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glaciar union

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context> 1998, in collaboration with the Chilean Air Force, ARQZE opened a new field of action in the interior of the Antarctic continent through the design, manufacture and installation of EPTAP, the first polar station associated with a blue ice field at 80°s in Patriot Hills. After eight years of service, the station was discontinued for geopolitical reasons, but in 2013 operations in the interior of Antarctica were resumed with an unprecedented program that integrated the three military operators together with the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), to consolidate a new station dedicated to scientific research, the development of polar technologies, and the emergence of Antarctic cultural practices, in the vicinity of a second blue ice field called Unión Glacier.


polar relocation > On the basis of the remarkable success of  the strategiy for implanting EPTAP  adjacent to a blue ice runway, it was decided to recycle the entire station from Patriot Hills and relocate it to Unión Glacier, in an unprecedented action  that practiced the logic of zero impact and the complete reversibility of the assembly process. In November 2013, a mission of 20 personel traveled to Patriot Hills in two FACH Twin-Otter, and within 16 days they completely dismantled the station, leaving nothing but the imprint of the wrinkled membrane etched on the ice surfaces as the sole testament to the void that the tunnel occupied. The complete station, including all the modules and additional support systems, were transported 150km over the polar surface on three sleds towed by the Berko in an operation undertaken by the Chilean Army.

reinsertion > With the collaboration of INACH glaciologists, the station was assigned a new location on Union Glaciar, which moves at 22m per year, in a crevasse-free zone 9km south of the blue ice runway. The tunnel, modules and support systems were deployed in just 14 days in a repetition of the process that had been undertaken in Patriot Hills 14 years before. The membranes of the Tunnel and the Sastruggi were completely replaced, updating the specification of the materials and  the confection patterns to generate a surface with greater curvature and therefore better adapted to resist the demanding polar conditions. The sala sastruggi was reconditioned with new membranes including translucent insulation in its double skin to maximize the energetic input from the abundant solar radiation. The six modules were successfully integrated into the tunnel with their mangas, and with the addition and polishing of the polycarbonate visors at each extreme the station was completed..

operation> The station was inaugurated by the President of the republic in janaury 2014, and functioned for four years as a crucial and unique hub for scientific investigation in the heart of the continent.Fulfilling the objective of a laboratory for polar technologies, in 2014 ARQZE developed the polar capsule, a prototype of a flatpack residential/study module that would allow for the expansion of the station as a leading scientific centre. Additionally, latrine systems were redesigned within a prototype of enclosure named torsionoid. Both systems, were developed and fabricated and can be reviewed in other sections of this presentation, however they were never transported and installed at glaciar union due to uncertainty about the future of the station. In 2018 the operation of the station was suspended indefinitely for geopolitical reasons, in a major setback to national antarctic activity.

title                      Estación Polar Conjunto Glaciar Unión

location               Glaciar Unión,, antarctica, 80° s

team                    pol taylor + marcelo bernal + francisco valdivia

colaborators       pablo barria (polar capsule) + paola vezzani (ilaia)

client                   antarctic department, chilean airforce, FACH

date                     2013           

data                     membrane tunnel 240m2/ 5 fibreglass modules 10m2 c/u/ polycarbonate visors

transport            berko + sledges + hercules C130 + ilyushing + twin otters

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