A large Antarctic ice crack in its eastern sheet is threatening a British research station, forcing scientists to move it 14 miles inland to save it.
The British Antarctic Survey is working to move its Halley VI research station, which was installed in 2012 to study extreme space weather and ozone, Gizmodo reported. The large crack in the eastern ice sheet, which began to grow in 2012, could eventually snap off the continent and be set adrift, researchers fear.
"If (the crack) continues to move and the ice breaks off, the station would be on the wrong side of the crack," Athena Dinar, a representative for the British Antarctic Survey, told Gizmodo.
The survey said, though, that it was aware of the possible calving beforehand and built the Halley VI to be mobile in case of such an incident.
"Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be re-located in response to changes in the ice," Tim Stockings, director of operations at the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement on its website. "Over the last couple of years our operational teams have been meticulous in developing very detailed plans for the move and we are excited by the challenge.
"Antarctica can be a very hostile environment. Each summer season is very short – about nine weeks. And because the ice and the weather are unpredictable we have to be flexible in our approach. We are especially keen to minimize the disruption to the science programs," Stockings added.
Now that the latest Antarctic winter has passed, the relocation team will start preparing to move the station using large tractors, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper said the chasm currently worrying the researchers had been dormant for at least 35 years before satellite images confirmed that it started moving again in 2012. The Guardian said it is not known if the growing crack is due to global warming.
Researchers discovered a second ice crack about 10.5 miles north of the research station, crossing a route that has been used to resupply the base, heightening concerns, The Guardian noted.
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