Grytviken whaling station, South Georgia Island

Letter from Antarctica

“Good morning, I have two Torverk doors in a boatshed at South Georgia Island. They were installed 22 years ago and are in need of a set of bottom door seals”.

The letter came from facility engineer, Paul Cousens, at the British Antarctic Survey Station in the smallest capitol of the world – King Edwards Point at South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Paul och hans landsmän är på ön för att studera och slå vakt om djurlivet och vårt klots biologiska mångfald, och ett av husen på den här vindpinade ön har Torverkportar som installerades år 2000.

At the same latitude as cap horn

South Georgia is located at the same latitude as the south tip of South America, Cape Horn, 1350 kilometers east of the Falklands.

During the icy cold winters, twelve people live and work here, but in the summertime it gets really crowded with roughly 20 souls on premise.

Vind speeds at 120 km/h

This is an inhospitable place. Winters are long and icy cold see winds of up to 120 km/h showers the coastal strip with salt water. On a fine summer day the temperature reaches 8 degrees Celsius, while winters are around zero and a little below. An extreme environment for anything that can rust.

South Georgia Island
South Georgia Island. Foto: TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Key site for biodiversity

Despite its inhospitable climate, this is a key place for preserving the planet’s biodiversity. Hundreds of thousands of birds are born here, and migrate to the entire southern hemisphere. Here you’ll find albatross, penguins, seals and whales.

But just a few decades ago, there was hardly a bird in South Georgia.

Kungspingviner på South Georgia Island
King penguins at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island. Photo: Liam Quinn from Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The Whale Population Collapsed

In the early 20:th century the island was inhabited by whalers. Roughly 3000 people lived and worked here, catching whales and harvesting their oil rich fat, used in contemporary oil lamps. In the 60:s the whale population collapsed. The whalers went home and left buildings, boats and production equipment to slowly decompose in the salty see environment.

Reindeers and rats outcompeted local wildlife

But the fishermen also left behind thousands of reindeer and rats on the island.

They had brought the reindeer with them to have something to hunt in their spare time. But since the reindeer had no natural enemy, they out-competed the local animal and bird life. The rats hitchhiking with the fishing boats also had no enemies, so they spread like the plague across the island, displacing seabirds and destroying the local environment.

Rat poison

To save the local wildlife, the British rounded up and removed all the reindeer, while spreading rat poison. The operation was successful, and wildlife is now recovering rapidly.

"Shutter Doors Won't Survive On The Island"

In this windswept landscape, the King Edwards Point research station is beautifully located.

The main building has two folding doors from Torverk that protect vehicles and research equipment from hurricane winds and salt water.

King Edwards Point, South Georgia Island

– We have ferocious wind gusts of about 65 knots, so everything that is not tied down blows away. Rolling shutter doors will not survive, but the folding doors from Torverk have been good for weather proofing. We will need to replace the drive units in a few years, but for now we only need new seals to stop the wind and water, says Paul Cousens.

The Torverk door in Antarctica seen from the outside.
The door seen from the outside. Despite the constant salt water shower from the coast line, there is no sign of rust on the door.

Required to withstand 1,5 kilopascal wind load

According to the British Antarctic Survey the gates are required to withstand a wind load of 1.5 kilopascals. This means that they must withstand a load of 153 kg per square meter.

Rigorous Testing

In order to guarantee the strength requirements, Torverk began rigorous testing procedures, and the test results are still in the company’s archives.

In it’s original design, without windows and reinforcements, the door sections to South Georgia Island withstood 1.96 kilopascals without deforming.

Reenforced Door Sections

For extra strength, Torverk’s engineers equipped the gates with double espagnolettes, reinforced guide pins, carrier rail, extra frame and intermediate hinges, as well as additional reinforcements that we won’t reveal. Then the door was tested again.

– The door sections were measured to withstand 2.05 kilopascals without deforming, and they cracked at 3.05 kilopascals. Considering that the section had windows, these are impressive numbers, says Mikael Barremyr, who is head of development at Torverk.

The Torverk door in Antarctica seen from the inside.
This is what the door looks like from the inside. Because the lower rubber seal has been worn during 22 years of use, water is gushing in underneath the door. That is the problem that Paul Cousens want to fix with new rubber seals. Note the double espagnolettes.

Heating element in the control cabinet

For the door’s electronics to withstand the cold, Torverk also installed a heating element in the control cabinet. And after 22 years of use, the door still works dutifully, except for the worn-out rubber seal.

If you ever need a door for an Antarctic research station, you know who to call.

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