Scott Base is New Zealand's permanent research support station in Antarctica. It is managed somewhat similarly to a boarding hostel, with shared bedrooms, one large dining room and an industrial kitchen complete with chefs. With up to 85 people on base at any time the Scott Base staff work hard to ensure that supplies of heat, electricity, fresh water, food are maintained.
Each year Antarctica New Zealand employs staff for the base, a summer-only crew (October to February) and a smaller winter-over crew (October to October). This crew is augmented by New Zealand Defence Force personnel who help provide the essential services to keep Scott Base running.
There is a range of recreation equipment available for use, including:
The Wet Lab was constructed for research related to marine biology and environmental monitoring of the base sewerage output. There are two separate research areas related to these two different topics. The marine biology area has direct sea water (-1.8 to -1.3 °C) circulation to nine small (20 gallon) aquariums. The facility has limited lab bench space, a refrigerator, two baking ovens, constant temperature bath, various digital balances (Metler), some standard glassware and a phone.
The Summer Lab is maintained for research groups which need quiet / uninterrupted lab space for set-up of experimental equipment. The facility has power and heat, but no running water, phone or data network access.
The Hatherton Lab is the main lab space at Scott Base. The Hatherton Lab houses a number of long-term experiments. The facility has a darkroom, three offices for short term use (with phones and data network access), an electronics workshop and a public computer area for email / internet access. There are four public computers and a network printer in the public computer area. On arrival at Scott Base you will be shown the Hathertom Lab and introduced to the Science Technician who will help set up computer facilites.
If you prefer to take your own laptop there are limited connection points for these. Digital cameras are also accommodated for with memory card readers.
Scott Base has a modern communications network. A small, fully featured telephone exchange provides a link to New Zealand through our satellite earth station at Arrival Heights. With the station dish barely above horizontal, the earth station is almost as far south as the limit of communication using satellites stationed above the equator. Connecting the exchange and the earth station is a fibre optic cable system.
The satellite station itself consists of a dish that is 9 metres in diameter. This is housed inside a 14-metre diameter, geodesic dome that has been designed to withstand the severe weather conditions that can occur in Antarctica. The dome is built on a large, steel structure, which is anchored to the ground.
There is also a fibre cable link to our neighbours at McMurdo Station. The two bases form a small free-calling area. This provides both Antarctica New Zealand and the United States Antarctic Program with a Ross Island network that allows access through each other’s telephone systems to New Zealand, the United States and the rest of the world.
Using a device called a bandwidth manager and also using speech compression techniques, a considerable number of circuits can be fitted on the small signal carrier being transmitted to the satellite from Arrival Heights. This gives the ability to simply pick up the telephone and dial without having to wait for a circuit.
This also gives the capability to provide high speed data links. Both Antarctica New Zealand and the United States Antarctic Program utilise the Scott Base system for data links to New Zealand. The high-speed data links also allow us to carry radio and television programme signals, which can be used for special events. The first television pictures of the new millennium were beamed live to the world from Scott Base, shortly after midnight, using our satellite link.
Three lines are provided from the Scott Base exchange, using VHF radio links, to enable the Italian Antarctic Programme at Terra Nova Bay to have access to worldwide communications utilising our telephone network.
Our system is part of the Telecom New Zealand network. As such, users at Scott Base are able to share some of the calling specials that apply from time to time. This can make communication to and from Scott Base quite cheap for those that work there and regular contact with home makes life here a little easier, especially during winter.
Scott Base is powered by 2 main generators with a back-up generator system to ensure constant power. The generators supply heat and light to the 9 main interconnected buildings comprising Scott Base. These buildings have a combined floor area of 4468 sq m of which 570 sq m is used for accommodation. The base is maintained at 18-20 degrees inside.
At Scott Base the primary fuel used for running the power generation plant and heavy vehicles is called AN8. Any engine that would normally run on diesel in New Zealand can use this fuel. AN8 has a ‘Cloud Point’, (where the fuel becomes murky and any present wax congeals causing blocked filters) of –50 oC.This same fuel is used in the aircraft that fly to and from Antarctica, and aircraft such as the helicopters and Twin Otters that fly in and around Antarctica.
There is storage capacity at Scott Base for 56,000 litres. The tank is double-contained for environmental protection and is divided into two separate compartments of 28,000 litres each. Only one of these tanks is in use at any one time, keeping one in reserve. Antarctica New Zealand purchases the fuel directly from the United States Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station located 3 kilometres away. Approximately every 20 days Scott Base’s storage tank is refilled via a 7,000 litre tank mounted on the back of a Isuzu flat deck truck.
The average daily amount of fuel used for running power and heating systems varies between summer and winter: highest consumption rates of around 1,300 litres per day occur in winter. Summer sees the consumption drop off to an average of nearly 900 litres per day. The annual amount of AN8 used is approximately 410,000 litres, including the amount consumed by vehicles.
The petrol used at Scott Base (and McMurdo station) is referred to as ‘Mogas’, a low octane unleaded petrol, used in vehicles and portable generators. It cannot be used in aircraft in Antarctica due to its low octane rating and the fact that it is not refined to aviation standards. Antarctica New Zealand only stores about 2,000 litres of Mogas at any one time.
Most areas of the base have smoke, heat and sprinkler systems, which along with regular fire drills for all people on base keep fire prevention and awareness at a high level. In case of a major fire sections of Scott Base (the linkways) can be closed off or demolished to prevent the fire from spreading throughout the base.
Scott Base retains around 105 000 litres of water at all times for fire fighting as part of its safety procedures.
The US McMurdo Station also has a trained fire fighting crew and fire engines. McMurdo and Scott Base fire crews act as back up for each other in cases of fire.
Antarctica New Zealand has a number of policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of all people supported by the programme, whether they are at Scott Base or out in the field. These procedures include: