The British Antarctic research base Halley VI has spent eight months totally abandoned to the unforgiving climate and weather patterns of its surroundings. It was shut down last March due to a 300 feet wide crack in the Brunt Ice Sheet which was creeping ever closer.
Now, scientists are attempting something no one has done in recent history—defrosting a station that's survived an Antarctic winter unoccupied. A small team of four people, two plumbers, an electrician, and an engineer, will land nearby and start the arduous and potentially impossible process of returning the station to functioning.
The equipment inside has faced temperatures of as low as -67° Fahrenheit and extreme weather conditions. "We know it's standing, we know it's not buried in snow," David Vaughan, science director at the British Antarctic Survey, who operates the base, . "We might find some snow inside, and there is always the possibility that windows have been broken."
The first step to getting the station back online is turning on the generators. They run on on aviation turbine fuel, which remains effective while stored in temperatures as low as to -53°F. Then, while living in a shipping container, the team will begin the arduous process of repairing what may have been broken in the station since the researchers departed last March. The team has no idea what they'll find, but they predict that they may encounter cracks created by the extremely low temperatures, which cause different materials to expand or contract.
The Halley VI has only lasted thus far because of its unique raised design, which protects it from the yearly snowfall in the area. If it wasn't raised, it would, like most of Halley stations I - V, get stuck to the ice and eventually drift out to sea. Hopefully, with this mission, Halley VI will avoid that fate.