The big freeze: Genie helps build the new Halley Research Station in Antarctica

By Maria Hadlow07 May 2008

Artist's impression of the HalleyVI research station. (Courtesy of Hugh Broughton Architects/Faber M

Artist's impression of the HalleyVI research station. (Courtesy of Hugh Broughton Architects/Faber Maunsell/BAS)

Two specially modified Genie articulating Z-60/34 booms were among the equipment chosen to help build the new Halley Research Station in Antarctica.

During the 2007-2008 research season British Antarctic Survey (BAS) began constructing its sixth Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. According to Athena Dinar of BAS one of the top priorities was to find equipment that could be productive in the harsh working environment. Two specially modified Genie articulating Z-60/34 booms were among the equipment chosen. They arrived at the end of last year will be used for a variety of tasks including; steelwork erection, cladding and welding.

The design for the Halley VI research station came from Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects who won a design competition held by the Royal Institute of British Architects and BAS. "Like the current Halley V buildings, the new Halley VI structure will be jacked up on legs to keep it above the accumulation of the snow," says Ms Dinar, "but, it is unique because there will be skis on the bottom of these legs to allow the building to be periodically relocated." (See box story)

The Genie articulating Z-60/34 booms are fitted with the Loegering QTS track system, and the units were supplied by Central Access, an aerial lift rental company and distributor in Nottingham, UK, recently acquired by AFI-UpLift. According to Gary Fearon, who was managing director at Central Access before the acquisition and is now working as a consultant to AFI-Uplift, "This system not only eliminated wheel spin, but also reduced point loading and ground pressure by spreading the weight of the machine over a larger track surface area. With the track system, the articulating booms had an advantage over other self-propelled machines when operating on snow and ice."

Mr Fearon added that another advantage the Genie Z-60/34 boom had over its other tracked rivals was its ability to drive at height. He explained, "Having no outriggers greatly reduces the overall work time of the task at hand, a great benefit considering the extreme weather conditions."

Before the Genie booms were shipped to the Antarctic, several modifications were made, including the addition of 110-volt generators and sump heaters to warm the engine oil in freezing conditions. Thermal wraps were fitted to the battery, hydraulic and diesel tanks to help combat the arduous working conditions and to ensure operating temperatures could be reached quickly. Battery chargers were also installed so that at night the machines could be driven back to base and plugged in to keep starting potential at the maximum level.

According to BAS, high costs are involved in operating research stations within harsh, remote environments like Antarctica, making it critical to acquire machinery that is built to withstand the challenges of working in extreme weather conditions.

The Halley Research Station, one of BAS's scientific research stations on and around the Antarctic continent, is located within the auroral zone and is used for research on ozone depletion, atmospheric pollution, sea level rise and climate changes.

Approximately 1.2 m of snow falls each year on the Brunt Ice Shelf. With all of the snow accumulation, buildings built on the surface of the ice shelf have previously been abandoned within 10 years, having been crushed by the overlying ice. The most recent base, Halley V, has lasted a longer than its four predecessors because it was built on steel platforms that had to be raised annually to keep the structure above the snow surface. The Halley VI Research Station will be completed in 2010 and will cost approximately £22 million.

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