When the power goes out for most people, they light candles, pull out some board games and try not to open the fridge. But what do people living and researching on Antarctica do when their source of electricity on the frigid continent goes dark?
John Eager, base commander at the Halley Research Station, can tell you first hand what his team of 13 had to do when this happened to them last week.
New Scientist, which spoke with Eager in an emailed Q&A about the experience, noted that it’s currently winter there and temperatures got as low as -55 degrees Celsius. The sun isn’t even set to rise above the horizon until next week, Eager told the site.
Power went out on July 30 due to a “major technical issue,” according to Eager. As a result, the camp lost its heat source for 19 hours. While some of the services the team needs are back online, some equipment that got very cold needs to be warmed back up slowly, Eager told New Scientist.
In order to keep themselves toasty enough during that time though, Eager said they have warm clothes and another building with power and heat. They also have alternative cooking methods. But even if things got worse, he said they have “contingency plans in place in case situations like this arise.”
Unfortunately for the scientists, the research they were conducting stopped, aside for weather observations. Colleagues that work with the group in Cambridge, England, Eager told New Scientist, are reviewing the situation to advise the group on what to do next.
As of Wednesday, the whole team was “safe and in good health,” Linda Capper, spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey, told Mashable. but the camp is not running at full capacity.
Overall, the researchers seem to be in good spirits.
Anthony Lister, an electrical and renewable energy engineer at the base, wrote on his blog that “it’s nowt [sic] exciting honest!”
“Tea making facilities are still going strong,” he added.
“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,” a statement released by BAS read. “Everyone at Halley and Cambridge is doing everything that can be done to ensure that the incident remains under control.”
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