dronning Maud Land, is Antarctica’s first zero-emission station. Perched on a nunatack, 200 km from the coast and at an altitude of 1400m, the aerodaymanic stainless-steel structure can withstand strong Antarctic winds and is layered so that no interior heating is necessary. The station seamlessly integrates renewable wind and solar energy, water treatment facilities, passive buildign technologies and a smart grid for maximizing energy efficiency. Opened 2009, Belgian Polar Secretariat & International Polar Foundation, architect International Polar Foundation.

Bharati Research Station, Larsemann Hills is India’s third Antarctic research station. Its striking modernist structure is made from 134 prefabricated shippng containers, which were also used to carry the rest of the building materials to the site. Wrapped in a special aluminium case, its extensive glazing offers magnificent panoramic views while withstanding powerful winds, -40C temperatures, blizzards and enormous loads. Opened 2013, National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Reserch, India. Architect bof arcitecten, Germany.

Jang Bongo, Terra Nova Bay. Korea is becoming a significant player in Antarctic research and Jang Bongo, by Space Group, South Korea, will be one of the largest year-round bases on the continent when it opens, which is currently scheduled for 2014. The station’s aerodynamic triple-arm design will provide resistance to the elements and accomodate up to 60 personnel during the busy summer season. Korean Polar Research Institute.

Iceberg Living Station, Ross Ice Shelf. Over the centuries igloos have demonstrated how effective compacted snow is as an insulator. This speculative proposal ims to design a living station for upt to 100 visitors with minimum environmental impact. The station would be holed out of a large iceberg, using caterpillar excavators traditinally used to move and clear snow. Using the landscape as a building material negates any need to transport foreign materials to antactcica, and as the station would eventually melt over a 7-10 year period, it also solves the issue of dismalntling and removing structures once it has fulfilled its usefullness. Architect Daivd Garcia/MAP Architects, Denmark.

These stations are not just places to investigate extreme conditions, though with temperatures down to -89.2C and winds of 240 km/hr, this is as tough as it gets, but it was also there that the thinning of the ozone layer was first noted, the start of our awareness of global warming.

It is also important place for collecting moon rocks, as movement of the ice brings them together, and they stand out clearly against the snow.

The air there is incredibly clean, but the changing refractive index of air column, which causes twinkling of stars, makes optical telescopes unsatisfactory, but perfect for all others. They also investigate the sun-earth linkages using the wonderfully named Super Dual Auroral Radar Network or SuperDARN.

The ice sheet is huge = 14 million sq km and up to 4km deep, so reflects a lot of the sun’s rays, so is mimportant for our weather, as well as a huge store of fresh water. There are also hundreds of lakes runnign beneath it.

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