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Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 21/02/14

 

 

With environmental awareness, survival skills and effective team processes topping the agenda, the incoming AHT winter team got stuck straight into Antarctic Field Skills training following our arrival on the ice last week. This included a couple of days out on the ice shelf (in spectacular weather, thankfully), forming teams to carry out a variety of tasks and learning or refreshing some vital skills.

 

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Getting started and discussing the design

 

After selecting appropriate layers of clothing for the minus 12-degree temperature, preparing our individual sleep kits and pitching our polar tents, we set about designing and building our kitchen in which to shelter from the breeze, light our stoves and boil water to prepare our dehydrated dinners-in-a-bag. Using saws and shovels to cut and lift ice blocks, we simultaneously created a pit and constructed walls, not forgetting some seating and a bench for cooking. Being somewhat easier than it sounds, before long our far-from-perfect but nonetheless perfectly adequate little ice-kitchen took shape.

 

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Looking good - the team relaxes in the ice-kitchen

 

In we piled, and some reasonable curries and pasta dishes (and considerably better camaraderie) were enjoyed late into the bright sunlit night.

 

Good training … good fun!

 

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N-ice work!

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Author: Sue

 

 

We all know there are no bears in Antarctica, despite some early maps of the continent having vignettes showing polar bears here. But there’s one little chap with a very adventurous spirit who’d like to set the record straight.

 

In 1993 my childhood teddy bear, Bambino, took a trip to Antarctica … wintered-over here, in fact. I was working at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney at the time and sponsored my bear—whom I’d had since birth—to sail to Antarctica with a couple of hundred other brave bears under the capable leadership of inspirational Australian adventurers Don and Margie McIntyre. Newsletters recounting Bambino’s exciting adventures on the high seas and the ice were duly received as Bambino weathered the storms and rode out the long, cold, dark, windy months. He returned home some time later, none the worse for wear, with proud photos alongside penguins and outside an explorer’s hut. I paid his bear fare—all funds raised went to support the Camperdown Children’s Hospital in Sydney—and a good time was reportedly had by all.

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Bambino gives a wave as he mingles with a colony of Emperor penguins, 1993

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Group excursion to Mawson’s hut, 1993 (Bambino circled)

 

And so when Bambino learned I was planning to winter-over here with the Antarctic Heritage Trust this year, 20 years later, his paw shot up in an instant (although I can't help but notice that it's always up!) and he insisted on tagging along.

 

Appropriately attired and excited by the return of some semi-daylight to the continent this week, the forever-young Bambino was spotted out surfing some snow drifts around Scott Base. (And I’m not really a teddy-bear person at all, but it’s a cute little story.)

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Bambino surfs some drifts at Scott Base, 2013

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Space in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Jul 11, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -22 degrees

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -29 degrees

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

There are many outstanding things about living for a while in Antarctica. One of them is certainly meeting some of the other people who do the same, and learning about their roles here. We, with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, are fortunate to be involved in some of the more unusual winter work—and work that changes constantly—so there's always a lot of interest and fascination from others in what we do. We regularly have visits and/or enquiries from those at Scott Base and neighbouring US McMurdo Station who are curious to know 'what artefacts are in the lab today?' And they're never disappointed.

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The AHT team heads to the dome above McMurdo Station © AHT/Sue

 

A recent highlight for the AHT team was to be taken on a tour of the NASA facility at McMurdo by the two NASA engineers who are wintering-over there, and who have become our friends through our regular social inter-base darts evenings.

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The dish antenna inside the dome © AHT/Sue

 

The tour involved an overview of NASA's ongoing data collection programme from the many international polar-orbiting satellites that pass overhead … on average once an hour, and collecting such data as ocean salinity and temperature measurements. This was followed by a visit to the hilltop dome housing NASA's dish antenna. There, in minus 30-something degrees, we watched in awe as the 10m dish leapt with surprising agility to its task and tracked a satellite from horizon to horizon. Fascinating stuff, and beaut to see!

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Author: Marie

Date: 5/05/2013

Temperature: -25

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -30

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Last Suday to enjoy the last minutes of daylight we went for a walk that is quite famous here: Castle Rock loop. The track starts from McMurdo station, which is just over the hill, goes nice and flat to Castle rock (where we went for our first day out and also for the last sunset), comes down along the "Kiwi ski field" (open in summer but now closed). It's supposed to be a 5 to 8 hour journey, but in winter you would probably hike the loop in about 4 hours. It's too cold to stop moving or walking for long. Your camera freezes quickly if you spend too much time setting it. Alternatively, your battery goes flat quickly too if you take the camera out of your warm pocket too often.

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Jamie and Molly in their winter gear

 

We still manage several breaks, at every emergency rescue station we pass by. Our American neighbours have two red domes that look half like a metal igloo, half like space craft. One of them has even got an old style phone. Overwintering Americans have also built a real igloo (out of ice bricks) where we had our first tea break out of a thermos bottle.

 

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United State Antarctic Program Emergency Shelter

 

Down the Kiwi ski field there is a green bubble, the Antarctica New Zealand emergency shelter, where we had our last tea break before finishing our journey. The track is flagged all the way and very secure. Despite the grey weather, we enjoyed a pale light, and even some blue sky around 2pm. It was warm for Antarctica, only -25 and with almost no wind.

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Author: Stefan

Date: 23/04/2013

Temperature: -26 degrees

Windspeed: 13 knots

Temperature with Wind Chill: -39 degrees

Sunrise: 11.46am

Sunset: 1.56pm

 

Being down on the Ice is a difficult balance. All winter-over staff (AHT+AntNZ) have a massive amount of work to get through during the season. But the idea that a season can be acheived without a good slice of humour added into the mix is pretty naive.

 

The more I read of the explorers the more I'm facinated by what they got up to, and the dour accounts that follow. From journals of the long journey to Antarctica in the Discovery, comes an odd account of a "ducking pool": made from a wooden scaffold and sails, created aboard the ship, and through which (it seems) the men had to run a watery "Neptunes" gauntlet featuring razor blades and lather! In the games that followed Walker (a Dundee whaler) had his thumb "clean bitten to the bone." Scott's accounts of the soapy events were "The party was rather too lavishly regaled with whisky" and that the men "were a little rough towards the end"?

 

Click here for a picture of sails being rigged for Neptune's Gauntlet aboard the Discovery: http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p83.6.2.3.10/ photo credit Anon.

 

Needless to say there has been no thumb biting at Scott Base, although April the 1st was enjoyed by planting a fake "leak" in the water treatment plant. A series of 'emergency calls' later (out of work hours), the ever professional Graeme, attended the scene with great concern, and with a very well developed Preston-ian sense of humour, enjoyed the hijinks. He has become rather fond of the leek and it's since become a mascot of the water treatment plant.

 

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Graham and his new friend. Credit: Jonny5

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Today, we went to Cape Evans, where the famous hut from the Terra Nova Expedition is located. The helicopter flight took 20 minutes and it was spectacular with great views over the the McMurdo Ice Shelf and sea ice. A group of conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Trust has been spending the whole summer here to work on the famous hut. They have a cosy camp with a communal kitchen and dining hut and several polar tents. Actually, these kind of tents were also used by Scott and their design has only little changed since then. They are can withstand stronger winds than mountain tents. From our lunch break we had a great view on Scott’s hut . After we were done with our sample collection the conservators from AHT showed us the hut.


Flight over the ice

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Polar tents at Cape Evans

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Scott's hut  build during the Terra Nova Expedition

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Conservation work at the hut by Antarctic Heritage Trust

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