Arctic Seed

Author’s description:
Seasonal ice sheets within the Arctic and Antarctic belts are constantly waxing and waning. These temporal sites have proven particularly difficult for researchers to investigate up close. To effectively monitor the impacts of global warming in such unstable conditions, any experiments must be conducted in an unobtrusive manner. Researchers must therefore arrive, exist and depart with minimal disturbance to the environment. The Arctic Seed proposes a mobile arctic research station which consists a lightweight, prefabricated and inhabitable pod, carried by a Rozière balloon, borne upon the wind, which settles upon the ice. Inspired by the technology and forces of nature, our proposal harnesses polar winds through the organic mechanics of the sycamore seed to develop a prototype for Arctic exploration and scientific research.

With equipment and supplies consigned within, the pathfinding prototype launches from a support vessel along the periphery of the arctic shelf. Once air-borne, the dirigible craft’s altitude is adjusted, utilising the naturally occurring polar air currents to propel the vessel towards its destination. Upon approach to the designated field, the burners cease to provide lift and the Helium Gas Cell, now released from compression, broadens to form a wing, stretching from a telescopic spar. A controlled, helical descent deposits the habitable pod safely, whilst the kinetic energy generated during the seed’s descent anchors the station into the ice upon contact via a series of screws. Following deployment, an accompanying research team can track the seed via GPS, reconvening with the station once it has berthed. Deflation, firn excavation, and minimal assembly establishes an ancillary laboratory, whilst the station’s pod offers living quarters and storage space. Helium from the balloon’s gas cells can be transferred into an encapsulating temporal bladder, once unfurled and tethered to the ice. The wing assembly becomes the formwork from which an enveloping fabric may be hoisted. In the event of inclement weather, the laboratory’s apparatus can be reloaded, whilst the excavation’s shroud may be detached and re-housed within the pod’s outer storage compartments. Collapsing the telescopic spar protects it from suffering torsional stresses.

Upon fulfilment of the mission, or if the seasonal thaw necessitates, all equipment can be reloaded, the tethers can be released and the helium cells re-inflated; the entire station can detach from the site, self-extracting. Once relaunched, the station can again harness polar winds to carry it to its next destination, ready for systematic redeployment. This mobile, self-sufficient solution to extreme-environment architecture not only reduces the traditionally severe pollutant expense, required from permanent and obtrusive research stations, but its dynamic form provides a reactive proposal which responds to environmental change.

The proposed arctic seed is a tool for targeted and rigorous investigation in the harsh and ephemeral domain of the polar ice sheet. The proposal aims to enable the prerequisite scientific investigation which could elicit an overdue and imperative social change. Temporary and portable, the station can gather data from a range of sites, in advanced and otherwise difficult-to-access locations, without leaving detrimental impressions in the observed and documented landscapes.

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