Record cold in Antarctica threatens lives of British Antarctic Survey members during power outage – with little chance of rescue

Halley VI locationFrom CFACT

Thirteen members of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) were trapped and in danger of freezing to death when their base, Halley VI, lost power.  Power went down on July 30th and is now partially restored.  The BAS waited to report the incident until power came back up, however now reports that the incident was so serious that all science activities have been suspended and emergency contingency plans to abandon some of Halley’s eight modules and attempt to shelter in a remaining few have been prepared.

The incident is particularly serious, as the station is likely completely cut off from rescue for months.

The incident occurred during the height of the Antarctic winter while southern sea ice is at or near record highs (Marc Morano has details at Climate Depot).

One Survey member, Anthony Lister, managed to send a out a “tweet” when power came back up, reporting that the outage occurred while the station was experiencing record cold temperatures of -55.4° C (-67.72° F).  (h/t Rai news)

It is not possible to survive for long at the station without power, placing the 13 members of the expedition in danger of freezing to death, although they remain safe while they can keep the power running.

Halley VI in snowHalley VI is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf on 150 meter thick ice, just off the coast of Antarctica. Temperature there never climbs above freezing and this time of year the sun never climbs above the horizon.

Halley VI became operational in 2012 and consists of eight modules supported by hydraulic legs on skis.   The skis are designed to permit the BAS to periodically reposition the station using bulldozers in the hopes of escaping the fate of past stations which were lost when they became buried under vast accumulations of ice and snow.  In the past the station was a major source of reporting on the Antarctic “ozone hole.”

The Halley VI power loss serves as a stark reminder of the incredibly harsh and dangerous cold conditions Antarctic researchers brave.  It also can’t help but remind us of Chris Turney’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition which became trapped in rapidly expanding sea ice last Antarctic ice traps climate researchers and ice breaker zDecember.  Drama ensued when both the ice breaker carrying the expedition and the ice breaker initially sent to rescue it both became trapped.  A third ice breaker was ultimately able to evacuate the passengers using a helicopter.

While the BAS researchers stationed at Halley VI have a higher degree of professionalism and are better prepared, their situation will be far more dire should they lose power again.  Halley VI is located beyond the likely ability of rescuers to reach it until this year’s particularly cold and harsh Antarctic winter subsides.

Let’s all send our hopes and prayers that the BAS team at Halley VI will be able to keep the power running and remain safe until conditions improve and they can be reached.

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- See more at: http://www.cfact.org/2014/08/07/british-antartctic-survey-trapped-without-power-during-record-cold-55-4-c/#sthash.FTzHfe1g.dpuf

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124 thoughts on “Record cold in Antarctica threatens lives of British Antarctic Survey members during power outage – with little chance of rescue

  1. Odds on MSM won’t report this….hope all is well and power can be up and running permanently!

  2. That’s what you get for thinking that solar panels will solve everything..

    More seriously, I am glad that they are ok so far. Nasty situation indeed.

  3. We all obviously hope and pray that these men (and women?) survive the winter and make it home safely to their families. (I’ll reserve any snarky comments until they are all safe)

    I would never go north to Wisconsin in the winter again, much much less to the south pole.

  4. Wow!, the article doesn’t mention the source of power for the station. I assume that it is diesel fuel which doesn’t flow too well in that temperature. I sure hope they have other stuff to burn. I think that these “scientists” can come up with some alternatives to keep warm. I sure hope and pray that they do…

  5. Is it really necessary to have people down there in winter? We know its really cold and windy, What difference would it make if they waited and visited in summer to check on things.

  6. Very few people can grasp the degree of danger facing the overwinter inhabitants of Halley VI.

    The concept evolved from a design competition hosted by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

    http://www.architecture.com/RIBA/Competitions/CaseStudies/International/Antarctic/HalleyVIResearchStation,Antarctic.aspx#.U-P5YmOTJNo

    The initial conceptual meetings put great store on minimising the environmental impact of the station, keeping the footprint to a minimum, “what goes on the shelf, must come back off the shelf” etc. Fired by such care for the environment came a suggestion that all the modules and associated kit be “ice blue” in order to blend in with the surroundings.

    This suggestion was met, with a curt reply from a Halley veteran “bright orange, its my life support system and I want to see it from as far away as I possibly can!”
    ———-
    J. Philip Peterson

    ” I assume that it is diesel fuel ….”

    IIRC a “modified” diesel fuel in 45 gal drums, which are then filled with “human waste” for removal from the shelf. That was over a decade ago, things may well have changed.

  7. As dangerous as the winter is why do they stay through the winter? Robots might be a safer data collector.
    Really though I hope they return with great stories.

  8. From the BAS at http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/?page_id=13 :

    One of the major aims of the Halley VI project was to minimise the environmental footprint of the station. To achieve this the new station makes use of the latest technology, such as a bio-reactors for sewage treatment and two-stage incinerators for the clean burning of certain types of waste. Because of the station’s remote location it will still depend on reliable diesel generators for power and heat, but the power generation infrastructure has been designed to allow for the subsequent incorporation of renewable energy sources. Solar-thermal and photovoltaic cells systems have been designed that can supplement the supply during the busy austral summer, when power usage is at its peak (because of the increased number of people on site).

  9. Improvements over Halley V

    Although the possible carving of the ice shelf provided the impetus for the building of Halley VI, it also provided an opportunity to improve the station in many other ways.

    One of the major aims of the Halley VI project was to minimise the environmental footprint of the station. To achieve this the new station makes use of the latest technology, such as a bio-reactors for sewage treatment and two-stage incinerators for the clean burning of certain types of waste. Because of the station’s remote location it will still depend on reliable diesel generators for power and heat, but the power generation infrastructure has been designed to allow for the subsequent incorporation of renewable energy sources. Solar-thermal and photovoltaic cells systems have been designed that can supplement the supply during the busy austral summer, when power usage is at its peak (because of the increased number of people on site).

    http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/?page_id=13

    More information at the above link.

  10. More proof (if any was needed) that cold is by orders of magnitude a bigger problem than warm.

  11. “Halley VI is located on the Brunt Ice Shelf on 150 meter thick ice, just off the coast of Antarctica.”

    If 97% of climate scientists think, as we have been led to believe, that global warming is accelerating and causing rapid polar ice melting, which is lubricating the underside of Antarctic glaciers and causing them to flow out to sea, why would they build the station on an ice shelf? Didn’t they buy the hype that the whole ice shelf would soon break loose and float out to sea?

  12. Shackleton’s crew survived a winter in the pack ice in a wooden ship. They even ventured out for walks by the moonlight. Surely, this modern station is equipped to protect the scientists through the winter even without power?

    On a related note, Chris Turney recently tweeted a link to an article concerning alternate sources of funding for Antarctica expeditions. The article mentioned this venture…

    http://outeredgepolarchallenge.com.au/

    Place your bets…

  13. In a way the situation that the BAS scientists find themselves really brings into relief the extraordinary feats of those first Antarctic explorers who with nothing more than sail for their access to and from the Antarctic continent during the first pre and early 1900 period of Antarctic exploration, no electricity. no radios, no relief at all possible over the winter months and none of our modern medical and communications technology in the earliest days of Antarctic exploration, both survived and explored the Antarctic continent. In doing so they created and left a record of many truly extraordinary feats of human endurance and demonstrations of the strength of the human spirit.

    Sir Douglas Mawson whose story is told here;

    http://www.south-pole.com/p0000099.htm

    Sir Ernest Shackleton,
    Being that the pole had already been conquered, Shackleton decided the next great quest would be to traverse the continent from shore to shore.Tragically, this expedition was put to a halt when Shackleton’s ship (ironically called the HMS Endurance) was trapped in pack ice and eventually crushed, stranding the crew the near by Elephant Island. For almost a year the crew survived on seal, penguin and whale meat. They used seal blubber to make oil for fires to stay warm, and in one popular photo were seen playing soccer on the ice shelf. Shackleton realized that without help they couldn’t live like this forever, and decided to use the surviving longboats to make a treacherous voyage to a whaling station on the remote south Georgia island, 800 miles northward. With little food and water, and no medical supplies, Shackleton and five of his men braved the ice-packed seas. After weeks, they landed on South Georgia island, starving and suffering from dehydration. Unfortunately, they’d landed on the uninhabited southern coast, so for the last arduous leg of the journey Shackleton and his men had to cross a mountain range that no one had previously crossed. He reached the whaling station and started to work on an expedition to rescue his crew. After almost a year and a half marooned in the Antarctic, Shackleton’s crew was finally met with relief ships that took them home.

    Roald Amundsen,
    He and his men trekked across hundreds of miles of totally unexplored mountainous regions and planted their flag on the south pole on December 14th, 1911 naming the area “Polheim” or “Land of the pole”. Not disliking his polar rival, Amundsen left a note for Scott reading:
    Dear Captain Scott — As you probably are the first to reach this area after us, I will ask you to kindly forward this letter to King Haakon VII. If you can use any of the articles left in the tent please do not hesitate to do so. The sledge left outside may be of use to you. With kind regards I wish you a safe return.Yours truly,
    Roald Amundsen.

    The failed South Pole expedition of Robert Scott,

    The Japanese expedition of ,Nobu Shirase and his crew who were the first human beings to make landfall on Edward VII peninsula, in 1911, and journeyed to 80°05′S – remarkable for such a small expedition. Nobu’s seven man team explored the southern Alexandra range before adverse weather forced them to return to their ship. One remarkable part of this expedition was an unexpected encounter with the Fram, one of Roland Amundsen’s ships, which was waiting for his return from the pole.

    Sir James Clark Ross who between 1839 and 1843, he took two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, farther south than any man had ever traveled. By sailing around the vast coastlines of the continent, Ross was possibly the first to establish that Antarctica was a continent, not just a series of islands. Ross discovered the Victoria Barrier, a massive ice shelf that was later named after him.

  14. SteveC says: August 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm
    “This site seems like a good location for a nuclear reactor!”
    Nuclear reactor are not allowed by Treaty. They used to have one at MacMurdo and others places.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McMurdo_Station

    BAS’s aircraft are in Calgary so it would take nearly a week to get down there if they need an air rescue.
    They have done a couple rescues to the South Pole before, in the middle of winter.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/pilots-return-after-historic-south-pole-rescue-1.286100

  15. Diesel fuel is usually warmed by the diesel engine in really cold environments to help keep it flowing and reduce condensation. Lose the engine performance and eventually you probably lose the fuel flow. Fuel additives can only do so much to help keep it flowing and to fight ice crystals clogging the fuel filter, especially if you’ve waited too long and let the fuel thicken. Diesels can only limp along for a while at reduced performance before the whole system freezes up.

    I pray they’ll conquer the problem, whatever it is.

  16. “reliable diesel generators …” This might be one of the few environments in which liquefied natural gas (LNG) would be a better choice. You have to keep LNG quite cold to maintain manageable pressure (LNG boiling temp is -260°F (-160°C)), so no matter how cold it gets in Antarctica you will still have vapor boiling off to use for heat or powering generators. No need to worry about your fuel lines clogging with congealed fuel. Natural gas burns a lot cleaner than diesel so the lubricating oil lasts a lot longer.

  17. Let us remember that over a century ago the men of Scott’s 1910 expedition survived the winter in a base camp without single watt of electrical power. The wooden hut had insulation made from woven seaweed. Lighting was provided by acetylene lights with the gas being generated by a carbide generator while heating come from coal stoves. This kept 25 men and 19 ponies alive rather effectively. The hut is still there and reportedly in good condition.

    I sincerely hope that modern polar explorers have a fall back heating system. The thing about coal is it will work just fine in Antarctica no matter how cold it gets and it has an indefinite shelf life. I cant say I’m hopeful though, The new base was designed by an architect with no polar experience who specialised in museums, art galleries and visitor centres. His priorities were to give all the bedrooms a bubble window with a nice view and he brought in a ‘colour psychologist’ to pick the interiors.

  18. I went to the architects’ website….seem pretty unimaginative in their other projects. After this one contract they now have “unparalleled expertise working in extreme environments” which looks to have landed them 3 other Arctic/Antarctic stations…all of which look the SAME.

  19. SteveC says:
    August 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    > This site seems like a good location for a nuclear reactor!

    Especially Rossi’s E-Cat! Antarctica was one of the first places I thought it would be a great fit.

  20. Damn! Lank (@4:59) beat me to it!

    No back up system? One thing goes wrong and they die?

    FFS!

    Still, they would have died like heroes. Ice-blue paint could be their memorial.

  21. If “environmental design considerations” (or any other design constraints) have left this station’s inhabitants with no survival alternative but electric power as the writeup implies, someone should be shot. I can’t quite bring myself to believe it is actually true.

  22. Millions spent and they don’t have the foresight to include a small stove and a supply of coal in an emergency shelter?

    Oh wait. The Brits have converted their thermal coal to wood pellets from the U.S.

    OK. Then why didn’t they include a pellet stove? Or any one of many other cold weather heating devices? Odd.

    Are we sure there isn’t more information on emergency procedures?

  23. This video of what it’s like at the station shows them unloading diesel drums. But it could be a number of things like a sensor, throttle valve or injectors. They have four generators, maybe only one provides heat, etc.

  24. MSM will report this and in heaps if the situation turns dire again. The MSM is so desparate to save their failing business model, the pictures of bodies and wreckage and mayhem, and dying tweets they’ll go continuous live if they can. CNN is now by far in the worst shape.

  25. These are the very “scientists” who have helped promote artificial energy rationing based on junk science so obviously fraudulent that not a single one of them can possibly claim they are unaware that it’s an open secret as to being a scam. When their own research station is designed exactly to survive *growing* ice, lest it be forever buried, don’t ask us to believe they are fair players in science when each and every one of them fails their most basic scientific duty to loudly condemn the climate alarm crime against honest science. Given half a chance these people would righteously enable a new scientific Stalinism to encompass us all via worldwide green party police state in which as Dave Appell quoted Michael Mann, this web site would become illegal. Not a single one of these “scientists” has contributed to the cure of a disease or the invention of a life saving advance. Instead, these adventurers regularly appear on documentaries and give seminars with deeply anti-human themes. Antarctic scientists are all profiteering off of vastly inflated government funding and actively destroying the careers of any student who criticizes the known scam that journalists help cover up instead of expose. Have any of them expressed even a sliver of sympathy for those billions of people their authority as Antarctic scientists is now helping to energy impoverish? Now they also prove themselves to be incompetent in the extreme, which likely explains why they pursued Antarctic science where funding goes to the biggest frauds and enablers of it. Which one of them spoke out against Eric Steig’s cover of Nature that dishonestly smeared Peninsula warming over the whole continent? Could they have afforded such an advanced installation at all were they not at the very epicenter of climate related emergency level funding? These incompetents should have done what Phil “Hide The Decline” Jones did recently which was to get an appointment at a balmy Saudi university.

  26. Keith Willshaw says (August 7, 2014 at 4:25 pm): “Let us remember that over a century ago the men of Scott’s 1910 expedition survived the winter in a base camp without single watt of electrical power.”

    Victor Campbell’s six-man party from that same expedition survived the 1912 Antarctic winter in a snow cave with little but seal and penguin meat for food and blubber for fuel.

    https://antarcticdiscovery.wordpress.com/category/scotts-northern-party/victor-campbell/

    Of course the Inuit routinely survived Arctic winters with only Stone Age technology, but hey, they were natives, not visitors. :-)

  27. The mainstream media tells us on a daily basis that the western peninsula of Antarctica is scorching hot and well above the freezing point of water. What’s the problem?

  28. Overheard, down at the beer joint:

    Wise guy #1: “Bet as soon as power comes up they’ll tweet Prince Charles, asking for some global warming.

    Smart aleck #2: Ah, that’s so lame. They’ll be so bored and antsy with nothin’ to do… I bet a fist fight breaks out over who gets to play Kurt Russell in the base production of “The Thing”

    Wisenheimer #3: Geez, you guys are a pair. I’ll bet they’re regrettin’ that biodigester thingy… “Hey Basil, throw another log on the fire”.

  29. At least they’ve got entertainment to pass the time… DVDs of Carpenter’s “The Thing”… as long as the power holds..

  30. copied from posts above:
    From the BAS at http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/?page_id=13 :

    One of the major aims of the Halley VI project was to minimise the environmental footprint of the station. To achieve this the new station makes use of the latest technology, such as a bio-reactors for sewage treatment and two-stage incinerators for the clean burning of certain types of waste. Because of the station’s remote location it will still depend on reliable diesel generators for power and heat, but the power generation infrastructure has been designed to allow for the subsequent incorporation of renewable energy sources. Solar-thermal and photovoltaic cells systems have been designed that can supplement the supply during the busy austral summer, when power usage is at its peak (because of the increased number of people on site).

    ——
    It is worth noticing what kind of “environment” the greenies want to protect: one that is almost totally devoid of life.

    We are not just trying to preserve our nations’ economies at skeptic sites. We are trying to preserve the Earth as a habitat for living organisms.

  31. What little waste this station produces compared to the vastness of the Antarctic continent and they are worried about storing and hauling out waste? Do the penguins remove their waste?

  32. One Survey member, Anthony Lister, managed to send a out a “tweet” when power came back up, reporting that the outage occurred while the station was experiencing record cold temperatures of -55.4° C (-67.72° F).

    .
    Heresy…..

  33. Wait a moment. Lost in a frozen wasteland without hope of rescue. Power was out, partly resumed, may go out again then they’re all dead. There’s a crew member named Lister. Where they are looks like a blocky functional version of a Starbug

    Holly, where’s Rimmer?

  34. Diesel? In that temperature and that wind? They not only need a winterfront but wintersides, wintertop, winterbottom and a winterback! That engine needs to be isolated from everything.
    Speaking as one who got to choose between the defrost and the cab heat while traveling through Montana in -40F weather. Another driver wasn’t as fortunate, his tanks jelled and he had to walk back to a truck stop for alcohol and a jump.

  35. No solar panels? Oh of course it is winter there and hardly any sun? Well I do hope they survive.At least they won’t need to refrigerate their food. Keep us in touch with developments Anthony.

  36. There is nothing we can do right now to help them directly until late September.

    But please keep Al Gore far, far, far away.

  37. Wayne Delbeke says:
    August 7, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Millions spent and they don’t have the foresight to include a small stove and a supply of coal in an emergency shelter?

    Maybe those could be dropped by parachute. (Plus an E-Cat–what a PR “win”!)

  38. Building high on stilts in the Antarctic doesn’t pass the common sense test.
    That form of construction is suitable in hot humid climates to take full advantage of air movement, not -120F 200 mph Antarctic blizzards no matter how good the insulation.

  39. phillipbratby says:
    “Surely they have lots of wind turbines and solar panels to save the planet. What could possibly go wrong?”

    Actually Antarctica is one of very few places on Earth where wind turbines might be a practical power source. The catabatic winds coming off the icecap blow most of the time. Adelie land where Turney had his “ship of fools” adventure isn’t known as “the home of the blizzard” for nothing. Of course building a wind turbine that works reliably at -60 or so isn’t trivial.

  40. Christopher Hanley says:
    Building high on stilts in the Antarctic doesn’t pass the common sense test.
    That form of construction is suitable in hot humid climates to take full advantage of air movement, not -120F 200 mph Antarctic blizzards no matter how good the insulation.

    I think it makes a lot of sense. Ever try to shovel your way out in -120F after a 200 mph blizzard?

  41. I don’t know what the fuss we’vbe all been told that the science is settled and Antarctica is warming rapidly , I mean for goodness sake they are not too far from the Antarctic penninsula which is wonderfully toasty this time of year

  42. Actually Antarctica is one of very few places on Earth where wind turbines might be a practical power source. The catabatic winds coming off the icecap blow most of the time

    and mostly above the viable wind speed of turbines.

  43. they waited and visited in summer to check on things.
    =========
    Climate Scientists plan to send a probe to the Sun to prove once a for all it doesn’t affect climate. They will sent the probe at night so it doesn’t burn up.

  44. His priorities were to give all the bedrooms a bubble window with a nice view and he brought in a ‘colour psychologist’ to pick the interiors.
    ==============
    the frozen corpses were found with smiles on their faces. happy to be finally free of the place.

  45. Australia’s Mawson Station has a couple of wind turbines for power plus a diesel set up.
    An isolated situation with lots of almost reliable wind far beyond the reach of a grid such as an Antarctic base, is about the only situation where wind turbines can be useful and perhaps even economical if maintenance in hostile conditions doesn’t kill it.

    From the “This Week in Mawson” blog. 2nd / July / 2014
    The Mawson station wind turbines

    http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/mawson/this-week-at-mawson/page?id=141667&st=141667&dt=MjAxNC0wNy0wNA==

  46. Gary says:
    August 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm
    Is it really necessary to have people down there in winter? We know its really cold and windy, What difference would it make if they waited and visited in summer to check on things.

    Thirty years ago or so I attended a conference where cosmic ray (I think) data was presented by a researcher who had spent the winter in antarctica. As it became clear what had been done, you could feel the respect granted this man by those who had spent the last year working in their cozy university labs.

    It’s a form of scientific macho — something I did not think possible before attending the conference.

  47. Best of luck to BAS but I am surprised that there is no reliable backup power. (Like wind turbines?) (Sark. off).

  48. I too hope they survive & can return safely to the loved ones. However, clearly the CO2 has been insufficient to heat the atmosphere locally to an acceptable level!

    I too wondered about the diesel fuel waxing. I remember some years ago now a seriously cold bout in northern Europe with many lorries/trucks/cars being stuck in blizzard conditions. The trucks were having difficulty due to the fuel waxing up in the cold.

    Another thing. I spent 18 months from 1983-84 doing a barn conversion, whilst the family lived in a mobile home nearby. We lived on liquid bottled gas (cannister) for heating & cooking & hot-water. When it was very cold with wind chill effects in winter, the old gas cooker & gas fire would slow right down in output! I assumed that this was because the gas was chilling back into a liquid & couldn’t “gasify” sufficiently, at least it was all my chilled brain could think of at the time. I use to step outside & brave the cold, & give the cannisters a good old shake & perfmormance would return albeit temporarily! Any gas engineers out there with a more “scientific” explanation? I am just a concrete/steel/timber/masonry man! Just curious.

  49. From Alan the Brit on August 8, 2014 at 3:28 am:

    (…) We lived on liquid bottled gas (cannister) for heating & cooking & hot-water. When it was very cold with wind chill effects in winter, the old gas cooker & gas fire would slow right down in output! (…)

    It was on this site I learned from the coldest North America residents of the dubious-sounding practice of building a wood fire under a propane tank to keep the gas pressure up.

    (…) Any gas engineers out there with a more “scientific” explanation? (…)

    Nope! Freeze-up also affects blacksmiths and other metal workers using propane forges, draw the gas off too fast and the tank gets very cold with the pressure dropping. To provide enough heat for the liquid to gas phase conversion when using a 20# size, placing the tank in a tub of warm water is recommended, although so is using multiple tanks joined together by a manifold then just use one tank at a time but switch between them so no one tank gets too cold.

    Of course when the exterior temperatures are too cold to provide the heat anyway… Rather than a wood fire under a propane tank, why not just use a wood stove for cooking and heat?

  50. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    August 8, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Good point!

    On a more salutary & poignant note, Shackleton kept his men going with all sorts of antics & morale boosting efforts. He was what I consider to be a great leader of men. To his eternal credit, he never gave up hope, & he never lost a man! Within a few years of returning to Britain/Ireland, most would be dead, killed in the Great War!

    HAGWE everyone!

  51. For the record The Australian Antarctic Stations main power houses use diesel powered generators with an emergency back up system also powered by diesel.

    http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/station-life-and-activities/power-generation

    At Mawson two wind turbines were installed in 2003 and contribute to the stations power requirements:

    http://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/stations/mawson/living/electrical-energy

    In 2001 Casey Station lost all power and communications following an electrical power surge which set off automatic fire extinguishers, causing damage to three service buildings.

    http://www.antarctica.gov.au/news/2001/update-casey-team-restores-full-power-communications-to-station

    It will be interesting to find out whether the BAS incident was in any way similar.

  52. @kadaka
    Yes, it all makes sense now. The whole station was modeled on Starbug from Red Dwarf. Oh *smeg*.

  53. as an aussie..what I noted was that they can get mobile or net reception down there thousands of miles from nowhere.??
    many rural aussies cant get any net or mobile cover in far less isolated places mainland.
    sounds like they better tell the epa or whoever ,to shove it and make sure they take wood coal or something useful down there with a potbelly stove or three in future.

  54. Cosmic rays during low solar activity on the polar circle is very high (no protection of the ozone).
    Can damage electronic devices.

  55. From the BBC article,

    “The station comprises eight modules standing on hydraulic legs”.

    This time a genuine question and not a sarcastic or leading one but are they hydraulic legs so the entire station can be lifted to accommodate ice growth?

    If so then I would find that both curious and interesting.

  56. From ozspeaksup on August 8, 2014 at 5:13 am:

    as an aussie..what I noted was that they can get mobile or net reception down there thousands of miles from nowhere.??
    many rural aussies cant get any net or mobile cover in far less isolated places mainland.

    Satellite phone?

    Although for such a short message, in text not voice, perhaps they have a radio system like shortwave for such. Perhaps despite the conditions they can get 1200 baud, or even up to 9600! Hopefully they are no longer on AOL.

  57. From jones on August 8, 2014 at 5:24 am:

    “The station comprises eight modules standing on hydraulic legs”.

    This time a genuine question and not a sarcastic or leading one but are they hydraulic legs so the entire station can be lifted to accommodate ice growth?

    Think of shifting wind-blown dunes in the desert. Apparently 20-ft drifts of snow and ice are possible. The legs can position the station relative to whatever is the current outside surface and keep them from being covered over with the doorways still usable.

    If so then I would find that both curious and interesting.

    Actually I was wondering since the thing is mounted on skis, if the legs were mounted on hinges, with front and rear angled hydraulic cylinders mounted on each leg for positioning, could you make such a station ski itself to somewhere?

  58. One can only hope that Antarctic Superstar William Connolley is safe and sound behind his keyboard in England…

  59. What? Air drops via parachute are impossible? As Gene Kranz said (at least in the movie), “Work the problem.”

  60. The “bio-reactors” worry me. I can’t imagine them working when frozen solid… aside from the danger of freezing to death things might being getting unpleasant in other ways.

  61. I’ve found 1960s paraffin heaters to be an excellent back up source of heat.

    You can boil a kettle on this one. Problem is, its buyer collects, but there are always loads for sale on Ebay.

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Paraffin-65-S-stove-heater-by-Valor-/251585413778?pt=UK_Home_Garden_Hearing_Cooling_Air&hash=item3a93a8c292

    (For the benefit of Americans, paraffin is 28sec kerosene)

    Paraffin is an excellent fuel. It doesn’t deteriorate over time or wax up.

  62. From Coach Springer on August 8, 2014 at 6:26 am:

    What? Air drops via parachute are impossible? (…)

    Everything is air-droppable at least once.
    -Maxim 11

    Way back when I was researching nuclear arsenals, I remember being impressed by how accurate the ICBM’s must be, when trying to get to a hardened bunker even a few city blocks off is too much. Nowadays we know how accurate GPS can be.

    So I know it must be possible to deliver a payload of emergency supplies if they really really wanted to. Perhaps even with an attached parachute.

  63. Alan the Brit says:
    August 8, 2014 at 4:39 am

    “On a more salutary & poignant note, Shackleton kept his men going with all sorts of antics & morale boosting efforts. ”
    _______________
    That is precisely why I made my nonsensical post at 7:14pm, August 7.
    I figure that being scientifically minded, there will be someone among the Halley crew keeping abreast of info here at WUWT and amidst all the well wishes and 2nd guesses, a little merriment directed their way couldn’t hurt.

  64. Frankly I think this is a cover story , if you have seen ‘The Thing ‘ , you will know what is really going .

    And I for one welcome our new shape shifting murderous overlords .

  65. The people of New England will be wearing the same shoes next winter, if they get an arctic blast and the power-grid overloads, due to the government shutting down the coal-powered power plants. People in Ivory Towers are bad planners.

    I wish everyone good luck surviving the cold.

  66. Last winter (2013-2014) the #spiritofmawson ship of fools successfully interrupted Antarctica Ice bases’ re-supply missions.

    One does wonder whether that supply failure (e.g. maintenance parts for generators) might have contributed to the dangers British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are encountering? Direct or indirectly the ‘ship of fools’ Antarctic summer holiday frolic continue to impact science.

  67. Send in the team of Air Gore and Branson. They have experience visiting the rapidly melting area.

  68. My father is a retired Naval officer who spend a year at McMurdo base as a scientist in 1960-61. (Operation Deep Freeze 61).

    He would keep me spellbound for hours telling us harrowing tales of survival, and how dangerous the cold was.

    He flew in on a Constellation turbo-prop aircraft. They would always fly in pairs in case one crashed.
    The other one crash landed.

    He said that they kept the big diesel cats and generators running 24/7 during the winter because otherwise the fuel would freeze up and they couldn’t get them started again.

    It does make one wonder how they managed to change the oil!

  69. Lank likes it warm says:
    August 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm
    “Life can be cruel without fossil fuels.”

    I just Googled that with quotes and it appeared nowhere but WUWT. You should copyright that and make t-shirts. I need an XL please.

  70. As a ham radio hobbyist living at Lake Tahoe, I was privileged and lucky enough to have a chat one evening in 1980 on the 20-meter band with the ham station operator at Amundson-Scott South Pole Station. He sent me a QSL card (postcard verifying the two-way contact) which contained a startling fact about the station – it stood then at an elevation of 9,301 ft above sea level, on an ice sheet about 9,350 ft thick! Believe it.

    About 20 feet of snow has accumulated since then, and they had to build a ramp down through the snow to reach the entrance to that dome the ham station was in. How could that have been happening for all these decades in the face of global warming? Anybody? Bueller?

  71. ROM says:
    August 8, 2014 at 2:14 am

    An isolated situation with lots of almost reliable wind far beyond the reach of a grid such as an Antarctic base, is about the only situation where wind turbines can be useful and perhaps even economical if maintenance in hostile conditions doesn’t kill it.

    Your link directly contradicts what you say!

    From your link [my emphasis]:

    This highlights the need for the correct wind conditions for optimal performance, because while the wind turbines have a reduced capacity at low winds they also ramp down power output in higher wind conditions, having an optimum working range between 16-25 m per second. These are conditions that have been eluding us for the last two months but we wait and hope for better conditions (and fuel savings) in the months to come.

    Also, take a look at the Station Management System (SMS) control panel picture. The windmills are supplying 24kW and the generators 168kW!

  72. Have they got to the stage of wondering if you start with the fat ones , because they have plenty of meat on them , or starting with the thin ones because they may get to thin to eat , yet ?

  73. knr says:
    August 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Have they got to the stage of wondering if you start with the fat ones , because they have plenty of meat on them , or starting with the thin ones because they may get to thin to eat , yet ?
    _________________
    What about old Nantucket tales of rendering blubber to fire the cook stoves…

  74. Billy Liar says:
    August 8, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    These are conditions that have been eluding us for the last two months but we wait and hope for better conditions (and fuel savings) in the months to come.”
    _________________
    Which brings up questions: why are they concerned with fuel savings? Did they not bring enough fuel to give themselves a margin of error to meet worst case scenarios? Did the Ingsoc hands on the tiller short them on fuel, touting the goodthink of renewable wind power?

  75. jones says: “the hydraulic legs so the entire station can be lifted to accommodate ice growth?”

    Yes, you lift all the legs at once and let snow blow under it.

    Seriously, the movie shows the legs being lifted one at a time and a bulldozer pushing a pile of snow under it. When all legs have new snow under then the entire station can lift itself. Rinse and repeat. The time-lapse movie is quite interesting to watch this process.

  76. Walter Allensworth says:
    August 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm
    ………………….
    Continuous oil change system.

  77. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    August 8, 2014 at 4:29 am
    Re wood fire under a propane tank.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    There was a time long ago when we used to light a small wood fire under the engine oil pan and tarp over the engine to keep the heat to get an engine to start with no electric block heater … Or on some older vehicles, they didn’t have block heaters. Plus old farm tractors. Not a recommended process especially if you have an oil leak but we never had a problem…

  78. “We always prepare for any eventuality so we have emergency procedures in place,” Capper said. “There’s plenty of cold weather clothing, sleeping bags… the focus really is making sure that everyone is safe and well and sufficient heating backup to make life comfortable for them.”
    +++++++++++
    They do have back up heating and emergency procedures (of course). But then, that wouldn’t make headlines like “crew of 13 in danger of freezing to death”. And it wouldn’t help bolster their image if they said “we are shutting down our winter weather observations & limited science projects to go into hibernation ’till the summer research crew arrives”.

    http://mashable.com/2014/08/06/british-halley-station-antarctica-power/?utm_medium=feed&utm_source=rss

  79. I find it amazing that no back-up heating system is in place.
    One should never bet their life on a single system.

  80. Alan the Brit says:
    August 8, 2014 at 3:28 am

    Another thing. I spent 18 months from 1983-84 doing a barn conversion, whilst the family lived in a mobile home nearby. We lived on liquid bottled gas (cannister) for heating & cooking & hot-water. When it was very cold with wind chill effects in winter, the old gas cooker & gas fire would slow right down in output! I assumed that this was because the gas was chilling back into a liquid & couldn’t “gasify” sufficiently, at least it was all my chilled brain could think of at the time. I use to step outside & brave the cold, & give the cannisters a good old shake & perfmormance would return albeit temporarily!

    Pretty close, perhaps. Propane’s boiling point at 1 bar about -40°. A propane bottle that is in use will be colder than ambient temperature by quite a bit, I sometimes can scrape frost off our grill’s 20 lb bottle in the summer. (Note that wind brings the opposite of a wind chill, it warms the bottle toward ambient conditions.)

    I heard of one person in Alaska who spent a fair amount of time outside heating up his propane tank with a hair dryer.

    Boling point temperature vs pressure curves are at http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/propane-vapor-pressure-d_1020.html

    Wouldn’t it be neat to wander around outside in -50° weather carrying propane and butane in open buckets?

  81. All of us are hoping they will pull through this and be o.k.

    This comment (below) is only about official BAS and media communications, not about the brave people trying to survive in such perilous conditions.

    Does ANYONE think that if such an emergency could somehow promote the “globull harming/climate catastrophe” agendas that we would not have been immediately blitzed in the media with 24/7 accounts of the perils faced????

    The reason it is kept so hush hush is because it is NOT useful to The Cause to highlight just how severe the current Antarctic winter happens to be. If the ice shelf were breaking off under Halley VI we would have BAS feeding the world media constantly with hype and catastrophe.

    The double-standards and non-standards for judging appropriate scientific and media assessments continue to amaze….

  82. No one can survive for long in minus 53C. Like astronauts in space need special suits. I hope they get their generators going soon.

  83. Shame Roger Harrabin and a BBC camera crew aren’t also trapped down there with them.

  84. I was at both Halley IV and Halley V. The fuel is not actually diesel – it is drummed “Avtur” (Aviation Turbine) fuel which is, conveniently the same fuel that the Twin Otters use. This contains an anti-freeze ingredient and is, in theory, uncontaminated with water (unlike bulk diesel). The Sno-Cats also use Avtur but the Skidoos require petrol, of course. They also have paraffin for the Primus camping stoves.
    The base buildings are raised every year because of snow accumulation and yes, the Brunt ice shelf does grow and snap off, like most ice shelves, which is why they tried to make this base “mobile”. Halley started in 1957 and probably 4 of the previous 6 bases have since sailed off in an iceberg. I don’t know if they are used at Halley VI now, but Halley V had a summer accommodation building and a garage that were both “move-able” and, having been involved in the moving process, I can say that that wasn’t exactly a piece of cake (and they were relatively small buildings).
    Anyway, best of luck to my fellow FIDS at Halley. I hope everyone will be OK.

  85. I agree with the comment:
    “Life can be cruel without fossil fuels.”

    For the current US energy policy I would modify:
    “Life will be expensive and cruel without fossil fuels

  86. I am definitely very interested to see if the adaptations for renewable power caused this problem,

    http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/living_and_working/research_stations/halley/halleyvi/documents/cee/Halley%20VI%20Final%20CEE.pdf

    “Changes in future activities at Halley VI, for example the progressive introduction of
    renewable energy technology”

    “The use of fossil fuels will be minimised and the use of renewable energy maximised
    where practical.”

    “The electrical distribution system has been designed to allow for “plug and play” renewable devices.”

    “Initially at Halley VI, electric power generation for domestic and scientific purposes will
    be provided by generators, running on AVTUR. This fuel type is 10% less efficient than
    diesel, but is a cleaner burning fuel and better suited to low temperatures.”

    “The long-term aim for power generation at Halley VI is to reduce fossil fuel consumption
    and to maximise the use of renewable and sustainable energy sources. Renewable energy
    will be phased in over the lifetime of the building rather than at the initial construction
    stage.”

  87. Diesel fuel varies with engine and climate.

    In places like Minneapolis and Winterpeg truck fuel will be thinner either by blend or additives.
    In the High Arctic in the 1970s ground generators and mobile equipment ran what was essentially aviation kerosene (Jet A/JP-1 and later variations of that). I don’t know the effect on engine life of lubricity differences, high pressure fuel pumps need some lubricity in the fuel.

    And they may have kept engines running, though hot air blowers would have been available to heat an engine that was shut down. (Piston engine airplanes would be supported by such, called “Herman Nelson” in the old days. In the bush of northern Canada airplane people would drain the crankcase and heat the oil in a bucket the next morning. One of the first users of twin-engine bush planes realized they had to have two oil buckets and two fires, as by the time the second bucket was heated and poured in the first engine’s oil was cool so starting harder.)

    Pilots and technicians of turbine-powered aircraft had it much easier for starting, but had to use better seals on things like brakes, and heat some things. Pacific Western Airlines added ducting to heat propeller seals from the APU – while the C-130/Hercules was supposedly proven in the Antarctic, suspicion was the US military never shut them down there.)

  88. Ozspeaksup:
    Iridium SATCOM service is available everywhere, for a price (last I checked still several hundred dollars for a phone and not much under $1./minute). The US government is committed to about half of Iridium’s capacity, for other than high security communications, so I suspect McMurdo uses it.
    Normal SATCOM from geostationary satellites not likely available there as antennas are aimed to areas of most demand.
    US military comm satellites I know nothing about (probably wouldn’t say if I did :-).

    And there’s good old HF radio, 3-30MHz frequency band, very long range. Today data capable – in 1994 I worked with an aircraft system that supported 1200bps, today its 1800 perhaps more. Due packet ID and time-stamp, as done for bulletin boards using POTS modems and protocols such as X-modem, and fancy processing of signals, HF data really punches through where voice is unusable. Still limited by propagation of course, but aviation HF data uses short chirps to test frequencies almost real-time, and re-tunes appropriately.

    Relays are possible, both automatic and operator-managed, there used to be commercial HF relay services with marvellous antennas, such as Rainbow Radio. (The Canadian military could talk to their Canadian base directly from a C-130 on the ground in middle Africa. Mind, the airplane’s transmitter was 400 watts PEP and the antenna farm in Trenton ON is described as a wonder to behold.)

    You could have slow Internet in remote areas of AU, but for a price you wouldn’t want to pay.

    Keep in mind that a “Tweet” message is very short, that alphanumeric characters do not require much bandwidth, and that messages do not need to be in real-time whereas voice does. (I know people who do much texting with their cellular phones from their residence, because coverage is too weak for voice.)

    Iridium’s data rate is not high, INMARSAT’s is higher but for a price.

  89. Keith, I have no problem with them using alternative fuels if they work better at low temperatures, my concern is if the choice was made based on emissions. Based on what I quoted it could be for either reason. The fact that they are not saying what the reason was initially makes it seem to me like they are trying to find a way to spin what happened.

  90. “No one can survive for long in minus 53C.”

    Tell that to the early Antarctic explorers, some of who lived in tents at minus 50 and below in between dragging sleds full of supplies across the ice. The people who set out to find penguin eggs on Scott’s expedition had to survive with just sleeping bags in temperatures that reached down into the minus 60s, after the winds blew their tent away.

  91. They have nothing to fear. They should just wait for Global warming which will eventually thaw them out.

  92. Winter Diesel is basically Kerosene. K-1 and D-1 mostly differ in details.

    “The pour point of kerosene depends on grade, with commercial aviation fuel standardized at −47 °C (−53 °F).”

    So they were a ways below the point where the fuel was not moving…. even if using a very light weight aviation kerosene as Diesel fuel.

  93. “Poptech” said “Keith, I have no problem with them using alternative fuels if they work better at low temperatures, my concern is if the choice was made based on emissions.”

    which isn’t clear.

    I presume emissions are lower with cleaner burning fuel, which I think you quote Hally people as saying, especially one that flows well through the system, but keep cost in mind – my impression is that thicker/cruder fuels are lower price.

    I don’t remember if some adjustment is needed to the engine control system to optimize for emissions and efficiency.

    My point was that thinner “diesel” is available for cold weather, which is what someone else in effect said as well as what you quote – that fuel is in volume production, called “aviation kerosene”.

    (While often called AVTUR, that is not definitive as there are two types of fuel for AViation TURBbine engines:
    - kerosene (JP-1/JetA and later designations)
    - a more volatile fuel designated JP-4/JetB, somewhat in the direction of gasoline rather than kerosene.

    The more volatile fuel flows better at low temperatures (Canadian military used to use it in the High Arctic, but it is lower density so kerosene is preferred if tank volume is limiting the mission, and is much risker for ignition thus explosion. When using kerosene, aircraft on long flights over the High Arctic must watch fuel temperatures closely.

  94. “mfdpc” re birds and wind turbines:
    - One approach is to stop blades when wind speed is low, as birds don’t fly in strong winds (too risky, and many can’t go upwind as they’d get pushed backward) and little electricity is generated at low wind speeds
    - As for fog, I doubt birds fly in fog, because normally they fly to get food (or in spring nesting materials) and need to see to get it. (Migration will be at higher altitudes likely free of fog.)
    - Is there much wind when air is foggy? (I’d expect wind would blow the fog away soon.)

    As for ground animals, airport experience is they get used to noise, but I’d want to check at pressure fluctuation frequencies under 10.0 Hz as body resonance may occur which would be disconcerting. (For humans upper body resonance is about 2 to 5Hz.)

    Facts are very good things, integration is necessary.

  95. The coupled Antarctic modules on skids are neat. I can imagine the high winds and freezing temperatures that they must deal with. I can also imagine a safe and enclosed Turbo-Vortex Wind Turbine mounted onto a sled and used to generate electricity from the wind. The turbine has been test at 100 mph wind and can run safely at higher speeds.

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