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Author: Martin Wenzel

Date: 20/11/2012

Temperature: -6 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 14 knots

Wind Chill : -20 degrees celcius

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

About a week ago I started  working on fuel storage boxes found  around Robert Falcon Scott's expedition hut at Cape Evans. They were used to transport fuel tanks for the motor sledges that turned out to be not very  successful in Antarctic conditions. Conserving large numbers of these and other historic boxes which are in all states of disrepair, and come in a variety of styles and conditions, requires a lot of patience. And yet it is still fascinating when boxes have little surprises in store, provide a new structural challenge or show a particular nice piece  of wind sculpted timber.

 

Missing part of a board yesterday, and contemplating how to secure what was left over, I started looking through some debris found around the box. And there it was - clearly the missing piece but looking quite different. The piece attached to the box was weather worn and had lost up to 2mm of thickness through abrasion while the found piece had been protected for a hundred years and looked almost new. Joining them again looked a bit unusual but provided  the structural integrity needed. It is only a matter of time until the found piece will adjust its appearance.

1.jpg

Same board, but a different look

2.jpg

One board again.

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Author:      John
Date:        January 2012

 

My time spent working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust team at Ross Island Antarctica on the conservation of Shackleton’s Hut and Scott’s Hut at Cape Royds and Cape Evans respectively is drawing to an end.  I am 21 and from New Zealand on a programme called the Sir Peter Blake Trust Youth Antarctic Ambassador. We were at Cape Royds for 3 weeks in November and spent the remainder of the Antarctic summer at Cape Evans. We are the New Zealand Antarctic Programme’s  longest running field camp, spanning from the beginning of November to the end of January.


Antarctica is well known as being the coldest, windiest and driest place on earth. Each of these factors makes living in Antarctica challenging and demanding but when the correct procedures and equipment are used it is generally a pleasant and workable environment.


Keeping warm is obviously key. Antarctica New Zealand provides all the clothing which is similar to what would be worn on a ski field.  Thermal under layers, microfleece and wool then a wind stopper outer. At the beginning of the season it was down to minus 20 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, all exposed skin must be covered. A balaclava and goggles are worn.


Wind is the Antarctic killer as this creates additional cold or wind-chill which draws substantially more heat from the body. In mid December, the temperature rarely got to -10 degrees Celsius  and was often above zero. With no wind, it seems as though it is much warmer than it actually is. Activity level has a great deal to do with warmth and hence keeping cool is an issue when many clothes are worn during high activity levels and are shed – sweat becomes very cold when activity level reduces. So managing clothing is a learning curve.

 

At work.jpg
At work © AHT

 

We sleep in traditional Scott Polar tents. They are a proven design and can survive winds over 120 km/h when sufficiently guy roped. The sleeping bags are very warm, a down sleeping bag within another and a cotton sheet inner and outer. Normally this is too warm so one bag acts as a duvet. Liquid human waste is excreted in a tide crack (sea ice cracks due to the tide next to the land). When in the tent, we pee in a plastic “pee” bottle. Solid human waste is collected in a bucket and transported to be incinerated in New Zealand. The 24 hour day light takes a bit to get used to. The only time cue is the position of the sun or watch. The tent is always bright orange.

 

Tents resized.jpg
Home on the Ice  © AHT

 

The environment is not dirty although there can be dust. We have no shower in the field but typically once a week I would have a flannel wash. This is more effective than you might think and uses minimal water.  Luckily we were able to go back to Scott Base for a shower mid trip.  A week per clothing set is standard during normal work. Socks are hung to air for a couple of days before being reused. Every few weeks, clothing is washed in a bucket. This level of cleanliness would be generally unacceptable elsewhere but we maintain a healthy level of cleanliness.  It is an almost sterile environment and very dry. We have no animal contact, dirt/mud or warmth so the dirtiness and bacteria encountered with camping or tramping at home is not an issue here.


Due to the creativeness of the team, we eat well. The food is dehydrated and frozen with an occasional supply of fresh food called “freshies”. We are near a penguin colony so we do not eat poultry as this could introduce disease. Because of the cold and high energy requirements, we eat substantial amounts of salami, cheese and chocolate. Fresh bread is cooked daily and the occasional cake.


Social interaction is key to healthy wellbeing. We have a lot of fun together with varied intellectual and humored conversation. Being busy working means our minds are always occupied. Sunday afternoons are a rest time which is stimulating and we would generally sit and watch a movie together. We have little opportunity to interact with family and friends at home. Calls can be made on the satellite phone although this is very expensive and difficult to fully engage in conversation with such short calls. We have daily radio communication with Scott Base Com’s to catch up on the news and pass on any messages.  I always remind myself that no news is good news. It is harder for the members of the team who have close family and are not used to this level of isolation. Personally I have enjoyed  the opportunity to be isolated from the high levels of social stimulus in my normal life. We concentrate and thrive on the fundamentals; personal social interaction, good food, shelter and warmth.

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Author: Julie
Date: 29/6/11
Temperature: -28
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 41
Sunrise: August
Sunset August



Wind farm from Crater Hill.jpg

The wind farm from Crater Hill.  Photo: Julie

Scott Base is powered by wind turbines.  Installed by Antarctica New Zealand and Meridan Energy in 2009, the three wind turbines are producing all the electrical power that Scott Base needs, plus a large surplus which is directed to the United States’ McMurdo Station.  More information on the wind turbines is here:
http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ross-island-wind-energy

 

An earlier blog entry about the wind turbines is here:
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/antarctic-conservation/blog/2010/09/14/changing-the-oil-in-the-wind-turbines

 

Part of the Scott Base winter-over staff work programmme is to maintain the wind farm.  Ground temperatures are measured as part of the environmental monitoring at the turbines.  Last week I drove with Victoria, the Scott Base Science Technician, up to the wind farm to take thermistor string readings.  Thermistor strings measure the ground temperature at various depths around the turbines, basically by measuring electric resistance, which varies with temperature.

 

Victoria reads the thermistor strings.jpg

Victoria takes a thermistor string reading from inside the comfort of a truck.  Photo: Julie

There are three thermistor units.  One can be read without getting out of the vehicle, sort of like using a drive-up ATM machine (except that you don’t drive away with more cash).  The other two require actually putting on cold weather gear and getting out of the truck.

 

Back at the base, Victoria enters all data into a spreadsheet and generates an ongoing graph of temperatures with respect to depth.  As you might expect, half a metre down the temperatures follow the air temperatures, fluctuating widely.  However, at 12 metres down, the temperatures remain fairly stable at about -17 C, only fluctuating a couple of degrees a year.

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The last several days, we had very windy weather, and made it impossible for our dive team to do any diving from our second dive hole that is further out on the lake. Winds out in the mountains and towards the polar plateau were far more extreme than at the lake, as we could see enormous snow plumes.

 

 

                                                                                    Snow plumes on the mountain peaks

                                                                      wind.jpg

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Posted by Diana


Date: November 3, 2010
Temperature: -15.4
Wind Speed: 12 knots with gust to 30 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up all the time
Sunset


Here in Antarctica the weather is very important, as it was when Captain RF Scott and his men were at Cape Evans. Back in 1912 the readings were all taken using manual instruments, as can be seen in this image of Dr. Simpson taking the weather at Wind Vane Hill.

 

Today we have an electronic system which monitors actual wind speed and temperature as well as recording it on a chart. This is in the weather area of the Hatherton laboratory at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

 

SB Electronic Weather.jpg
Hatherton Laboratory ©   AHT/Diana


During a big storm the needle on the wind speed meter can jump up 50 knots, or sometimes more. There is also a graph which continually records data. Some mornings, if it was windy through the night, I go up to the Hatherton Lab to see how strong the wind was. Last night we had gusts over 50 knots. There was a white out when I happened to wake up and look out at 3 am. Thankfully the wind died down as today was the day we packed to head out to Cape Evans.  More on that to come.