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A historical geography of Halley research station, Antarctica, 1956 – present



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Oates, Alice 


This thesis investigates the historical geographies of Halley research station, a British research station in East Antarctica. This study is the first in-depth history of Halley station, a site unique even among the already remarkable category of Antarctic research stations. Established for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, just a few years before the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in December 1959, Halley is deeply connected to one of the most important periods of change in Antarctic science and governance. It is also a geophysical observatory with a scientific record that includes the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer, connected to an international community of scientists through its atmospheric and space weather programmes. Halley is also a place where people live and work, whether for a summer, a winter, or multiple seasons. Through its exploration of these facets of Halley’s past and present, the thesis contributes to scholarship on the history of Antarctic science and governance, life and work in extreme environments, and the connections between Antarctica and the world beyond the ice. More broadly, it contributes to historical geographical scholarship on people and places of science, and human engagements with remote and extreme environments.

The primary source material consists of archival records and in-depth interviews. The subsequent analysis of this material is structured thematically around four answers to the central question of this thesis: What is Halley? Halley is characterised by constant change; there have been four ‘Halleys’, situated on a floating ice shelf in constant motion, populated by an ever-changing group of scientists and technical/support staff. Grappling with the issue of identity through change, the thesis examines four ‘identities’ of Halley: an International Geophysical Year legacy, lived infrastructure, colonial settlement, and geophysical observatory. In doing so, the thesis also draws on different theoretical frameworks: assemblage, scientific boundary work, settler colonial studies, and history of science. Overall, this thesis contributes an in-depth case study to research on the people, places, and politics of science in extreme environments.





Powell, Richard


Antarctic, Antarctic history, Antarctic science, British Antarctic science, British Antarctic Survey, Halley Research Station, Historical geography


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Arts and Humanities Research Council (2273700)
Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award