Saturday, July 11, 2009

Set C – Dead!

We all take weekly turns at starting up and shutting down the generators. They provide the electricity for cooking, hot water cylinders, fridge and freezers, computers and all the meterological services. Sixteen hours running time is the minimum needed to keep the food in the chillers and freezers from spoiling. There are three generators but only one is in operation at any one time, with the others providing backup in event of a malfunction.

As I’m (Gaye here) a morning person, I have swapped with Gina so I do all her 0600 start-ups and she does my middle-of-the-night shutdowns at 2200. Initiation to start up is given by a team member who shows you “the ropes” one morning then you take over the next. A written protocol of essential actions does exist if you experience “brain fog”. The process first involves reducing the load on the generator at start up by switching off nonessential and high load services. We also have to switch off the water cylinders and chargers so they are not fried by a surge when the power comes on. The fuel and water have to be checked, the nominated generator turned on, the circuit board activated and eventually all services brought on line.

If any problems are encountered in the morning start -up ritual, we have to go and wake Dave, our mechanic. Amazingly, he never grumbles but struggles out with a smile and says “What’s up?”
Dave at the generator
During my first week of start-ups, I had a trouble-free run. However, last week I struck problems. On the first morning the nominated generator (C) wouldn’t start (flat battery, it turned out) so I switched to the back-up generator (A). That also failed to fire up. I dragged Dave out of bed and he managed to sort things out.

Next morning I started C, only for it to suddenly conk out. Then I noticed an electrical smell, so I switched to A but again “click…. click” and no life at all in the engine. Back to the hostel I trudged and Dave obligingly came to the rescue once again. I explained the problem to him and he was intrigued.

“Let’s try C again,” he said. I switched the system over and to my surprise it started straight away. The engine sounded OK but as we both wandered around the machine I could still smell that hot electrical tang. Then, all of a sudden, BANG, smoke, flames and “HOLY SHIT!” from Dave. We were both well and truly awake then, switched everything off and ran for the door it case it blew up. Eventually, Dave ventured back in with the fire extinguisher.

The status at the moment is- alas, C is no more. Dave yesterday repaired the starter motor for A and we are currently running B.Power here is certainly not taken for granted.

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