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Transitions

Posted by Conservators Feb 16, 2011

Posted by Martin


Date: 15.2.2011
Temperature: -9degree
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -14 degree
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A



Transitions are usually accompanied by a whole range of emotions. It is no difference here at Scott Base during what is one of the most significant transition periods in the Base calendar. The group of 30 staff members, who run Scott Base, NZ's Science station in Antarctica, have worked and lived together for almost 5 month and seeing two thirds of them leave while the rest stay here to winter over has quite a numbing effect. Excitement to go home is mixed with sadness to leave close friends and reflections of what the long, dark and cold winter might bring.

 

Our small group of conservators has come into this atmosphere and we are all making our own little transitions while at the same time starting to connect with the winter crew. Personally, I am still getting used to living in a warm, comfortable Base after having camped out on the ice close to Captain Scott's Terra Nova Hut for the past 6 weeks. There I have been part of the AHT summer conservation team working on site with artefacts and the fabric of the building. Running water, a proper bed, indoor workshop however are all luxuries I am quickly getting used to again.  

 

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Base staff on their way to the ice runway  © AHT /Martin

Last Saturday all the changes around the base were signified by the lowering of the summer flag from the flagpole in front of the base. Then the base was officially handed over to the winter manager and the much smaller winter flag raised. The late Sir Edmund Hillary started this tradition when he established the base in 1957 and it certainly helps to shift the focus of our winter crew to the time ahead.

 

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  Summer flag being lowered © AHT / Jane

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Posted by Julie


Date: 14 February 2011
Temperature: -9.6
Wind Speed: 12
Temp with wind chill: -15


In the winter, the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation lab gets moved.  Summer AHT conservators work in a lab constructed from three shipping containers located away from the main building at Scott Base, Antarctica.  This allows the team to work out of the way of the scientific research activity on base in the summer.


In the winter, base activity goes to a minimum, so the AHT team can move into the main building. Not only does this make for more comfortable working conditions – conservators have stories about things freezing to the floor of the lab in the winter -- this means the outlying buildings do not need to be heated, saving on electricity usage.  (100% of the electricity at Scott Base is now wind-generated: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ross-island-wind-energy).

 

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The forklift brings the fume extraction unit into the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie


Everything in the lab is moved, including the fume extraction unit, solvent storage cabinets, bookshelves, and all tools, equipment, and supplies. This year’s move was accomplished in virtually one day with the help of several people on base, a forklift, numerous runs back and forth in a truck, and a “quad bike” (a four-wheel cycle) fitted with a trailer. The objects/textile conservators moved into a room normally used for research event logistics, and Martin, the conservation carpenter, has set up a workshop in a “cage,” or fenced-off area normally used for supplies storage.  (We promise to bring him food in the cage, and to let him out sometimes.)

 

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Jane and Sarah begin unpacking in the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie

 

We are now up and running in our winter space. We have lost our views of Mt. Erebus and lounging seals, but we have gained running water and closer proximity to both coffee and the toilets.

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The Huts  15 years on

Posted by Conservators Feb 9, 2011

Posted by Sarah


Date: 29 January 2011
Temperature: -9
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -9

It was with great anticipation that I flew out to Captain RF Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913 hut at Cape Evan and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Nimrod Expedition Hut at Cape Royds on Saturday.  I have been working as a conservator at these huts since the 1997. Since my last trip in 2006, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by the building conservators to shore up the huts and remove ice and snow from under the hut, to improve the internal environments. Additionally, thousands of artefacts have been conserved and placed back on display.


The visual and environmental changes inside the hut were very noticeable. The huts no longer have ice fingering its way up the wall with wet beads of corrosion glistening in my torch light. Instead the huts have a drier, more lived in feeling.  The picture shows one corner of Shackleton’s 1907 Nimrod Expedition Hut, 10 years ago the walls and floor under these beds was damp and moldy, now it is quite dry.

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Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Nimrod Expedition Hut at Cape Royds © AHT / Sarah


I’m an in no doubt these changes will have an enormous impact on the longevity of these very special places, and it is fantastic that the Antarctic Heritage Trust  has had the resources to carry out the necessary work.

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Boomeranged

Posted by Conservators Feb 9, 2011

Posted by Julie

 


Date: 2/2/2011
Temperature: -10.4
Wind Speed: 9.5
Temp with wind chill: -15

At breakfast the morning  when we were scheduled to leave, Jane said, “I don’t feel like we’re going to Antarctica.”  Guess what – Jane’s psychic!  We checked in and were given a short briefing, we boarded a C17 US military plane, and we flew five hours to Antarctica wearing our extreme weather gear.  And then we circled around… and around… and around… After about an hour of circling it was no big surprise when we were told that due to weather conditions on the ground, we were not going to land.  And so, we turned around and flew five more hours back to Christchurch – i.e., we were “boomeranged.”

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Jane and Sarah react to the announcement that we’re going back to Christchurch  © AHT/Julie

 

There aren’t many windows in the belly of a C17 (it’s like a machine room with wings, and the noise is deafening), but there are a few portholes.  We took turns at those windows and got a look at Antarctica: blue water with tabular icebergs and “pancake ice” on the approach, and then blindingly white mountains with blue and purple shadows on the continent (the photos don’t do it justice).  At one point we were invited up to the cockpit for a few seconds, where we had a panoramic view of Antarctica from the air.

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Antarctica from the cockpit of the C17 © AHT/Sarah

 

The next morning was déjà vu.  We got ready to leave again, but with one difference: when we asked Jane how she felt about the flight, she said she felt good about it.  Guess what, she was psychic again!  After flying back to Antarctica for five hours, we suddenly banked, put down the landing gear, and landed on the ice airstrip.  It was a beautiful day on the ground, and on our short drive from the airfield to Scott Base there was even a group of Emperor penguins near the road.

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Skua

Posted by Cricket and Diana Feb 3, 2011

Posted by Diana

 

Skua, are a large water bird which remind me of a cross between a sea gull and a duck. There is a building at McMurdo called Skua it is a wonderful place where people can leave clothing or other useful items they no longer require, you can acquire everything from t-shirts to radios to massage oils . If you find something or reuse an item which otherwise may have made its way to waste in Antarctica, we call it “Skuaed” or you were “Skuaing”.


I have developed a love hate relationship with the Skua.  I admire their hardy resourcefulness and their beauty when in flight, however they are a hazard.

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Attack Skua © AHT by J. Ward

 

Here at Cape Evans around Skua Lake we have a lot of nesting Skua. Their “nest” is actually just a flat piece of ground, not sticks or feathers to protect their rock like eggs. When we go for a walks we get dive bombed by Skuas who think we are getting to close to their nest. I almost stepped on an egg one day because I was so busy ducking and running from a pair of Skuas. I have found the best way to deal with them is to put my hood up and just walk – I did get winged by one the other day but with a hat and hood on they can’t hurt you much.

 

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Mother Skua and baby nested in seal carcass © AHT C. Harbeck

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Cape Evans Centenary

Posted by Cricket and Diana Feb 2, 2011

Posted by Jamie on 4 January 2011

 

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The British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition (1910-1913) seal  © AHT / Jamie

 

Today marks one hundred years since the landing of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his 30 men (six of whom were destined for Cape Adare as the ‘northern party‘), on the ship Terra Nova at Cape Evans.  In the coming weeks the ‘Terra Nova’ hut was erected in anticipation of various scientific endeavors for the coming year and ultimately attainment of the South Pole (some 30 odd days behind the Norwegian Amundsen).

 

Whilst there were no big celebrations planned for today (4/1/2011) there was a definite sense of occasion as we set off for work on Scott's hut, still standing tall, after one hundred years on the harshest continent on earth. It was the usual work around the hut, finishing off re-cladding the roof, repairing the stables and treating various atrefacts (currently Oates bed frame).


As we worked through the evening an Emperor penguin approached us across the fractured sea-ice, coming right up to the hut within arm’s reach. As we watched intently it carried on its exploration of the huts perimeter. Up close they truly are an impressive creature. Astonishingly large in stature both high and wide, their size enormous in comparison to their adelie cousins, the colour of their coats so stunning you could gaze at them for hours. It was certainly a moment to remember as well as a stark contrast (beyond the obvious) to Scott’s taxidermy penguin at his study table.

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Emperor penguin © AHT / Jamie

 

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Penquin on table at Scott's hut © AHT


After dinner I went for a walk to view the world from the lookout towards Inaccessible Island, managing to avoid the familiar attack by nesting skua.  Ahead in the distance, open water with groups of seals and penguins surrounding the water and an iceberg, as the Trans Antarctic ranges provide inspirational backdrop. As the snow began to fall lightly it became as serene as ever and I imagined a group of men frantically unloading the ship to spend over a year isolated from the rest of the world with aspirations of conquering the last frontier on earth. Whichever way you think about it the determination of those men was second to none, the stories of their hardships dressed down in diaries as only small hurdles.

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Water's edge © AHT


To end the day I had a walk around the hut as per usual. As described by Sir David Attenborough “It is a time warp without parallel”. Also a pretty cool way to wind down as this landmark day draws to an end.    

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The Tenements 1911 © Herbert Ponting, Antarctica NZ Pictorial Collection