1 - Traditional
all with you
Unlike just about
any where else in the world, it is not really
possible to build easily in Antarctica using
naturally found materials (igloos aside which
aren't permanent structures). There are no trees
at all for instance and so no wood.
is not readily found and even where it may be
available, time is often of the essence meaning
that building must be completed as soon as possible
so that supply ships can leave before they are
in danger of being frozen in.
themselves are often largely summer-only personnel
who will leave with the ship. Winds and storms
can upset building plans even in the relatively
warmer and calmer summer months.
For these and
other reasons (particularly the cost of deploying
personnel and paying them to build with natural
materials compared to the cost of shipping-in
building materials), Antarctic bases have almost
all been made using materials that were taken
in a pre-fabricated form and assembled on site.
There have been
some buildings in Antarctica that have had lower
walls made of dry jointed local stone, they
were small in size however and from 50 years
ago or more.
These days local
stone is not considered a useful or even viable
building material as it's use would result in
bases sailed there
The first "bases"
in Antarctica were the ships of the early explorers.
They would stay on board and go ashore for visits
to explore and perform scientific experiments.
The first over-wintering in Antarctica took
place in 1898 by the
Belgica which had intended to return north
before the winter started but became frozen
into the ice (though it is unclear if the expedition
leader Adrien de Gerlache may have intended
this all along).
land bases - wooden huts on the ground - cold
The first intentional
over-wintering was the following year by Carsten
E. Borschgrevink and his
Southern Cross expedition in the winter
of 1899 with 10 men and 75 sledge dogs. The
base itself was made of pre-fabricated wooden
huts (like wooden sheds but larger). The men
were left in Antarctica by the ship and crew
which returned for them the following summer.
were learnt the hard way with the early bases
being cold and draughty.
and insulation added - new problems arise...
improved and draughts were banished, so damp
inside the huts became a problem with condensation
forming due to a lack of ventilation. There
were also a number of near-misses from carbon
monoxide poisoning again as a result of over
zealous insulation and a lack of ventilation
- and reliance on the direct burning of fuel
within the hut for heating.
The first bases
were only intended to be occupied for a short
time, two summers and a winter, perhaps up to
three years before being abandoned. Some were
used by later expeditions, but as they had no
maintenance since the original expedition left,
the use was fortuitous and could not be guaranteed.
They also often became buried in snow and ice
which frequently had entered the building through
windows that blew through in gales or doors
that blew open.
Another of the
lessons to be learnt was that while the first
buildings were placed directly on the ground,
later ones should be raised above the ground.
This was for
a number of reasons, firstly many of the places
where bases were built were on rock around the
coastal regions of Antarctica, in these places
the winter snow and ice would usually melt in
the summer giving problems with melt water running
towards the sea, possibly taking a short-cut
through the building!
Being in direct
contact with the ground also led to the formation
of wind scoops, tails etc. of snow whereby the
shape of the building and orientation into the
wind leads to blown snow being deposited around
the building. This can block doors and windows,
make it difficult to move around outside the
building as hard snow is deposited on thoroughfares
and buries outside stores that may be needed
during the winter.
Building on piles
or supports of some kind means that melt water
can easily run under the buildings and the wind
can also blow underneath so reducing the likelihood
of snow being deposited in places that may cause
For many sites,
where bases are built, this is as specialised
as things need to get. Materials have developed
over the years and ancillary buildings built
that don't all need to be heated as much as
the accommodation buildings instead of the single
the realization of the threat of fire has led
to multi-building bases with gaps between the
buildings to avoid the spread of fire should
Many bases have grown over
the years into a mish-mash of disparate structures
that look like rather brightly coloured industrial
areas. Architecture and sympathy with the environment
have taken a poor back-seat to functionality
and convenience particularly when accompanied
with the additions of other units over the years
in an ad-hoc fashion.
More recent bases however
are being designed as coherent units some with
even some style and elegance to them that could
certainly not be applied to the haphazard way
that other bases have grown over the years.