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Corn and flour

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Julie

 

Date: 23/3/11
Temperature: -13.5
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise: 7:58
Sunset 19:59


Martin has blogged about how food crates were used as architectural building blocks at both Cape Royds and Cape Evans (see last week’s blog).  Stacked into walls, crates of dry goods – predominately corn and flour – remained frozen until needed and also provided additional shelter, a practical system.


As Martin writes, many of those boxes will be conserved over the winter, but then we will return the food boxes to their original locations – i.e., outside, where they will remain exposed to harsh conditions.  This situation presents us with a conservation dilemma.  We are all aware that if the boxes disintegrate in spite of our conservation treatments, one-hundred-year-old corn and flour will leak into the environment. To make things worse, some of the corn and flour is already significantly mouldy.  Mould samples have been tested in previous seasons, and we are confident that the existing mould does not pose a current health hazard (though we continue to take health and safety precautions as we work).  However, we do not know what will develop in the future.

 

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Corn and flour drying, before reinsertion into conserved wooden boxes.   © AHT / Julie

We are charged with preserving the original configuration of the artefacts, but also with preventing the introduction of materials that could be hazardous to the Antarctic environment or wildlife.  In the end, we have settled on a compromise.  As Martin repairs the wooden boxes, we are drying the food in large trays, removing any mouldy contents, and then repacking the food into the conserved boxes in sealed, doubled plastic bags.  The introduction of the plastic bags alters the original contents of the boxes, but the bags should prevent hazardous leakage into the environment.

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Signs in the sock

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date:           22/3/11
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise:           7:51
Sunset           20:07


What, you may ask, can a humble sock tell us about the heroic era of exploration? Well quite a lot if you know what to look for. Many of the explorers on Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition stitched name tags in their sock, while others used simple colours stitches to indicate whose they were. In fact we still do similar things today with our matching Antarctic New Zealand issue clothes, using coloured ribbons.  So these name tags give us a direct and very personal link to individual explorers such as Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

 

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Label on sock belonging to Apsley Cherry-Garrard © AHT/Sarah

 

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Detail of  embroidered ‘name tag’  © AHT/Sarah

But there is more.  Many of the socks are so well worn, they have been darned, patched and re-patched, this speaks of a make do culture, where everything was valued and repaired. These repeatedly patched socks very often indicated reuse by the subsequent Ross Sea Party from Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Not having enough of their own clothes they had to make, repair and reuse whatever they could from the previous expedition. 

 

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Sock from Cape Evans © AHT/Sarah

More evidence of use can be found in the dirt and detritus left behind on the socks. Some are covered in reindeer fur from sleeping bags - were they bed socks?  Others are thick with seal blubber and soot - who in the Ross Sea Partly wore these to gather and burn seal blubber with?
Have you any idea who the sock in the picture belonged to? Is the straw stuck to the heel from the padding inside a boot or is if pony fodder?

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Installment 1 - Boxes

Posted by Conservators Mar 23, 2011

Author: Martin

 

Date: 16-03-11

Temperature: -20°C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -40°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53

 

 

In my last blog I talked about boxes in waiting and the setting up of my workbench here in the Hillary Field Centre at Scott Base. Now I will talk about where the boxes came from and what will happen to them. Ever since they were used by Sir Ernest Shackleton to build a garage and stables outside the expedition base for his 1907-1909 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition, these boxes have survived in one of the harshest climates on earth. Most of them still contain the original food. The food however has become an environmental risk as the boxes disintegrate and without intervention most of them would be lost to the environment very soon.

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Remains of the east wall of the stables © AHT

 

Over the summer months we have spent several weeks dismantling and excavating the structures, packing the individual boxes up and transporting them to Scott Base for conservation. This also included creating a very detailed record about the condition and location of every single item. It allows us to return the conserved boxes next year to their original location. They are now stored in their frozen state until we are ready to thaw them and look at their content for the first time in more than 100 years.

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Diana gets a box ready for travel © AHT

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Return of the Sea Ice

Posted by Conservators Mar 23, 2011

Author: Jane

 

Date: 16/03/11

Temperature: -25°C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53

 

 

We have had the rare pleasure of open water in front of the base for a few weeks now. The open water has attracted a range of wildlife that would not always be seen here. The curious emperor penguins that Sarah described, lots of little Adélies, Weddell seals and even whales. It was quite an experience to look up from the Scott Base dining room table and see a pod of Mike whales swimming past!

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Whale swimming near the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base © AHT/Jane


The temperature is beginning to drop now and we seem to be steadily hitting -20°C and lower. The sea has been freezing over nearly every day, but then it has either washed out into McMurdo Sound or melted up until now. On Monday the sea in front of the base froze over and it looks like it is going to stay frozen this time. A whale managed to pop its head up for a moment in a melt pool yesterday, but unfortunately I think this may be the last we see of them for a few more years. Three Adélies were seen running towards Cape Armitage early this morning.


The penguin exodus and the ever shortening days seem to herald the beginning of winter and the wonderful sunrises and sunsets that it brings.

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Sea ice forming in front of the summer labs © AHT/Jane

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Date with a Penguin or Two.

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 28-02-2011
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -32 degree C
Sunrise: 23:01
Sunset 05:13

 

With the open water, there comes wild life. Jana and I went for a walk earlier in the week to see some the emperor penguins gathering near the base. As we approached them they seemed to be heading back over the sea ice away from us, so we got as close as we safely could and sat down. Within a few minutes a group of about 50 emperors had surrounded us!

 

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Jana surrounded by penguins.  © AHT/ Sarah

 

I was somewhat concerned, as when kneeling I just about see these great bird eye to eye, and I had heard stories about people being flipper bashed by them. But the great bird just eyed us up and down and sang to us! What an amazing treat, Jana and I have been on a high ever since.  And yes, you are not suppose to go closer than 10 meters, but if the animals come to you it’s a different matter.

 

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Emperor Penguins close up and personal. .  © AHT/ Sarah

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Boxes Waiting

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Martin

 

Date: 9.3.2011
Temperature: -18 Degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -43
Sunrise: 06:14
Sunset 21:49

Tools are a bit like dear old friends. You might not see them for quite a while, but if you do it is as if you have never been apart. So it was with a great deal of excitement and relief to see my own workbench and a box of tools arrive with the yearly supply ship at Scott Base in Antarctica. The trusty workbench, which I built 28 years ago as an apprentice piece, is quite a seasoned traveller by now, having come from Germany to New Zealand and now Antarctica.

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Workbench waiting for action © AHT/Martin

Glad to be reunited, we had a fully operational little woodworking shop up and running in no time. Sarah, Julie and Jane , the three object conservators on the team have their own lab where they conserve a whole variety of artefacts, but will also help me conserving a large number of wooden food storage boxes. Literally thousands of these boxes have been used by R.F. Scott and E. Shackleton on their Polar Expeditions. Apart from transporting and storing food, they were also used as building blocks. Full of food and having been out in the harsh Antartic environment for a hundred years, a couple of hundred of them are in desperate need of some care and will be my companions throughout the coming winter month.

 

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Foodbox in need of some care © AHT/Martin

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Breakout

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Author: Julie
Date: 28/2/2011
Temperature: 21.5
Wind Speed: 14
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: 05:30
Sunset 23:01

 

 

On February 24th the ice in front of Scott base began creaking and heaving up and down as if it were breathing.  By evening, pieces of the ice shelf were steadily breaking off and drifting out towards open water in the distance.  As the sun hit the horizon at 11 pm, a network of cracks in front of Scott Base were appearing and disappearing as bright white lines which opened and shut as the ice bobbed up and down.  By midnight, pressure ridges that have been standing in front of Scott Base for over a decade had floated out to sea.  A beautiful pink fog sat on top of the sea: fog requires water, and we are not used to seeing fog.

 

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The evening of 24th February. Photo: Steve Williams


Sometime between about 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning of the 25th , the ice broke away from the shore in front of Scott Base for the first time in 14 years.  Most of us don’t expect to ever see open water in front of Scott Base again.
That morning, mini-icebergs floated in front of Scott Base in brilliant indigo blue water.   We could see yellow starfish on the ocean floor.


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The morning of February 25th. Photo: Steve Williams

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Christchurch earthquake

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Authors: Julie and Sarah
Date: 25/2/2011
Temperature: -10
Wind Speed: 30
Temp with wind chill: -42
Sunrise: 03:48
Sunset 00:28

An earthquake hit Christchuch on February 21 that was strong enough to register on the instruments at Scott Base.  It has become apparent that the earthquake is one of the worst disasters that New Zealand has ever experienced.  Everyone at Scott Base has some connection to Christchurch, and some have had difficult news.  Like the rest of the world, we are horrified by the destruction, and deeply saddened by the deaths.  At times like this the reality of being isolated and far away is brought home to us.

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Scott Base flag Credit AHT Julie

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Erebus Crash Memorial

Posted by Conservators Mar 1, 2011

Posted by  Jane


Date: 23rd February 2011
Temperature: -11.5°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -15°C
Sunrise: 00.28
Sunset 03.48

 

Last  week Scott Base hosted an emotional memorial for the victims of the Mount Erebus crash that occurred in November 1979. The sightseeing plane crashed into the side of Mount Erebus killing all 257 people on board.

 

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The memorial service, overlooking the Ross Ice Shelf and pressure ridges.credit Troy Beaumont

 

The 115 family members of the victims were flown down on a New Zealand Defence Forces Boeing 757 to Pegasus airfield. They were then bussed to Scott Base for a memorial service at a Koru which looks out at Mount Erebus. There is an identical Koru at the crash site, but it would have been impossible to take everyone there for logistical reasons.

 

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Blessing the Koru. credit Troy Beaumont.

 

The Koru at Scott Base is a memorial for people at Scott Base and McMurdo, dedicated to all those who have died in Antarctica. Unfortunately, the weather began to deteriorate following the memorial, so we were not able to provide the full guided tour of the base before our guests had to leave but we did take them down to the base for a quick afternoon tea before being bussed back to the plane.
 

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Due to the devastating earthquake in Christchurch the blog below, prepared by Sarah at Scott Base, was not posted when it was received on the 22 February 2011.  Staff of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and their families have not been injured but they are involved in cleaning up homes, etc.

 

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 21-02-2011
Temperature: -9
Wind Speed: 30 knots, gusting to 35 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: 2:31
Sunset: 23:27

Being an Australian I am always excited when I find an object that is directly connected to an Australian in one of the Heroic Era Expeditions. Andrew Keith Jack was a member of the Ross Sea Party, a part of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17. Andrew Jack was a physicist on the expedition, in his diary of the time he writes 'In the midst of eternal snows in a waste and barren land'. So I was rapped to be able to conserve A.K.Jack’s sou’wester , which was very stiff, flattened and misshapen when it arrived in the laboratory. It was swabbed with water to remove a salt bloom on the surface and then gently heated with a hair drier to allow it to be reshaped. It was padded and weighted until cool to ensure it held its shape.

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A.K. Jacks Sou’wester hat before treatment © AHT/Sarah

 

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