Problem of the water

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25 October 2006

As we continue to organise our life on board for the long polar night ahead, a constant preoccupation is the production, use and discharge of water. Ensuring that we have a sufficient amount of good quality water for our basic needs is a big task for at least two people each day. Like most large boats, we have a watermaker onboard that makes freshwater from seawater through the process of osmosis. In temperate climates we can produce up to 200 liters per hour. However, in our current position close to 83°N the water temperature is -1.5°C and the temperature in the forward hold (the location of the watermaker) has descended to -7°C, below the minimum operating temperature of 0°C.

Therefore, we now produce our water by melting ice and snow. We have a small water tank of 200 liters that supplies both the galley and shower. Inside this tank is a heating element from the boats central heating system. We also have another container in the Galley in which we melt ice passively and very efficiently just using the ambient temperature.

With such a scarcity of this vital resource every drop is counted, with the knowledge that supplies will have to be replenished by some hard labour outside. On average we use about 100 – 150 liters per day (approximately
13 – 19 liters per person per day). By comparison the consummation in Madagascar is 5 liters per person per day and in the United States 500 liters per person per day (Source: Universal Encyclopedia).

Discharge of water from the galley and shower is another challenge. For now the shower outlet is ok, however the outlet for the galley is frozen (despite attempts to keep it open with an electrical heating resistance) and we have experienced intermittent problems with the toilet. Consequently we now drain greywater from the galley into a container before discharging outside, and we have constructed a simple outside toilet, providing an expedition in itself each day!

Grant