Researchers are making use of massive underground balloons to build tunnels for the East Greenland Ice-Core Project 

July24, 2017 – Interesting Engineering

In the Arctic, the land is barren except for a few researchers who are braving the temperatures which constantly plummet far below 0 degrees Celsius. Trees cease to exist and rocks are often buried beneath many meters of snow. Consequently, local building supplies come few and far between.

In the desolate landscapes encircling the poles, researchers must lug their own supplies to their camp site – including their facilities. There is an option to fly supplies in for missions stationed close enough to a village or a town. But the regions scientists are most interested in are hundreds of kilometers from any civilization. Close to the poles of the world locked deep beneath the ice are small molecules that have remained trapped for hundreds of thousands of years. Scientists are examining the pockets to better understand the history of the Earth. Unfortunately, that far up there is little air support.

Of course, humans have been conquering the Arctic for thousands of years. Early civilizations once roamed the Arctic for weeks on end, hunting the vast herds of caribou, deer, and other northerly large game.

The nomad people were constantly on the move, following and tracking their major food supply during the long winter months. Building a permanent home was nearly impossible. Instead of building rock or wooden structures which took weeks to months to build, the arctic people adopted a unique technique: Igloos.

Igloos are structures made entirely of ice or compact snow bricks. Historians believe the Inuit people, a tribe who once extensively used igloos, could construct the snowy structure in under 30 minutes. For many years, many people conquered the north. Now, the far regions of the Arctic are home to few.

Although most have come to adopt modern lifestyles, humanity’s natural inquisitiveness and curiosity could not hold back people from exploring the Arctic for long. Many researchers have lost their lives on Arctic expeditions. Perhaps somewhat ignorantly, most explorers decided to bring with them as many modern comforts as possible instead of using the techniques developed by the Inuit and other Arctic civilizations.

Countless expeditions were led to discover the edge of the world, only to be greeted by massive glaciers that can easily pierce the helm of any ship. Once on land, all the equipment must be loaded onto heavy sleds – including their living quarters. Many struggled to reach their destinations from the weight of their amenities, mostly accumulated by the bulky buildings.

Recent development in Arctic vehicles has reduced the burden of carrying all of the supplies. Now, large tracked machines can carry more equipment farther than ever before. Unfortunately for the arctic, although more buildings can be brought in, it is a minimum priority to remove them after a mission.

The accessibility of the Arctic improved slightly, garnering the attention of the military. In the late 60s, the United States military decided to install a large secret military base, stationed far up north in Greenland. However, after a few short years, the buildings began to collapse. The engineers failed to consider the accumulation of the snow above the buildings, causing the ceilings to cave in. Moreover, the concrete turned brittle in the extreme cold. Eventually, the building was abandoned

Conquering the arctic is an immensely difficult challenge. Prefabricated facilities are far too difficult to ship and install. They also do not last long in the frigid temperatures and are often left behind to rust away in the snow. For centuries, scientists have been approaching Arctic construction all wrong.