The Big Power-Down…

I wasn’t going to say anything about this but now BAS has issued a press release I will write a little. The following is the statement released by BAS today.

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is dealing with a serious operational incident at its Halley Research Station. On Wednesday 30 July 2014 a major technical issue resulted in the station losing its electrical and heating supply for 19 hours. All 13 station staff are safe and in good health. Our urgent priority is to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of the wintering team. Power and some heating are back online, and some other essential services have been restored, but the staff are having to live and work in extremely difficult conditions. The station has had good satellite communications throughout the incident. Contingency plans for alternative accommodation on site are in place and ancillary buildings are being made ready in case of a further power-down. It is now clear that because of the nature of the incident, and the prolonged loss of power, the station cannot now return to normal operation in the short or medium term.Everyone at Halley and Cambridge is doing everything that can be done to ensure that the incident remains under control. All science, apart from meteorological observations essential for weather forecasting, has been stopped.

From here: British Antarctic Survey News


I don’t really want to add any detail about what has happened down here (it’s nowt exciting honest!) but would just like to reiterate that we are all healthy, in good spirits and are busy setting about getting, and keeping the station in as good an order as possible. No-one here on station is responsible for the technical issues we are having and we are all working extremely hard.

Tea making facilities are still going strong.

On a happier note, despite the difficulties I really am still loving the place. Having made mention of how Antarctica can take things to another level just when you think you have seen something truly beautiful, well, I’ll have to say it once again. To prove that every cloud has a silver lining Halley, during the time without any power, was the clearest I have ever seen. This, coinciding with the loss of the small amount of light pollution we have, made the night-sky of the power-down the most beautiful I have ever seen – or probably ever will. the whole galaxy in its majesty, brighter than ever – going outside was almost a religious experience!

Another fairly cool, but problematic at the time, event occurred around the time of us losing power – the coldest temperature ever recorded at Halley Bay of -55.4 degrees. Throwing a cup of boiling water into the air resulted in small explosion as the water instantly turned into a cloud of ice crystals. This obviously didn’t help us on station at the time but it was nice to see a record set!

In other news, the Sun is on its way back to us. On a cloudy day the sky is really lighting up as the light from the Sun, still far below the horizon, is reflected upwards. After what we are used to it seems like there is daylight for a few hours a day now – though I know it;s just a pale (or dark) imitation of the real thing. Next week we’ll see the real thing, and shortly after we’ll need shades on all the time whilst out and about. Then it won’t be long at all till the night-sky is just a memory!

I’ll try to post updates when I can but I may well be fairly busy for a while!


4 thoughts on “The Big Power-Down…

  1. Wow! Minus 55 with no power sounds very challenging! Presumably you have back up generators? Good luck down there. At least this is going to be a really good story to tell everyone! The coldest we had on Signy when I was there was about -30 deg C! The old building was so draughty we had to seal it up with blankets in places!

  2. I wonder if its possible to evacuate by snow cats to a nearby station like the german Neumayer during the winter? In case of a complete break down that is. Or to borrow an electrician/mechanic or doctor? It would probably take 3-4 days for the 500 miles.

    • That would be a massive trip, the snow cats, dozers and pisten bullies we have are very good but can still struggle in winter down here. Would be an interesting journey though!

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