By Hugh Broughton
Halley VI is a space-age research station used by scientists to predict changes in global weather patterns. It is the first fully relocatable base in the world and its design was heavily influenced by my life long passion for Thunderbirds!
Halley is in Antarctica, which is the coldest, windiest and driest continent in the world. The research station is located on the freezing 150-metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf, which flows 400 metres each year towards the sea. Temperatures drop as low as -55 ˚C in winter and never rise above freezing even in summer. The site is regularly buffeted by winds blowing in excess of 100 mph. Snow builds up by 1.5 metres year on year and never melts. For three months in the depth of the winter the sun does not rise above the horizon, leaving the station in 24-hour darkness.
In the long winter the base is home to 15 scientists of the British Antarctic Survey, swelling to a population of 60 in the short summer. It is made up of interconnected modules arranged in a straight line. Single storey blue modules contain bedrooms, offices, a surgery, a communications centre and laboratories. Two modules contain all the machinery needed to keep the base working – electricity generators, fuel tanks, water production units and sewage treatment plant. The base is entirely self-sufficient. A two storey red module contains a kitchen, a dining room, a bar, a gym and a TV lounge. A giant window fills the module with natural light. The glass incorporates nano gel – a special insulating material developed by NASA to reduce heat loss but maintain bright light levels.
All the modules are elevated on hydraulic legs, allowing them to climb above the rising snow. Giant skis at the base of each leg allow the modules to be disconnected from each other and pulled like giant sledges to a new location, before the site of Halley VI breaks away from Antarctica as a giant iceberg. This concept is currently being put to the test as the base is being moved to escape this fate.
From the moment I first put pen to paper, I was constantly referring to the brilliant drawings in the Thunderbirds Cross Section books seeking inspiration from the design of T2 in particular. The bright colours, hydraulic legs and bold graphics all pay homage to Virgil and Gordon’s heavy-duty transporter. In the freezing desert of Antarctica, science fiction has become science reality.
Our thanks to Hugh for providing us with a tantalising glimpse into a truly remarkable piece of Thunderbirds-inspired engineering! To find more about the Halley VI station and Hugh Broughton visit: http://www.hbarchitects.co.uk