It’s been a very, very cold winter in Antarctica, with scientists reporting record lows all over the continent. Which makes the fact that researchers living on the Brunt Ice Shelf lost power for 19 hours even scarier. Today, the British Antarctic Survey announced it’s halting all science until the situation gets resolved.
There are 13 people living aboard the Halley Research Station, now in its sixth iteration (buildings don’t last long on Antarctica). For nearly a full day on July 30, they were trapped in the station with no power and no heat — a fact that the British Antarctic Survey only revealed today, after the power was restored. A Survey spokesperson told Mashable that while the entire team is safe and power has been returned, it was “very tense period for everyone”. Now, the Survey has stopped all research until the situation is under control.
To make matters worse, Anthony Lister, an electrical and renewable energy engineer, reported that the base also recorded its coldest ever temperatures, at -55.4C, during the 19 hours the power and heat were down:
Whilst all the fun was happening at #halley6 (not that it's over) we had the lowest ever recorded temps down here at -55.4. Which was nice.
— Anthony Lister (@AntAntarctic) August 6, 2014
In a brief report posted on the British Antarctic Survey’s website, the council announced it was stopping all research except anything vital for weather forecasting — and it’s not sure when operation will return to normal:
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.
So, what caused the outage? Right now, the survey simply calls it a “a major technical issue”, but adds that more information will be released in time.
It’s worth mentioning that the research station itself has been hailed as a technological marvel, winning several major design awards over the past few months. Its unique structure allows it to be towed via bulldozer — the entire modular station sits on metal, ski-like appendages, designed to lift it out of harm’s way if need be.