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Lights on in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators Aug 5, 2013

Author: Marie

Date: 5 August 2013

Temperature: -33.9

Wind speed: 13 knots

Temp with wind chill: -51

Sunrise: Will be soon

Sunset: N/A

 

 

As we start getting ready for the end of the third act, winfly, the sky is turning purple or red from time to time, towards Mount Erebus. If you drive up in the direction of Arrival Heights, it feels like someone has turned the light on. Suddenly, you get a stunning panorama. We haven't seen much landscape these last three months, and no sky line. The great mountains have appeared again on the continent, and seem closer and taller than when they disappeared. It's spectacular and it seems to have happened all of a sudden, as a Deus ex machina. Out of the dark at least, we are 'somewhere' again, after a few months feeling we’re in an orbital station. With the light coming, the colours change and so do the hearts, everyone is feeling lighter and happier.

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A three weeks long sunrise starts behind Mount Erebus

 

 

Then, alas, the darkness takes over again. After these few hours of discreet light, the stars now look paler. We're waiting for the next day, for more horizons.

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Daylight on Arrival Heights

 

 

But just when the light will be illuminating the stage, the curtain will fall for Stefan and me, as will be leaving on the very first flight out of Antarctica, just before the sunrise.

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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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Author: Gretel

Date: 30 May 2012

Temperature: -18C

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -40C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

Scott Base stands in the shadow of Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s southernmost active volcano.  Mount Erebus was discovered on January 27, 1841 (and observed to be in eruption) by polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross who named it after one of his ships. In Greek mythology Erebus was a primordial god of darkness and the son of Chaos – perhaps Sir Ross had this in mind when he named the volcano.

 

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Erebus Discovered  © State Library of South Australia. www.slsa.sa.gov.au


The first ascent of Mount Erebus was made in 1908 during Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-1909. On reaching the summit, the party measured the altitude with a hypsometer - a small cylinder in which distilled water is boiled and the temperature measured (as the temperature at which water boils drops with altitude). Meteorological experiments were carried out and rock samples taken. The ascent took 5 days and on return the 6 men were said to be ‘nearly dead’. This was the first ascent of any peak on Antarctica and was made with improvised equipment such as crampons fashioned out of leather and nails.


Today, Mount Erebus is still a feature of attraction for scientists as the most active volcano in Antarctica. The summit has a permanent magma-filled lake, one of only a few in the world. The volcano produces Erebus crystals, which grow in the magma and are ejected during eruptions. So rare are these crystals they are only found in one other place in the world, a long long way away on Mount Kenya.

 

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Mount Erebus © AHT/Gretel

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Two-days ago we went for walk to the pressure ridges in the evening. The pressure ridges are forming where the ice shelf and sea ice are being pressed together at the shores of Ross Island. Last year the sea ice broke out and therefore the ice is still relatively thin and many large bright blue meltwater ponds have formed.

 

Meltwater pond in the pressure ridges

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Mt. Erebus is an active volcano that is ca. 3,700 metres high and is about 64 km away from Scott Base. Usually you can see little bit of smoke appearing from the top of the crater.

 

Pressure ridges and Mount Erebus

Arrival10.jpg

 

 

 

Every year a few Adelie and Emperor penguins can been seen near Scott Base. At the moment, there is a lone Emperor penguin wandering through the pressure ridges. The penguins come from parts of Ross Island where the sea ice breaks out every summer. The Emperor colonies on Ross Island are quite far away and nobody really knows if these individual penguins will be able to get back to the colonies. Let's hope for the best!

 

 

Emperor penguin

Arrival11.jpg

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Sun Dogs in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Jane, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 19th May 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C
Sunrise:
Sunset


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Sun Dog between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror © AHT/Jane


We were treated to a rare sight just before the sun left us a few weeks ago. A really spectacular sun dog was visible when the sun was low beside Mount Erebus. Sun dogs are seen as a ring of light or halo around the sun with bright spots on either side. They are often seen in Antarctica when small ice crystals are blown up into the air. As they fall towards the ground, they align vertically and act as prisms which defract the light creating the effect. It is a really spectacular sight which we will unfortunately not see again for some time!

 

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Bright spot from the side of the sundog in front of Mount Erebus © AHT/Jane

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Jane wrote:
Date:                       11 August 2010
Temperature:            -28.7°C
Wind Speed:            10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C
Moonrise:                 Below horizon
Moonset:                  Below horizon

 

It’s almost Winfly (the start of flights into Antarctica following four months of total darkness and six months of isolation for the New Zealand team on the Ice). On Friday we are expecting the first flight since the 5th of March. The Winfly flights are bringing new people and supplies- including fresh fruit and vegetables. Whilst the prospect of new people is a bit daunting after spending almost six months with just 211 other people (which includes all from Scott Base and the American research station at McMurdo), we are all looking forward to the freshies (fresh fruit and vegetables). Hopefully T3 polar syndrome, which causes memory loss among other things, will not get the better of us, causing the freshies to be collected and the new people to be forgotten out on the ice runway.

 

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View of Scott Base from the windfarm at midday.
© AHT/J. Hamill

 

It is still dark but now the sunlight is beginning to make a welcome appearance on the horizon in the middle of the day. Today I travelled out onto the Ross Ice Shelf to check on one of the science experiments measuring the sea ice. The sky was overcast but a tantalizing glow over the Transantarctics heralded the return of the sun. We have another 7 days to wait until it climbs above the horizon, but it is really beginning to feel like the long dark night is finally coming to an end.

 

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View of Mount Erebus at midday with Inaccessible Island in the Ross Ice Shelf to the left.
© S.Sun

 

We are finishing up our work in the lab and getting ready to hand over to the summer team of conservators who arrive on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that we have been here over six months and even harder to imagine we will be leaving in just over a week!