Power restored to Antarctic station following electrical fault

12 November 2001

The main power supply to Australia’s Casey station in Antarctica has been restored following an electrical fault which set off automatic fire extinguishers about noon Casey time (3 pm Australian Eastern Summer Time) today.

All 51 expedition members at the station are safe and no-one was hurt in the incident, which was reported via emergency communications links to the Australian Antarctic Division headquarters at Kingston, Tasmania.

Normal electricity supplies to the station, which were put out by the incident, are expected to be fully restored in the next few days.

Communications equipment will then be tested.

A fire response team earlier reported what appeared to have been fires at two electricity substations and Casey’s satellite communications control room. A subsequent investigation found that the ‘fires’ were the result of a sudden electricity ‘spike’ which set off three rapid-response fire extinguishers in the service buildings.

There has been some damage to the buildings and some of the equipment inside, cutting off the station’s main power supply and its satellite communications with the outside world. The cause is being investigated by technical experts at Casey and Kingston.

Alternative power sources provided electricity to critical facilities including medical and living quarters until mains power could be restored to most of the station complex.

Casey, on the coast of Antarctica about 3430 km southwest of Hobart, is one of four permanent Australian Antarctic and subantarctic stations.