The heaviest rains since 1951 hit New Caledonia, South Pacific, at the start of July, 2013. ESA reports that their Galileo ground station was caught in deluge, and engineers working on the station marooned by heavy rains and a flash flood.
The south coast of New Caledonia’s main island of Grand Terre recorded more than 700 mm of rain in 24 hours – the yearly average being roughly 1100 mm.
ESA's Galileo station is part of a growing worldwide network, it incorporates a Galileo Sensor Station that monitors the quality of navigation signals and an Uplink Station to relay navigation corrections to the satellites for rebroadcast to users.
“There were three engineers on site, working on the new antenna, as the rains came,” explained Fermin Alvarez Lopez, overseeing ESA’s Galileo ground stations.
“Located at a remote area of New Caledonia, Nouméa is built on a flat plain surrounded by bowl-like hills, helping to screen out unwanted radio signals.
“In this instance, that meant the rain funnelled down to the site area. A stream running nearby burst its banks and the access road to the site was completely washed away.“
Flood aftermath at ESA's Galileo ground station in New Caledonia. Copyright: TDF
The engineers had to sit tight and wait for rescue: it took 40 hours for the authorities and the hosting entity TDF to fix up the roads accessing the Galileo site to allow them to come back safely to Nouméa. TDF remained on site to ensure the station remained fully operational.
“The good news is that the ground station remained working throughout, thanks to high foundations and an onsite generator."
Featured image: Flood aftermath at ESA's Galileo ground station in New Caledonia. Copyright: TDF