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Author: Kevin

Date: 28 November 2012

Temperature: -4 degrees celcius, sunny and bright

Wind speed: 5 knots

 

We have now been at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut for the last three weeks or so. Our daily work pattern is now well established. Morning meeting and radio schedule with Scott Base at 07.30am, then off to work until 11.00am when we stop for first lunch, then work again until 3.00pm when second lunch beckons. Final work period is over at 7.00pm with dinner at around 7.30pm.

 

We take it in turns to cook, so as there are only four of us on site, it comes around pretty quickly, with some people looking forward to it more than others, as spending your day digging out one hundred year old marrow fat lard from tins has been known to dampen the appetite!

 

Over the last week or so we have been lucky to have good weather with temperatures above -5 and lots of sunshine, giving us beautiful views of Mount Erebus and the Barne Glacier. Whilst this may seem good to those far away, it leaves us with a dilemma. We rely on snow banks for our fresh water and keeping our fresh food frozen. The fine weather sees the banks literally melting away in front of our very eyes and we still have two more months on site.

 

This morning our "freezer" was looking decidedly worse for wear so it was time for improvements. More snow was packed on top and around the sides and a better door was fitted. All courtesy of the carpenters used timber stack.

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Freezer looking a bit sorry for itself

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Freezer on its way to a new look (Barne Glacier in the background)

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Cape Royds in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Nov 23, 2012

Author: Lizzie
Date: 1 Nov 2012
Temperature: -18.2C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -18.2°C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a
Photo Description & Credit 1: Mt Erebus in light and shadow c . Lizzie, AHT
Photo Description & Credit 2: Lizzie back inside the hut at Cape Royds

We’re back at Cape Royds after a year, this time just a short visit for 5 days to complete the annual maintenance and inspection programme. This year’s summer Antarctic Heritage Trust team consists of Jana (objects conservator, Canada), Martin (timber conservation carpenter, NZ), Kevin (timber conservation carpenter, UK) and myself (Programme Manager-Artefacts, AHT): a mix of skills, ages, nationalities and experience in both the Arctic and Antarctic.


There’s a list for me of things to do as soon as I get to Cape Royds:
1. Check the hut is OK after winter and spring storms…it is, bar a couple of things. We find a Colman’s flour box and a pony fodder box blown loose from their usual positions. In the case of the flour box it has been picked up by the wind from the south side of the building, rolled around the east side, and then blown a further 80m north of the building, where I spy it in its own lonesome wee drift of snow. Remarkably the box is completely undamaged despite its travels. Martin fixes it back more firmly in position on the south wall.


2. Say hello to the penguins…. It’s early in the season. Over at the rookery only a couple of hundred Adelie penguins are in and beginning the business of stone gathering – trotting back and forth with one stone at a time in their beaks.


3. Say hello to Mt Erebus – sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Tthe day after we arrive, Erebus is playing hide and seek, high wind clouds shifting and stacking up in sharp curves, in and out of light.
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4. Haul the gear up and over the hill ready for several days of snow digging, photography, minor repairs and treatments.


5. And last but not least, walk inside the hut, check all the artefacts are OK, drink in the smell, the light, the distinctive small sounds, and the incomparable atmosphere of this 1908 expedition base.
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Coping with the cold

 

The sea around Antarctica remains cold year round with temperatures reaching lows of nearly -2 and rarely reaching above 0 degC. Because of this we have to take extra precautions when diving to make sure that we stay warm.

 

The first precaution if that we wear drysuits - neoprene suits which are sealed at the neck and wrist so that your body stays dry. This means that we can wear lots of thermals underneath to ensure we don't get too chilled underwater and we can also add more air to our suit underwater for insulation.

 

We also use full facemasks which mean that our faces stay a lot warmer too. This is all very effective and so far, even on hour long dives, it has only really been my hands and feet that really feel the cold

 

Of course all of this extra clothing and air in our suits means that we have to wear a lot of weight in order to sink. My muscles are certainly getting a work-out here in Antarctica!

 

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Me underwater

(Click images to see them full size)

Dive boats

 

We have a few boats here in Antarctica but the ones we most commonly use are Erebus and Terra Nova (named after two famous ships from the era of early Antarctic discovery - Terra Nova was Scott's ship for his last expedition). They are all looked after by our dedicated boatman, Tim and we have a number of people on board who can skipper them.

 

My first big surprise with the boats is that they are lifted in and out of the water by crane before and after each dive! This is to prevent ice damage and allow for easier maintenance but also makes loading and unloading the dive equipment much easier.

 

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A British Antarctic Survey Boat being lowered into the water from the wharf

 

When out on the water the main challenge for our skippers is navigating through the ice and icebergs. A piece of ice which can look deceptively small from the surface can deliver a hefty wallop to a boat travelling at speed.

 

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Erebus and Terra Nova off Rothera Point

 

Apex predators

 

Another difference between diving in the UK and Antarctica is the presence of large predators which can pose a risk to divers. The two which we have to be careful of are Orcas (killer whales) and Leopard seals and if any are seen around Rothera then we aren't able to dive for a while.

 

Before every dive we spend half an hour on "sealwatch" making sure that it is safe to get in the water. In addition we also have full communications at all times with the surface and our diving buddy. This is really useful for discussing science underwater but also means that we can immediately be alerted if a potentially dangerous animal is in the vicinity.

 

Ice and icebergs

 

Ice and icebergs can also pose a challenge to divers, even in the Antarctic summer. Large icebergs can move quite fast if the wind is blowing and will often gouge the seabed as they pass - a diver wouldn't want to get in the path of that! They can also become unstable when they start melting and large pieces may break off or they might even tip over altogether.

 

Because of this we take extra care to stay distant from icebergs both above and below the water. Ice is a bit more tricky to avoid so we always have to make sure we look up when we are returning to an icy surface so we don't bang our heads!

 

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A diver ascending in ice
© Ash Cordingley

 

Despite the challenges Antarctica is a fantastic and fun place to dive and is full of life - I'm looking forward to sharing some pictures of the weird and wonderful creatures we find here in my next blog post.

 

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Scientific diver, Kathy Dunlop and a ctenophore

© Ash Cordingley

 

 

Jen's research is being undertaken as a collaboration between:
Heriot Watt University, Natural History Museum, UMBS, Millport, and the British Antarctic Survey.

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Jen is funded by the NERC Collaborative Gearing Scheme and Heriot Watt Alumni Fund and sponsored by Catlin Group Limited, Apeks Marine and O'Three.

UTAO-logos-sponsorship.jpg

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Author: Jane
Date: 17th August 2011
Temperature: -33°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48°C
Sunrise: Friday!

 

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The view from the summer lab looking out over the Ross Ice Shelf to the daylight behind Mount Terror. Jane/AHT

It is just three days until the first flight of the WINFLY season (the pre-main season flights to exchange cargo and personnel ahead of the main season that starts in October). We are expecting a few new faces at Scott Base and about 350 at McMurdo. It will disrupt the everyday routine we have all become used to and will most certainly lead to a few faces that look like an animal caught in the headlights.


It is wonderful to see daylight creep ever further into the sky behind Mount Erebus and there is a noticeable difference in the number of people who sign out at lunch time to go for walks to absorb some Vitamin D! Just the idea of daylight seems to have given people a new energy that has been lacking for some time now.


We are all looking forward to the mail and fresh fruit and vegetables that will come down. Unfortunately, it is the end of the winter season for Antarctic Heritage Trust and we are working hard to get some last minute work completed before our new conservator, John, arrives on Saturday. We celebrated the end of our winter together with a special dinner followed by a performance in the bar by the Scott Base band- sadly, their last performance together as guitarist Julie leaves next week with Sarah and Martin.

 


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The summer lab beside the hangar with this year’s new pressure ridges just visible. Jane/AHT

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Posted by  Jane


Date: 23rd February 2011
Temperature: -11.5°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -15°C
Sunrise: 00.28
Sunset 03.48

 

Last  week Scott Base hosted an emotional memorial for the victims of the Mount Erebus crash that occurred in November 1979. The sightseeing plane crashed into the side of Mount Erebus killing all 257 people on board.

 

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The memorial service, overlooking the Ross Ice Shelf and pressure ridges.credit Troy Beaumont

 

The 115 family members of the victims were flown down on a New Zealand Defence Forces Boeing 757 to Pegasus airfield. They were then bussed to Scott Base for a memorial service at a Koru which looks out at Mount Erebus. There is an identical Koru at the crash site, but it would have been impossible to take everyone there for logistical reasons.

 

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Blessing the Koru. credit Troy Beaumont.

 

The Koru at Scott Base is a memorial for people at Scott Base and McMurdo, dedicated to all those who have died in Antarctica. Unfortunately, the weather began to deteriorate following the memorial, so we were not able to provide the full guided tour of the base before our guests had to leave but we did take them down to the base for a quick afternoon tea before being bussed back to the plane.
 

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Posted by Nicola


Date:                  19 August 2010
Temperature:      -29c
Wind Speed:       10 knots
Temp with wind chill: 45c
Sunrise:              The first sunrise 12.26
Sunset:               13.30

 

With just a couple of days to go before we leave Scott Base, Antarctica, we are pleased to have come through the winter with just a couple of cases of frost-nip. We have all experienced the extreme pain of warming up fingers frozen whilst trying to operate cameras in thin gloves, but the polar clothing and toe and hand-warmers have kept us toasty.

 

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The hut at Cape Royds with Erebus in the background © AHT/N Dunn

 


Frostbite was a common complaint of the early explorers whose exposed skin, toes and fingers would turn black and swell with large blisters, the pain must have been excruciating. In the lab this week we had an artefact, known as ‘Brocklehurst’s leg protector’ which reminded us of how lucky we have been.


Sir Phillip Brocklehurst was the 19 year old assistant geologist on Shackleton’s 1907-09 expedition and part of the first team to climb Mount Erebus. The ascent was made in improvised climbing boots made of ski boots with nails hammered into the soles. On the treacherous slopes they survived a 36-hour blizzard before continuing the climb in intense cold, Brocklehurst still in his ski boots as he didn’t think it necessary to change into the better insulated ‘finnesko’ boots of reindeer skin. After nine hours both his big toes were black and frostbitten and he remained in the tent whilst the others made it to the summit.

 

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Brocklehurst’s leg protector made from painted steel rods bound with paper strips © AHT

 

Later one of his toes was amputated by Marshall (the expedition surgeon and cartographer) with Mackay (expedition doctor) acting as anaesthetist. The cold meant that the wounds healed slowly and as he recovered in Shackleton’s bed the metal cage protected the damaged foot from the weight of the blankets. Thank goodness for toe warmers!