The Great Power Down

From 30 July 2014

Statement issued by BAS Press Office, 6 August 2014:

Date: 06 Aug 2014

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.


Message from Winter Base Commander John Eager, 10 August 2014:

While this is a difficult situation on station this wintering team like so many before them are working hard, showing skill, intelligence and determination that defines what FIDS are. We will all have stories to tell when we get back home in the best traditions. All are safe and well on station and in good spirits.

Update issued by BAS Press Office, 12 August 2014:

Date: 12 Aug 2014

The 13 members of staff at Halley Research Station continue to remain safe and well following the power-down incident on 30 July 2014.

The power-down was caused by a large coolant leak from the main arterial pipe in the station heating system which led to the generators overheating and shutting down.

After the initial incident, the Halley team worked round-the-clock and was able to restore power and some heating to the station.

At present the power supply is being kept at a stable load while the Halley technical team continue to check, test and re-enable engineering systems on the station.

The leak in the main arterial pipe is beyond repair, so the coolant in the heating system has been drained down. Access to the pipe has been very difficult because of very low outside temperatures (at times minus 55 degrees centigrade). Scientific instruments that are used for atmospheric research remain switched off so that the electrical energy can be used to heat the living accommodation.

Planned station engineering and research for the forthcoming season is being rescheduled.

Director of BAS, Professor Jane Francis said

"I am pleased that the situation is under control. Wintering in Antarctica is always tough, and requires professionalism and personal resilience. The team at Halley is demonstrating to all of us that they have what it takes, and how well a team can work together in these extreme conditions. I believe that they are doing a fantastic job, with support from the Cambridge team."

The wintering Halley Base Commander John Eager is leading and coordinating work at the research station. He said,

"Our first concern is always the safety and wellbeing of the team here. We are doing our utmost to protect, preserve and maintain as much of the station infrastructure as possible so that scientific work can be restarted in the coming summer season."

Quote from Winter Chef Gerard Baker, 8 September 2014:

"... same workload for me whatever the weather. The rest of the base is engaged in babysitting generators 24/7, so everyone is pulling their weight. so much to do in the summer; it's going to be manic, but I'm determined to do my bit to leave the place in a better state than I found it."

Blogs, tweets etc.:

The Big Power-Down Anthony Lister 6 Aug 2014
New record for low temperature at Halley Mike Krzyszofowicz 5 Aug 2014
BBQ Antarctic Style Mike Krzyszofowicz 10 Aug 2014
Sun up in Antarctica Gerard Baker 17 Aug 2014

Most of the wintering crew together
(Click for full-size picture)
Photo from Mike Krzyszofowicz's blog


BBC News report 7 Aug 2014
Interview with Winter BC John Eager for New Scientist 7 Aug 2014 (by ex-Fid Alison George)
Nature report 7 Aug 2014
Cambridge News report 8 Aug 2014
Mashable 6 Aug 2014
The Antarctic Sun 29 Aug 2014

10 December 2014
2014 index page
Z-fids home page