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1

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.

 

Image 1 (Small).JPG

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!

 

Image 3 (Small).JPG

N-ice work!

0

Mid -Winter in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Jul 10, 2013

Author: Jaime Ward

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -19.9

Wind Speed: 0

Temp with Wind Chill: -19/9

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Recently we celebrated mid- winter in true Antarctic fashion, with an elaborate dinner at Scott Base, for the fifteen of us and 25 invited American guests. The following evening was Mc Murdo's turn which, given their number of winter staff, was a much larger event to which we were all invited.

 

Mid-winter dinner LR.jpg

Scott Base Mid-Winter dinner - Tim Delaney

 

This tradition of celebration goes back to the early expeditions, for whom the passing of midwinter must have been hugely significant, allowing them to look forward to the gradual return of the sun and a chance to get away from the cramped confines of their winter quarters.

 

http://http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.447/ Click here to see a photograph of Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut, June 22nd 1911.

 

Mid –winter has also given us all a reminder of that we on Ross Island are just one small part of an extensive international community of Antarctic winter residents at bases both on the continent and on the sub-Antarctic islands. A new tradition is emerging with each of the bases e-mailing their mid-winter greetings (and usually a group photo) to each of the others. We received about thirty and they now cover the dining room wall, a great reminder that in spite of all this apparent emptiness, we do still have neighbours.    

0

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.

Picture1bis.JPG

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.

 

Picture2bis.JPG

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.

2

Author: Stefanie

Date:  10th April 2013

Temperature:  -22.4° C

Wind Speed:  20/13 kts

Temp with wind chill: -34° C

Sunrise: 09:14

Sunset:16:31

 

I refer you to a blog written by conservator John in December 2011:

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/antarctic-conservation/blog/2012/01/16/mystery-from-the-hut-of-captain-scott-at-cape-evans

John, who found an intriguing metal-sheet figurine at Cape Evans, describes the object's unusual features and asks his readers to suggest a solution to its mysterious function. The responding suggestions, which included a weather vane and tin opener, are problematic for several reasons and the mystery of the one legged figurine remains just that, a mystery.

 

mysterious man (Small).jpg

Mysterious Man: Metal sheet figurine with unknown function.

 

mysterious man2 (Small).jpg

Mysterious Man: Reverse side of figurine

 

The unresolved function and purpose of that curious metal figurine was recently revisited as the object came through the lab for conservation treatment. Each one of us pondered its purpose and after making no concrete conclusions, I made a card replica of the object to demonstrate the full functioning of the moveable leg and to aid tactile and visual understanding.

 

Jennifer Davis contemplates object.jpg

Archaeologist Jennifer Danis ponders the function of the mysterious man.  Image taken by:  Zachary Anderson 2013

 

I presented the mystery at our Scott Base meeting and invited ideas, suggestions and resolutions from everyone. A guessing game began with some interesting results:

 

Jennifer Davis contemplates purpose of object.jpg

Jennifer uses card replica to help understand the object.  Image taken by Zachary Anderson 2013

 

Graeme, an engineer, concluded that the figurine is most likely a latch or clamp similar to one used for a chest or suitcase today. However, he also suggested that as the figurine is pressed with an especially shaped form, several shapes of the same figurine could have been cut to create a display or scene. This idea is promoted by Damian, the cook, who considers the object a puppet similar to a shadow puppet. Tim, the science technician, also thought the object a puppet, however after further consideration added that it may have been used as a measuring device. This corresponds to an idea presented by Colin, the carpenter, who suggests the object is similar to a current day pick-a-mood device, used as a tool to enable people to communicate their moods in stressful social interactions. Or perhaps this curious one legged, one armed man is as Stefan suggests, the result of Clissold's mechanical ingenuity. The case remains unsolved and the guessing game continues… 

       

        

 

   

 

 

    

 

1

Author: Karen

Date: 2 December 2012

Temperature: -7°C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temperature with Wind Chill: -15°C

 

After over six years with the Trust as Administration Officer, I was given the opportunity to visit Antarctica to assist the team during a busy period.  I was both extremely excited and concerned at the same time, since I was told that the majority of my time involved camping in a tent at Cape Evans (the site of Captain Scott’s second expedition base).  Having never camped before, this was worrying, but I was not going to let that get in the way of such a remarkable opportunity.

I arrived at Cape Evans by Hagglund, it took approximately one and half hours from Scott Base.  Walking into Scott’s hut for the first time was very emotional: even after seeing thousands of photos, they did not prepare me for the feelings stirred.  When I stepped inside I immediately noticed a distinctive smell, it took a few seconds before I realised it was the blubber stack, (left behind by the Ross Sea Party) stored in the western annexe.  After over 100 years the smell was still extremely strong. It was like I’d been transported back in time and I was back in 1911, all was very real, in fact I was expecting to turn around and see Scott or one of the men from his party sitting at the wardroom table. 

Walking around Scott’s hut I found myself thinking how noisy it must have been with 25 men living in the hut when it was first built in January 1911, but today it was eerily quiet, all I could hear was the wind howling around outside.

 

KC Blubber.jpg

Stack of blubber in the Western annexe, Cape Evans

CE western annexe.jpg

Veiw of the Western annexe, Cape Evans

2

Author: Jana

Date: 12 November 2012

Temperature: -12 °C

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -38 °C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

One of the first tasks that we usually tackle when we arrive at the historic huts is to remove some of the massive amount of snow that has accumulated around the buildings during the  winter.  At both Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, drifting snow piles up each year in the lee of the buildings, burying artefacts and pushing up against the walls of the structures themselves.  If this snow is left in place, it can turn into a thick layer of ice that becomes nearly impossible to remove, or it melts slowly in the summer sun, which can cause water damage to the walls of the buildings and to the objects sitting outside.  That’s why we make sure to dig it out while it is still in a perfectly snowy, shovel-able state! 

It usually takes several days of dedicated digging to remove all of the snow in question: we take turns hacking away at the deeper parts of the drifts or gingerly brushing where we know the artefacts are buried, and then we haul all of the loose snow by wheelbarrow or sled away from the building so it can melt where it won’t cause any damage.  As anyone who has shovelled out their driveway after a snowstorm knows, it is hard work wielding a shovel all day long, and we definitely feel like we’ve earned our lunches on digging days!photo 1.JPG

Snow on the north side of Scott's hut upon our arrival

photo 2.JPG

A day's worth of digging got us this far!

1

Author: Stefan
Date: 13-03-2012
Temperature: -7C
Wind Speed: 15kts
Temp with wind chill: -19C
Sunrise: 6;51am
Sunset 9;10pm

 

 

One of the many pleasures of living on Scott Base is the proximity of some of the most amazing wildlife, just metres off our shoreline. We can often sit in the lounge with a coffee and see Weddell seals lolloping around like sausages of black and grey oil paint on a white canvas.

stef adelie.jpg

Stefan and a lone Adelie Penguin at Cape Evans   © AHT/ Stefan

 

During the ice breakout, blow holes and wider expanses of water open up between the wincing epic slabs of ice and explosions of Minkie Whale breath summon your eyes and nose to their location, breaching up through the puzzle of ice plates.

Gid Wych - Emperor 1.jpg

Emperor Penguin in front of Scott base  © AHT/ Giddeon

 

Indeed all the wildlife here has distinct and quite dramatic elements to their turning up on base. The odd Emperor Penguin can arrive with no friends, and seem to have a look in its eyes, like it wants you to shout out on a huge Antarctic tannoy (like in supermarkets) “lost Emperor Penguin, could his mother (aka his father) please make his way to the freezer section to pick him up. Please?”. All this makes you realise the epic distances the animals cover, and so so slowly.  I’m still awaiting for my first Orca sighting, but with the ice freezing over, alas, that ship/whale may have sailed.

2

Author: Gretel
Date: 14 February 2012
Temperature: -10.8 °C
Wind Speed: 23 knots
Temp with wind chill: -22.1°C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset: n/a


Now that we are in Antarctica there is a lot to learn about our new ‘home’. Antarctic Field Training teaches us how to camp out in the field as well as what to do in emergency situations where we might have to survive outdoors under unexpected circumstances.


We learn about how to make the best of our extreme weather clothing - layering up thermal underlayers, fleece pants and tops, salopettes, 3 different types of jackets, and a variety of neck gaiters, hats and gloves. Antarctic weather is explained:  the wind can be deadly in conjunction with cold climates: wind speed of 20 knots at minus 10 degrees Celsius results in wind chill temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius! We are taught about survival bags; these include items such as tents, sleeping bags, primus stoves, dehydrated food and chocolate, enabling survival in extreme conditions for at least 3 days.

AFT - polar tents.jpg

Polar Tents © AHT/Gretel


Finally we spend a night camping in the field. We use polar tents – based on a design used by Captain Scott during his Antarctic expeditions. They are quick and easy to assemble and very stable in strong winds due to their pyramidal shape; snow is shoveled over the tent flaps to secure them, and the tent accessed via a fabric tunnel which can be securely tied up in bad weather.

AFT - ice kitchen.jpg

Ice Kitchen © AHT/Gretel

 

We had the luxury of an ice kitchen within which to cook and shelter from the wind. Formed from blocks of compact snow and sunk into the ground the kitchen provided a haven within which to eat and relax in the shadow of Mount Erebus.

0

Author: John
Date: 5th October 2011
Temperature: -24°C
Wind Speed: 0knots
Temp with wind chill: -24°C
Sunrise: 6.01am
Sunset 9.28pm

Liquid water!.jpg
Liquid water! © AHT

Liquid water in Antarctica is an uncommon commodity in winter, unless it is sea water, and even then it is mostly under thick ice.


Today for the first time since I came to the Ice on the 20th August I saw liquid water in the outside environment, even at an air temperature of  -27 degrees C. With the lengthening daylight incident solar energy increases. This is absorbed by any surface facing the sun, enough to melt snow on the northern walls of Scott Base. The water ran down the wall and then immediately refroze into icicles.

 

Acetylene generator.jpg
Acetylene generator (very corroded, and supported upside down for stability). © AHT


Yesterday I commenced treating an acetylene generator from Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans. This generator used water dripping onto calcium carbide to generate acetylene gas. The gas was then piped through the hut to be lit in various lamp fittings to provide illumination during the dark winter months. It was important that liquid water is available for this process to work.  So, even though the reaction generated heat, the tank needed to be insulated with Gibson quilting to prevent the water freezing. This was a layer of sea grass held between layers of hessian.

 

Liquid water was, and still is, very important to life in the Antarctic!

0

Author: Jane
Date: 30 September 2011
Temperature: -26°C
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C

 


This has been an unusual year for the sea ice around Scott Base. In March it broke out in front of the base for the first time since 1997. The sea ice began to form again soon after the ice floes were washed out of McMurdo Sound. It is now around 1.8m thick in front of the base.

 

Image 1.jpg

The ‘Big John’ crack extending out from Hut Point into McMurdo sound. This crack is now impassable. Mount Discovery to the right and Black Island to the left, with a mirage visible along the bottom.  Photo AHT/ Jane

 

 

Further North the sea ice is still moving, causing the formation of large cracks. We managed to get to Cape Evans to do our Winter Hut Inspection on September 17th, but we had to park the Hagglund a few hundred metres out from the shore due to cracks in the sea ice which were not safe to cross in a vehicle. A few days later it was impossible to get to this area, as cracks along the flagged route had opened up substantially. One of the cracks we crossed is now about 2.5m wide.

 

Image 2.jpg

Looking down on Terra Nova hut from Windvane Hill with the Barne Glacier in the background and the Hagglund parked out on the Sea Ice.
Photo AHT/ Jane

The edge of the sea ice is now close to Cape Royds which is much further South than it has been in recent years. It has been very warm this winter, with temperatures often in the range of  -10°C to -20°C.  This combined with the frequent stormy conditions has hindered the sea ice formation. The cut-off date for sea ice growth is usually mid-October so it is unlikely to improve enough to allow for vehicle travel in the area over the summer season. This will have an impact on our work.


To see out what our weather looks like on Ross Island you can check out the webcams at Scott Base, Arrival Heights and the windfarm by clicking on this link: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/webcams

0

Author: John

Date: 27 August 2011

Temperature: -11.2oC

Wind Speed: 22kts

Temp with wind chill: -19.7oC

Sunrise: 10.18am

Sunset: 3.35pm

 

 

The sun is getting closer to being visible at Scott Base.  It is actually above the horizon but still behind the hills and peaks of Ross Island.  There are some beautiful light effects and delicate colours to be seen in the sky.  Today there was a narrow, horizontal band of the palest pink in the South, across White and Black Islands, as the sun shone under the clouds in the North.

 

The sun getting closer! resized.jpg

The Sun Getting Closer!  John/AHT

 

While keeping a good look out for these beautiful effects, work and life at Scott Base must still go on.  Every Saturday at an All Staff Base Meeting, duties necessary for the smooth running of the Base are apportioned to all staff.

 

Base duties resized.jpg

Base Duties.  John/AHT

 

One such duty is the removal of snow and sea ice build up around Reverse Osmosis (RO) Intake/Outlet gantry at the ice transition.  Our team spent nearly two hours shovelling snow, cutting the sea ice with a chainsaw and removing these heavy blocks of ice.

 

The RO plant supplies all fresh water for the running of the base and provides two degrees of purity, RO1 for general use and a more pure RO2 for drinking, scientific projects, and work such as conservation of the Ross Island historic artefacts.

0

Author: Jane
Date: 22nd June 2011
Temperature: -24°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C

 

It’s a tradition here at Scott Base to take a plunge into the ice cold water at Mid-Winter. As with everything else in Antarctica, it takes a huge amount of effort to set up. First, there is the hole. This can take days to dig and often needs to be cleared again the morning before the plunge as ice builds up overnight.


Despite this year’s sea ice break out at the start of Winter, the ice in front of the base was still 1.2m in depth. The snow had to be cleared from the top of the ice and then a chain saw was used to cut a hole big enough for a person to jump in.


The water tends to be warmer than the air temperature so being in the water is quite pleasant; well for about thirty seconds. It was approx -2°C in the water and the air was around -20°C.

Image 1.jpg

Russell climbing out of the polar plunge hole with Troy manning the safety harness.
Credit: Petal Cottle

 

The most difficult part is psyching yourself up to jump into a hole in the ice that is filled with slushy water followed by climbing up the ladder into the cold air as the water freezes on you. Once you get back into the heated wannigan (an insulated container), you then have to wait for the water in your shoes to defrost enough to be able to remove them.


I suppose it doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable experience, but it is exhilarating and the closest thing we will get to a long soak in a bath down here.

0

Date: 02/06/2011

 

Posted by Julie

 

Temperature: -22

Wind Speed: Gusting between 20 – 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 36  to  -41
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Ever since the spectacular ice breakout in February, the ice forming over the water in front of Scott Base has steadily been growing thicker.  Last week the ice was judged thick enough to walk on. Troy, our base leader, Jane, and I set out to mark a safe route for walking through some nearby pressure ridges.

 

Troy is an experienced glacier guide, and so we got the bonus of getting Troy to talk about the snow and ice.  In a crack in the ice we discovered some spectacular, large, faceted ice crystals.  This is sometimes known as crevasse hoar. Troy explained that these ice crystals form and grow in glacial crevasses and in other cavities where a large cooled space is formed and in which water vapor can accumulate under calm, still conditions with a large temperature gradient. The vapour then attaches itself straight to the ice crystal forming a hollow hexagonal shape.

 

faceted ice crystal.jpg

Faceted ice crystal. © AHT/Julie

We also found impressively large icicles.  Icicles require liquid water and so they are notable: the temperature rarely goes above freezing, and certainly has not been above 0 degrees for many months now.

 

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Jane impersonating a radioactive rhinoceros by shining her headlamp through an icicle. © AHT/Julie


Most spectacular are the pressure ridges themselves.  Pressure ridges form because even very thick sheets of sea ice are mobile. As the sea underneath moves, or when the temperatures fluctuate, the ice shrinks and expands, cracks and shifts.  At Scott Base, the sea ice is bordered by Ross Island on one side and the permanent, immobile ice shelf (80 km thick) on the other.  The relatively thin sea ice between has nowhere to move except upwards, and so plates of ice are very slowly pushed up vertically along cracks, eventually developing into spectacular ice formations. These pressure ridges survived the recent sea ice breakout in February, meaning they are at least 14 years old, the date of the last ice breakout.

 

Pressure ridges.jpg
Pressure ridges.  The formation in the foreground is approximately 5 meters high. © AHT/Julie

0

Author: Jane

 

Date: 16/03/11

Temperature: -25°C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53

 

 

We have had the rare pleasure of open water in front of the base for a few weeks now. The open water has attracted a range of wildlife that would not always be seen here. The curious emperor penguins that Sarah described, lots of little Adélies, Weddell seals and even whales. It was quite an experience to look up from the Scott Base dining room table and see a pod of Mike whales swimming past!

Image 1.jpg

Whale swimming near the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base © AHT/Jane


The temperature is beginning to drop now and we seem to be steadily hitting -20°C and lower. The sea has been freezing over nearly every day, but then it has either washed out into McMurdo Sound or melted up until now. On Monday the sea in front of the base froze over and it looks like it is going to stay frozen this time. A whale managed to pop its head up for a moment in a melt pool yesterday, but unfortunately I think this may be the last we see of them for a few more years. Three Adélies were seen running towards Cape Armitage early this morning.


The penguin exodus and the ever shortening days seem to herald the beginning of winter and the wonderful sunrises and sunsets that it brings.

Image 2.jpg
Sea ice forming in front of the summer labs © AHT/Jane

0

Breakout in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Author: Julie
Date: 28/2/2011
Temperature: 21.5
Wind Speed: 14
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: 05:30
Sunset 23:01

 

 

On February 24th the ice in front of Scott base began creaking and heaving up and down as if it were breathing.  By evening, pieces of the ice shelf were steadily breaking off and drifting out towards open water in the distance.  As the sun hit the horizon at 11 pm, a network of cracks in front of Scott Base were appearing and disappearing as bright white lines which opened and shut as the ice bobbed up and down.  By midnight, pressure ridges that have been standing in front of Scott Base for over a decade had floated out to sea.  A beautiful pink fog sat on top of the sea: fog requires water, and we are not used to seeing fog.

 

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The evening of 24th February. Photo: Steve Williams


Sometime between about 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning of the 25th , the ice broke away from the shore in front of Scott Base for the first time in 14 years.  Most of us don’t expect to ever see open water in front of Scott Base again.
That morning, mini-icebergs floated in front of Scott Base in brilliant indigo blue water.   We could see yellow starfish on the ocean floor.


February 25 open water.jpg

The morning of February 25th. Photo: Steve Williams