Skip navigation
0

Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 20 October 2010
Temperature: -23C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)

 

Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began.  When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work.  The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public.  It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.

TAE.jpg

TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT

 

The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting.  The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica.  Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea.  Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.


The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings.  It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom.  Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY).  At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.

Interior.jpg

Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT

 

One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch.  The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch.  After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?

0

Flag raising ceremony

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 20, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 20, 2010
Temperature: -22 degrees C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26degrees C
Sunrise: 3:24 am
Sunset 12:07 am

 

The conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust come to Scott Base at Winfly (early August) and stay until almost the end of “Mainbody” ( the summer work term) when the “Winter over” conservators come in. This means that the AHT conservators get to know two seasons of Scott Base employees.
We recently took part in the Flag raising ceremony which is held to celebrate the work of the outgoing 2009/10 team by the incoming 2010/11 team. It is in commemoration of the first flag raising ceremony held at Scott Base.

resized P8300079.jpg
Winter flag © AHT/Diana

 

In 1957 a short but impressive ceremony took place, attended by Sir Edmond Hillary, Captain Harold Ruegg, Administrator of the Ross Dependency, Captain Kirkwood from the Endeavour, Admiral Dufek (US Navy), Captain Weiss from the USNS, Pte. John R. Towle, the press and workers associated with the establishment of Scott Base. The youngest member of the party, 20 year old Able Seaman Ramon Tito RNZN, hoisted the first flag. The flag pole used was an historic one recovered from Hut Point where it had been placed by R.F. Scott in 1902-04.

resized P9300032.jpg

Joel attaching the flag  © AHT/Diana

 

Our 2010 ceremony had 20 year old Joel lower the flag which flew all winter and raise the new flag. The top of the flag pole is still the original from Scott’s era.

resized P9300039.jpg
New flag up © AHT/Diana

 

The ceremony had a turning of the page feel about it with the excitement of the new crew at being in Antarctica and for the departing crew the prospect of seeing their families again after 13 months on the ice.
 

0

Date: 13 October 2010
Temperature: -26C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -39C
Sunrise: 4:48am
Sunset 10:39pm



I recently conserved a single leather slipper from the hut of R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova 1910-1913 expedition.  The slipper looked old, well worn and was crushed almost flat.  An intimate detail was the owner’s addition of straw padding on the bottom, presumably for added cushioning and warmth.  My treatment goal was to clean off the heavy layer of dirt and reshape the slipper in order to restore its original shape.  During the initial cleaning, while carefully unfolding the crumpled tongue, I found, to my surprise, the punched initials, “FD.”

AHT8326_2!_side1_BT.jpgAfter.jpg
Slipper,  Before Treatment © AHT/CricketDetail of Tongue, After Treatment © AHT/Cricket


I read that the men from these early polar expeditions often carved, wrote or stamped their initials onto their belongings and was excited to actually find such a mark.  “FD” most likely is Frank Debenham, a young Australian who was one of three of Scott’s geologists.  In early 1911, Debenham joined the four-man team and completed the Western Journey, which mapped the western mountains of Victoria Land, making geological observations and other scientific studies. This image shows Debenham grinding Geological specimans in July, 1911.

 

 

In his career, Debenham was prolific.  During his time in Antarctica, he had the idea of creating a learning center and repository for Arctic and Antarctic research.  In 1920 he, along with Raymond Priestley, a fellow geologist from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Nimrod 1907-1909 expedition, opened the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University.  The Institute is famous for its comprehensive polar library and archives, and to this day, remains Britain’s leader in polar research and glaciology.

0

Wanigans

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 14, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 13th  2010
Temperature: -27degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -39 degrees Celsius
Sunrise: 4:48am
Sunset 10:30pm

 

Some of the containers here on Scott Base are called wanigans. This was a new word to me. It generally is attached to the containers which have skies attached to them. These containers are pulled around on the ice or snow and used for many things. Some are emergency shelters along the roads and routes used most often. Some of the science events outfit them as laboratories which are then pulled to the area where they want to work. The Antarctic Heritage Trust use wanigans as our kitchen, carpentry shop and conservation lab.

Wanigan.jpg
Science event wanigan © AHT/Diana

 

So where does the name wanigan come from? Well here is another connection with North America. The word is believed to have origins in the Ojibwa language, waanikaan, "storage pit," from the verb waanikkee-, "to dig a hole in the ground." The word has been borrowed into English and is used in Eastern Canada and the US as well as Alaska, to describe a temporary hut usually built on a log raft to be towed or floated to a work site or as in Antarctica a small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids to be dragged along behind a tractor train as a place for a work crew to eat and sleep.

Campsite Cape Evans December 2009 L Meek.jpg

Campsite Cape Evans December 2009 © AHT/Lizzie

0

Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 6 October 2010
Temperature: -15C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 5:30am
Sunset 9:50pm

 

Sundays are our day off at New Zealand’s Scott Base, and, when the weather permits, these are the best days to set off on longer hikes.  There are a series of marked trails throughout the southern tip of Ross Island, one being a hike up to Observation Hill that Diana featured in previous blog, and another is called the Cape Armitage Loop.  Last Sunday, a friend and I walked the 8k trail that took us out in front of Scott Base, along a flagged route over the sea ice to the U.S. McMurdo Base.  It is an open and flat route that affords views of the distant Trans-Antarctic mountain range, and White and Black Islands, and follows along the back side of Observation Hill.

Trail Map.jpg
Trail System on the Southern Tip of Ross Island © AHT/Cricket


The trail is named after Albert Borlase Armitage, who joined R.F. Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition from the merchant service and served as Scott’s navigator and second-in-command.  Among other accomplishments, Armitage successfully led the Western Journey, becoming the first to ascend the Ferrar Glacier and reach the summit of Antarctica.  This was quite a feat considering that his party consisted of seaman who had little cold weather and no climbing experience.  One author said that before this journey, the highest any man from that party had ever climbed was up the mast of a ship.  Though likely an exaggeration, it serves as a helpful reminder that most of Scott’s men had never before experienced anything like the Antarctic terrain and climate.

View of McMurdo.JPG
View of McMurdo from Cape Armitage Loop © AHT/Cricket

 

Armitage’s Western Journey was quite difficult and the party suffered fierce blizzards, altitude sickness, and one even a heart attack.  Surprisingly, all survived and returned safely to the Discovery base camp.  Knowing a little of the history, I smile at the irony of the Cape Armitage Loop name, for the trek is a tranquil and relatively easy route that, as advertised, offers solitude and escape.  And, it conveniently ends near the coffee shop at McMurdo where you can sit back and have an easy rest of the day with a big mug of hot chocolate.
 

0

Containers

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 6, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 5, 2010
Temperature: -14 degree Celcius
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -20 decrees Celcius
Sunrise: 6:07 am
Sunset 9:22 pm

 

If you go to any major harbour around the world or have sat at a railway crossing waiting for a freight train to pass, you will be familiar with containers. Also known as intermodal containers, ISO containers the dimensions of which have been defined by ISO: 8-ft(2.4m) wide x 8-ft(2.4m) high and in 10 ft (3m) increment lengths. They are constructed of .98in (25mm) thick corrugated steel. These containers are used to move freight using multiple modes of transportation from rail to ship to truck without ever having to be opened. The design incorporates a twist-lock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the container to be easily secured and lifted using cranes. At New Zealand’s Scott Base they have many containers which arrive by ship in the summer months. They have multiple uses as readymade storage and shelters.
Lab outside.jpg

Outside view of summer lab © AHT/ Diana

 

The Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation lab is made of three refrigerator (reefer) style containers ingeniously attached together and equipped with electricity, windows and heat.
PA040057.JPG
Inside view of summer © AHT/ Diana

 

There is a historic northern connection with this southern use of containers; one of the pioneers of intermodal containers was the White Pass and Yukon Route (WP&YR), an isolated narrow gauge railway which linked the port of Skagway Alaska with Whitehorse Yukon.   In 1955 WP&YR acquired the world’s first container ship the Clifford J. Rogers.


Next week I will talk about some of the other uses of these containers in Antarctica.