The big freeze

07 May 2008

Some of the Antarctic residents. (Courtesy of British Antarctic Survey)

Some of the Antarctic residents. (Courtesy of British Antarctic Survey)

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 and 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 and the 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.”

The Genie articulating Z-60/34 booms are fitted with the Loegering QTS track system. 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 110V generators and sump heaters to warm the engine oil in freezing conditions. Thermal wraps were fitted to the battery and to the 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.

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