[Coral-List] Heron Island Research Station

Osmar Luiz Jr osmarjljr at terra.com.br
Thu Apr 5 17:32:12 EDT 2007

Coral Sea conflagration.
A fire at the Heron Island Research Station caused $12 million in damages 
and destroyed 11 buildings.

Credit: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg / Centre for Marine Studies, University of 

Fire Flattens Island Lab
By John Bohannon
ScienceNOW Daily News
4 April 2007

A fire at the Heron Island Research Station off the coast of Australia has 
devastated one of the premier scientific facilities on the Great Barrier 
Reef. Buildings, equipment, and data burned to ashes in a matter of hours. 
No one was hurt in the accident, however, and researchers vow to get back in 
action within months.
Located on an 8-hectare island 72 kilometers off Australia's northeastern 
coast, the station has become a mainstay for research on reef ecology and 
climate change. An outpost of the Centre for Marine Studies (CMS) at the 
University of Queensland in Brisbane, the 50-year-old station hosts 1400 
scientists, teachers, and students annually. An electrical fault sparked the 
blaze at 4 a.m. on 30 March. Fanned by strong winds, the flames quickly 
spread through the dry brush and the station's wooden buildings.

The station's laboratory manager, Kate Dunn, raised the alarm, and the 11 
staff members on the island at the time--joined by staff from the nearby 
Heron Island resort and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service--tried to 
contain the fire. Their efforts were of no avail, even with an ocean of 
water just a stone's throw away. Temperatures likely rose in excess of 2000 
degrees Celsius, as everything but the buildings' metal roofs was 
incinerated. "I always thought it was going to be a cyclone that would 
present me with this scenario," Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist who 
directs the station and CMS, told Science.

The fire gutted 11 buildings at the station and caused $12 million in 
losses. Most heavily damaged were the island's newly built research complex, 
the teaching facilities, several laboratories, and the cabins of four staff. 
A large experiment on ocean acidification, which bleaches and kills coral, 
was destroyed, says Hoegh-Guldberg. "It was really hard to believe that this 
experiment, which took 12 months to design and build, is gone."

Still, it could have been worse, Hoegh-Guldberg says. Most of the long-term 
data sets had been backed up. Also the island's boating and diving 
operations and administration and researcher accommodation survived intact. 
The station could be back in business within 2 to 3 months and in full 
operation within a year, says Hoegh-Guldberg: "This tragedy hasn't killed 
our enthusiasm or will to rebuild an even better station."

Related sites

a.. Heron Island Research Station http://www.cms.uq.edu.au/hirs/

a.. More about the fire 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Hendee" <jim.hendee at noaa.gov>
To: "Coral-List Subscribers" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2007 1:21 PM
Subject: [Coral-List] Heron Island Research Station

> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Heron Island Research Station
> Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2007 08:42:54 -0600
> From: Joan Kleypas <kleypas at ucar.edu>
> To: Jim Hendee <Jim.Hendee at noaa.gov>
> Hi Jim:
> I don't know if the rest of the list knows about this yet, but last
> week, the Heron Island Research Station burned down.  I've had a few
> email exchanges with Ove.  He is quite the leader and handling the
> situation well, but it goes without saying that this is not only a big
> hit to the Heron Island research projects, but to the heroic staff that
> risked their lives in their efforts to contain the fire, only to watch
> their homes be destroyed.  If this has not yet been posted to the list,
> I recommend sending the following link out to our colleagues:
> http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/404/2
> all the best, j
> -- 
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> J. Kleypas
> Inst. for Study of Society and Environment
> National Center for Atmospheric Research
> PO Box 3000
> Boulder, CO  80307-3000
> PH: 303.497.8111
> FX: 303.497.8125
> kleypas at ucar.edu
> www.isse.ucar.edu
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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