Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday tour

Today is Sunday, a day for lie-ins and laundary, "brioche" at breakfast and fruit tart at lunch. After lunch I went on a tour of the base with T, who will be in charge of the power station over the winter. Of course, the tour started with the power station itself...

There are four electricity generators here at Dumont, three in the main power station and an emergency one in another building. Of the three generators, only one is sufficient for the needs of the base, the other two are for backup. These are rather modern machines, which according to T give no problem at all.

Water production, however, is a different matter. The system is ingenious, but highly non-standard, and is 18 years old. Essentially, seawater pumped from the base of the island is boiled under vacuum using the heat from the electricity generators, then condensed around pipes cooled by more seawater, and collected. It is then cleaned and re-mineralised to become drinking water.

The warm seawater left over from this process is used to heat all the fresh-water pipes so they don't freeze in the winter. There is no electronics in the system, so all the pressure regulation is done by hand, through opening and closing valves. There is someone from the technical team in the power station at all times, day and night. These guys are the unsung heroes of the base...

Today's tour also took me to the first building constructed on the island, Marret Base which was repaired and renovated 22 years ago. From the outside it looks nothing special, but inside it is easily the warmest and most comfortable looking structure on the whole base, as it is the only one built almost entirely out of wood (see photo).

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