Scott Base is a New Zealand Antarctic research facility located on Ross Island near Mount Erebus. Opened in 1957, the base was set up as support to field research into earth sciences and now conducts research in many fields and is operated by Antarctica New Zealand.
The base is made up of a collection of buildings which are linked by all-weather corridors. These buildings can accommodate 85 people over summer, with a skeleton staff of between 10 and 14 people remaining over the winter. The base has fairly typical weather conditions for coastal Antarctica, with minimum temperatures around −45°C and summer maximum only occasionally above freezing point.
Water supply to the base is provided by a reverse osmosis system and four large water storage tanks with a pressurised delivery system. The water system supports the day to day needs of the residents and provides a reservoir for emergency firefighting.
The current water tanks were installed in the 80’s and are now nearing the end of their useful life. In 2018, Antarctica New Zealand tendered for a contractor to decommission the old tanks and install four new 40,000L tanks for the base.
Eric Hooimeyer of Teleo Design had Antarctica on his mind. He had just finished reading Mawson by Peter FitzSimons and had visited the Mawson’s Hut exhibition in Hobart, so when the opportunity to tender arose, Eric did not hesitate, and he was delighted to receive an order in October 2018.
The total job was split into two separate projects, each requiring two tanks to be decommissioned and replaced. The logistics were punishing and Eric said, “We had 8-weeks to design, construct and pack all parts and equipment for the first project, and ship them from Sydney to Christchurch in December 2018 for transfer to an Antarctica-bound supply vessel, sailing in January 2019. This initial flurry of activity was followed by lengthy downtime as the site build was not scheduled until December 2019. The parts and equipment for the second project sailed for Antarctica in December 2019 for installation in December 2020”
While everything that Eric shipped had to fit into a container and to be carried by two people, he said “the biggest challenge was trying to anticipate everything that you might need to pack for an installation 12-months before you need it, in an environment and conditions you’ve never worked in. If you thought you might need five of something, you packed fifteen!”
The job required a specialised cold-climate carbon steel that wouldn’t become brittle in the Antarctic winter, and Eric ordered the steel the day after the job confirmation was received. The water tanks were insulated with 100mm of foam that needed to be formed and adhered to the walls of the tank. To provide safe access for staff, safety railings and interconnecting walkways on the top of the tanks were required, and Eric selected Moddex modular aluminium product for the job.
Eric had successfully used Moddex modular product on previous projects. The aluminium railing would perform well in the extreme cold and being ultra-lightweight was easily handled and installed on site. The Moddex railing was delivered pre-engineered and ready for installation and was consolidated with the tank components for shipment to Scott Base.
Eric and his team travelled to Scott Base in December 2019 and spent 5 weeks onsite successfully completing the first phase of the project, and easily installed the pre-configured Moddex railing to the roof of the tanks. The coldest day was -20°C with windchill and was the day the team had to remove their gloves to peel the backing off the insulation panels!
The equipment for the second phase of the project was shipped on schedule in December 2019 and the Teleo Design team will be back at Scott Base to complete the project in December 2020.
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