How Antarctic bases went from simple wooden huts to £80m sci-fi dreams fit for 65 people to live in comfort

FREEZING temperatures and year-round ice make Antarctica the most isolated place on Earth.

But the Coldest Continent is now home to some of the most ground-breaking architecture on the planet.

Futuristic, sci-fi-inspired pads are now springing up on the continent – the only one in the world with no indigenous population – to house scientific research teams.

Simple wooden huts have been replaced with massive, James Bond-style pods that can comfortably fit 65 people at a time.

Brazil's Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station is set to be completed next year and is located on a small island just off the coast of Antarctica.


The £80m building was created to replace the original plant that burned down in 2012.

But the base is near-impossible to access – it isn't on any scheduled air routes or shipping lanes – and will be closed to the public.

Explaining why Brazil forked out for such a pricey pad when they could have erected a more modest building for a fraction of the cost, Professor Anne-Marie Brady, editor-in-chief of the Polar Journal and author of China As A Polar Great Power, told BBC: "Antarctic stations have become the equivalent of embassies on the ice.


"They are showcases for a nation's interests in Antarctica – status symbols."

In 2013, India unveiled its Bharati station, with a similar modernist design.

It was made from 134 prefabricated shipping containers.

The following year, South Korea opened its Jang Bogo station – a grand, triple-winged module lifted on steel-reinforced blocks, capable of supporting a crew of 60.


The megabucks buildings have become a way for world powers to jostle for status but over a century ago the set-up was a lot simpler.

In March 1903, the 33 men of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition built and lived in a dry-stone shack.

It was Antarctica's first permanent building, and is maintained today by the Argentine government as part of its Orcadas base.

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Prof Anne-Marie Brady commented: 'Antarctic stations have become the equivalent of embassies on the ice'Credit: bof-architekten

Antarctica has so little rain or snow it is classified as a desert.

Snow falls near the coasts and polar winds blow this snow around the continent, so that any object standing proud of the flat surface quickly gains a downwind "tail" of blown snow.

The snow accumulation can swamp and crush buildings with ease.

South Africa eradicated this problem by building its SANAE IV base, which opened in 1997, on stilt-like legs, which let snow blow under the building.

Germany applied the same concept to its Neumayer III base, which opened in 2009.

Buildings in the Antarctic also need to be energy efficient.

Most stations run on polar diesel, which is expensive, polluting and difficult to transport.

Belgium's Princess Elisabeth station, an aerodynamic pod raised on steel legs, is the first with zero emissions.

China's latest Antarctic station Taishan – its fourth – has been likened to a flying saucer.

It was built in 45 days in 2013-14, and is intended to last only a few years.

Meanwhile, Google Earth has spotted a mysterious pyramid on Antarctica.

Many believe it is proof that humans used to live on the continent.

Another conspiracy theory claims there is a city hidden underneath the snow.

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