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Antarctic ice floe crack forces United Kingdom scientists to leave

All British Antarctic Survey staff will withdraw from the Halley VI base on the Brunt Ice Shelf in March for safety reasons, amid concerns the ice shelf could float off on an iceberg.

Several lengthening cracks in the ice near the research station have raised the possibility that a large block of ice could break off from the shelf in the coming months - and out of concern for the safety of the scientists living there, the agency has made a decision to remove the research team before the Antarctic winter begins.

The station is specifically created to be moved as needed, given its location on an active ice shelf rather than on Antarctica's mainland proper, and BAS staff say the relocation work is going as planned, with completion by March 2017.

The Halley VI research station is situated on this ice shelf in Antarctica because it is a climate-sensitive zone, therefore the ideal place to study or record global Earth, atmospheric, and space weather.

The second crack to the north of the station was first spotted in October 2016.

Remote instruments will continue to capture and store data about the movement of the ice shelf.

The ice shelf moves around 0.4 kilometers (0.24 miles) westwards towards the sea each year. It is based on the Brunt Ice Shelf.

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Glaciologists have been monitoring the Halloween Crack's growth using Global Positioning System instruments, satellite imagery, ground-penetrating radar and on-site drone footage.

"As a precautionary measure BAS will remove its people before the Antarctic winter begins", the organisation said.

Capt Tim Stockings, the director of operations, said in a statement the mission aimed to leave the station ready for reoccupation as soon as possible after the Antarctic winter. Judging by this new development, it looks like the move can't come soon enough.

The BAS said it could evacuate staff quickly in the summer months but not in winter with its 24-hour darkness, extremely low temperatures and frozen sea. The researchers are now taking efforts to ensure that the collection of scientific data continues in their absence.

"The current work to relocate our station is going very well. Bringing them home for winter is a prudent precaution given the changes that our glaciologists have seen in the ice shelf in recent months", he said. "We want to do the right thing for our people". "This challenging engineering project is scheduled to complete as planned by early March 2017".

The researchers plan to return after the Antarctic winter is over, possibly in November, according to the BBC.

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