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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Mycroft

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

ShrNfr

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.

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.

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…

Gary

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.

Green Sand

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.

bruce ryan

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.

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).

Speed

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.

SteveC

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

I’m not a doctor, but I suspect that hypothermia would be the cause of death and would occur before their bodies reached 0C (32F).

Truthseeker

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

Louis

“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?

DGH

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…

D.I.

What! No Wind Turd-bines down there to bail them out?

ROM

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.

ES

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

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.

SIGINT EX

As mentioned about MSM, Huff-Po is running a MEM op-ed about his “vacation adventure at Glacier National Park”, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-e-mann/glacier-national-park-climate-change_b_5656836.html.
I have not bothered to read it and may not.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

“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.

Keith Willshaw

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.

Lank likes it warm

Life can be cruel without fossil fuels.

Eric

After Keith’s post I had to see for myself…my God…this is like Andy Warhol designing the moon lander..
What the hell were they thinking?
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/feb/10/halley-vi-base-architecture-antarctica

Eric

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.

Eric

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.

Ed Moran

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.

Claude Harvey

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.

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?

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.

joelobryan

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.

NikFromNYC

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.

Gary Hladik

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. 🙂

Louis Hooffstetter

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?

Alan Robertson

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”.

Tim Obrien

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

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.

The other Ren

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?

jones

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…..

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

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?

Mike H.

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.

bushbunny

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.

joelobryan

There is nothing we can do right now to help them directly until late September.
But please keep Al Gore far, far, far away.

rogerknights

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”!)

Surely they have lots of wind turbines and solar panels to save the planet. What could possibly go wrong?

Christopher Hanley

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.

tty

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.

tty

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?

Stephen Richards

I wonder, was the record temp a result of the reduction in UHI?

Lawrence13

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
http://www.poletopolecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2.14-2.png