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Cape Evans in Context

Posted by Conservators Oct 20, 2011

Author: John

Date: 19 October 2011
Temperature: -27°C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -27°C
Sunrise: 3.42am
Sunset 11.47pm

 

In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott led the British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition. One of the aims was to reach the Geographical South Pole. A hut at Cape Evans on the western side of Ross Island was the base for this expedition. In September 2011, as part of the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s responsibilities, Scott’s Terra Nova Hut was visited for the first time after yet another Antarctic winter, to provide a report on the building’s condition and snow buildup.

Terra Nova.jpg

Terra Nova Hut from the Sea Ice, 17 September 2011. © AHT/John


While overcast, this image is from the sea ice looking east to the southern flanks of Mt Erebus. Wind Vane Hill is just appearing to the right.


The second image is from the southern flanks of Mt Erebus, at a locality called ‘Room with a View’, looking west over the start of the Erebus Glacier.

Terra Nova Hut from the sea ice.jpg

View West from the Southern Flanks of Mt Erebus, 16 October 2011. © AHT/John

 

On a beautifully clear and sunny day, this image looks over McMurdo Sound to the Antarctic Continent. Inaccessible Island is to the left, with Little Razorback Island in front. Behind the dark bluff of Turk’s Head to the right is the thin strip of Cape Evans, with a grounded iceberg just off the Cape.
The two images complement each other well and accurately depict the loneliness and isolation of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut, particularly in 1910 with no communication back home, and the beauty and vastness of the Antarctic continent.

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Antarctic Field Training

Posted by Conservators Oct 12, 2011

Author: John

Date: 12th  October 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 8knots
Temp with wind chill: -29°C
Sunrise: 5.00am
Sunset 10.27pm


Image 1  Camp set up.jpg

Camp set up © AHT/John


All staff at Scott Base are required to undertake Antarctic Field Training. This includes conservators working on the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, who often are required to work on-site at the historic huts. Training includes setting up an overnight camp, cold weather survival techniques and familiarisation with the environment.


Training is scheduled in advance, and the weather is the luck of the draw.


Our set up weather was benign, with -22oC temperatures and light wind conditions, but preparations need to be made for changes. Tents were erected, guyed and snow shovelled over the tent skirt to keep the wind out. A foot trench was dug inside the tent, a tarpaulin laid out on the snow and sleeping gear set up on either side of the trench. These tents have not changed much in design over the years, and are good at withstanding strong winds.

Our comfortable night’s sleep was awoken around 4.00am by a 20Kt wind blowing snow against the tent, with very white conditions outside.

Image 2  The morning after.jpg

The morning after © AHT/ John


Breakfast was held inside the ‘kitchen’ shelter prepared the previous day, and we were grateful for the protection from the wind.
Image 3.jpg

The Kitchen © AHT/John

 

This was a very valuable experience in being prepared for, and respecting, the Antarctic environment.

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Water and Fire

Posted by Conservators Oct 6, 2011

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!

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Sea Ice Formation

Posted by Conservators Oct 4, 2011

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