During the summer at the south pole, there are regular airplane flights, skiier expeditions, and all sorts of transportation to and from the station. If an emergency happens, it’s relatively easy to escape from the station.
However, during the very very cold winter months, when it’s dark out 24/7, there is absolutely no way to get away from the station – no flights, no skiiers, no traverse. So if something happens – such as a fire, massive power failure, or the like, the crew is stuck there, and must deal with it on their own.
For this reason, in the B1 pod of the station, there exists the emergency lifeboat. Essentially, the B1 pod is equipped to be able to act as a completely self sustained unit, able to provide the 50 winteover crewmember complete food, power, fuel, and living support. If something were to happen to the rest of the station – say, a fire burns it away, the crew would be able to take refute in the lifeboat and wait out the rest of winter until a rescue is possible.
A few weeks ago, winterover site manager Weeks Heist took me on a personal tour of the unique features of the lifeboat. A few pics of the notable areas:
The entrance to the B1 pod. Looks like a normal door and wall – but it’s actually a 3 hour rated firewall. The rest of the station is skinned in dry plywood and paneling, so it’s thought that if there was a catastophic fire, the rest of the station would burn away and burn itself out before the fire gets through the firewall.
Looking inside the entrance door, you can see not only a normal door, but also a massive insulated freezer door. In the event of an emergency, this door can be closed to seal off the unit from the rest of the station.
On the bottom floor of the lifeboat is the emergency power and water treatment plant. This facility can power the entire pod. It’s also linked in with the power grid for the rest of the station, so its power can be routed to power any other part of the station – including remote science experiments, if the power routing infrastructure remains intact.