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Sanae - Life at the base

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Sanae IV - Vesleskarvet
Photo: Dr. Ross Hofmeyr © 2008

The Structure...

The SANAE IV base is built at Vesleskarvet, 220 km due South of SANAE III.
Vesleskarvet is a nunatak which is a rocky outcrop peeping out of a snowy surface. The design of the base consists of three inter linked double storey units of approximately 14 m x 44 m each. They are joined at the lower level by inter leading passageways, which also serve as access and exit points. All three units are raised 3,5m above the rock surface of the nunatak on stilts. Wind tunnel tests were conducted at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to determine the most ideal shape and proportion of the structure. Rounded corners and smooth surfaces have been employed to minimize the effects of wind.

The base is able to accommodate 20 over wintering team members and 60 summer take-over personnel. A heli-deck and double hangar are provided as part of the structure. The latter serves as storage for the vehicles during winter. The heli-deck incorporates two screw drive lifts to raise the vehicles and provisions into the base.
The base frame is constructed from steel, and the insulation is of rigid, pre constructed foam and glass fibre resin panels.

Control panelWater purification plant

Electricity generation is by means of three 250 kW water cooled ADE diesel generating sets, one of which is a spare. An un-interruptible power supply (UPS) system is installed to cater for scientific and medical equipment in case of a system failure.

Communication between Sanae and and the rest of the world is established in several ways. The main connection is via a Satellite system with a 256kb send and 512kb receive bandwidth. This includes telephone, fax and internet. This service is managed and monitored from Cape Town. Alternative communication is systems include HF Radio and Satellite phone.

Essential support systems...

The interior temperature is fully controlled by means of heat exchangers utilizing generator exhaust and coolant heat to warm the base interior. Fresh water is obtained from a manually operated snow smelter outside the base.

A sealed effluent treatment plant is located in the base structure, and all sewage is pumped through the plant to be treated. The discharged effluent conforms to the standard for release into rivers in the Republic of South Africa (RSA). The concentrated sewage sludge is containerised and removed to the RSA during relief periods. All other waste is sorted, containerised and removed to the RSA as well. This includes waste generated by field teams.


Radio Room


Antarctica poses quite the logistical challenge when it comes to transport. For this purpose only the strongest engines will do. Caterpillar Dozers and Challengers are used. Dozers for building ramps and shoveling snow, while the Challengers are used to haul all the equipment from the Bukta (Ice Shelf) to the base via the almost 170km ice road. Skidoos with sleds are used for passenger and small cargo transport.


During takeover helicopters are available to lift cargo off the ship onto the ice shelf and to transport passengers from the ship to the base. Sanae IV also has a runway which services some of the Dronning Maudland (Dromland) flights.

Kamov helicopterBasler Aircraft on Sanae runway


Food, clothing, medical facilities as well as recreational facilities are provided.

Click here for a full inside view of the Sanae IV base....

(Most of the photos are courtesy of the Sanae 47 Team leader, Dr. Ross Hofmeyr.)