Skip navigation
0

An Outsider's View

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Author: Troy Beaumont, Scott Base Winter Manager


Date: 23/05/2011
Temperature: -21.3
Wind Speed: O knots
Temp with wind chill: -21.3
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


When I found out about the blog that the AHT team here writes, my curious/nosey nature got the best of me. It’s an excellent read but I did notice that there is not too much about the people behind the blog.


They work all hours, and their unabashed enthusiasm and passion for conserving Antarctica’s unique human heritage is amazing.  Watching them relate an article of clothing to a photograph, an historic object to a passage of a book, is something the staff and I really enjoy.


It’s great to have them as part of the Scott Base team here for winter 2011.   In addition to their work with the AHT, they all contribute to base life in other ways.  Sarah is an excellent cook, and has made several dinners for the entire base on the chef’s day off.  She is also a fine watercolorist.  Jane is a social butterfly and has taken on party planning for the entire base. In her spare time, she has written a song about conservation.  Julie plays guitar and sings backing vocals in the Scott Base band, and has two groupies and a roadie.  She occasionally lurks around with a sketchbook, scaring people.  Martin is the only person on the AHT team who can get into a truck gracefully.  He is also a ping-pong champion, a cult figure, and builds igloo walls in strange places.

 

Sarah repairing ice axe holes to a hat Photo 1.jpg

Sarah repairing ice axe holes in a hat © Troy Beaumont

 

Julie cataloging artifacts.jpg

Julie cataloging artefacts © Troy Beaumont

 

 

Jane gap filling.jpg

Jane conserving historic food tins  ©  Steven Sun

 

Martin repairing boxes.jpg

Martin repairing boxes © Troy Beaumont

0

Tent Repairs

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 23/5/2011
Temperature: -27
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

 

 

Scott Base on Ross Island is very isolated for much of the year and new supplies are often impossible to get. An enormous amount of planning goes into getting all the things that Scott Base and all the scientists need in the field, many years in advance.  Additionally great care is taken to make things last and as much as possible is reused and recycled. This has not changed since man first arrived on the continent.

Troy Beaumont Repairing a polar tent resized.jpg

Troy repairing a polar tent © AHT/ Sarah


The Field Support Officer and Base Leader, Troy Beaumont, has just spent many weeks repairing polar tents for the 2011/2012 summer science season, with the industrial Singer sewing machine.

 

There is a Herbert Ponting image of P.O. Evans inside Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition Hut at Cape Evans, at a similar  but hand cranked Singer sewing machine, working with heavy canvas.


These ongoing connections with the heroic era remind us how lucky we are with all the modern facilities we have, and that we must also value and respect what we have here.

0

Sea Anchor

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Sarah, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 18 April 2011
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28

Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


Two items arrived on my desk at Scott Base a few weeks ago. The catalogue record described them as wind socks, but as soon as I opened up the box I realised that what I had were not wind socks.


The items are cone shaped canvas devices with a wooden loop at the large end. Three ropes are tied around the wooden loop and extend to a central point above the cone of fabric.  The material is far too heavy and there is no swivel point to allow the cones to catch the wind direction.


I had no idea what they could be used for. I wondered if they would have been used to dredge water or other items from the ocean, as they showed signs of being in salt water, and having just treated the plankton net, I was thinking they could be related to science.


The week I was treating these unknown items, we had a tour of the lab for staff from the American Base, McMurdo Station. It was then that a number of Americans on the tour suggested they could be small sea anchors or drogues.
Drogues used in the ocean, attached to a small boat to slow or help steady it and have been used since antiquity.


The shape, construction and size is certainly correct for a small boat.

 

AHT5975_1!_Side1_BT.jpg

Sea Anchors from Cape Evans © AHT

0

Sun Dogs

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Jane, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 19th May 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C
Sunrise:
Sunset


Jane 19 May Sun dogs.jpg

Sun Dog between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror © AHT/Jane


We were treated to a rare sight just before the sun left us a few weeks ago. A really spectacular sun dog was visible when the sun was low beside Mount Erebus. Sun dogs are seen as a ring of light or halo around the sun with bright spots on either side. They are often seen in Antarctica when small ice crystals are blown up into the air. As they fall towards the ground, they align vertically and act as prisms which defract the light creating the effect. It is a really spectacular sight which we will unfortunately not see again for some time!

 

Sun dogs 2.jpg
Bright spot from the side of the sundog in front of Mount Erebus © AHT/Jane

0

Author: Julie
Date: 11/5/11
Temperature: 17
Wind Speed: 11
Temp with wind chill: -24
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 


On our work list is an object from Scott’s hut at Cape Evans described as: Wooden case, marked: To be sent away by August 20th 1910. Balloons for South Expedition, 2 large canvas items, disintegrating celluloid.  The box was assumed to contain Scott’s weather balloons.   Last week we brought the box inside to begin work.  Well… in the end this box contained 43 items, none of them weather balloons, and none of them celluloid.  Several are mysterious.  Amongst the contents, things that I am personally fond of include:


A sheaf of amber-coloured transparent sheets.  It’s not celluloid, cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate, but it does react like sized gelatin.  We are not sure what this is.  It does not seem to be cooking gelatin.  It is not film.  Historic tracing paper? Any ideas?


A felt-covered aluminum canteen with a cork stopper, with as-yet unidentified crystallized contents.


Several sections of ‘London Magazine’, including a racy story about Peggy who is about to marry a man who had a fling with her Aunt Bella, and Bella is scheming to break up the engagement. I’ll never know the outcome asI can’t turn the page!


11 small cotton ration bags, some containing dried figs, raisins, and cocoa.  Elsewhere in the box were plum pits, tea, biscuits, and canned goods.

Disintegrating gelatin sheet.jpg

Disintegrating amber-colored sheets in situ in the box © AHT/Sarah

 

Canteen London Magazine food bags.jpg

0

A Box of History

Posted by Conservators May 15, 2011

Author: Guest blogger Jana


Date: 10/5/11
Temperature: -21
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Temp with wind chill: -27
Sunrise: August
Sunset

 

Resized.jpg
A box of mystery tins from Cape Royds © AHT

 

A Box Of History

 

A box made of wood,
At first glance rather ordinary,
With a closer look,
Steeped in history,
Shrouded by mystery,
An artefact, a reminder of the past,
Of the hardship endured down South.

One of many to be conserved by Sarah, Julie, Martin and Jane,
A task fit only for the patient or perhaps a Saint.

Huddled around this box of hidden treasure,
Meat, medicine or soap? Hard to gather,
Ready to unleash what dormant for decades has been,
Martin with his tools and utmost care breaks in,
And we all peek in.

At the history that lies within…

 

Author Bio:
Jana is the Scott Base first aider, domestic, and a member of the Search and Rescue team.  She was present at the opening of a box of tins from Cape Royds, opened for the first time in 100 years.  We are still trying to identify the contents of the tins.


3

Freezing Antifreeze

Posted by Conservators May 10, 2011

Posted by Jane

 

Date: 4th May 2011
Temperature: -32°C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C


I have been working on a can of what we believe is antifreeze from Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. It was probably brought for use on the Arrol Johnson car, the first vehicle in Antarctica.


I wanted to find out what I could about the liquid in case it had any health and safety implications in the lab or in the hut. I also wanted to add as much information to the records as possible for future reference. We are limited in how much we can find out here as we do not have the equipment to do sophisticated analysis. I was able to carry out a few simple tests, but these have not provided us with any conclusive answers.

 

Image 1 resized.jpg

The can of anti-freeze from Cape Royds, after conservation © AHT


I ruled out alcohols and salt solutions straight away as these would have evaporated off. The liquid is oily brown and I initially thought it was ethylene glycol, a substance still used as antifreeze today. It has a sweet smell which is characteristic of ethylene glycol.


I put our local environment to use in my efforts and tried to freeze the liquid. Outside it was -35°C but the liquid did not freeze, although it did become quite syrupy. Our base mechanic gave me a refractometer which he uses to test the antifreeze in our  vehicles. We found that if it is ethylene glycol, it is at least 70% pure and will prevent freezing down to at least -50°C.
Impressive for antifreeze that is over 100 years old!

 

Image 2 resized.jpg

 

The handwritten label from the can which reads ‘a little of this amongst the water helps prevent freezing’ © AHT


If anyone out there has any ideas about what our antifreeze might be, please send us a comment.

0

Midnight  Alert

Posted by Conservators May 10, 2011

Posted by Martin


Date: 4.5.2011
Temperature: -31 degree C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a

Resized 1.jpg

Aurora Australis over Scott Base - Troy Beaumont

It was well after midnight when our base manager, Troy, was woken up by his pager. He carries it with him day and night in order to be alerted to any kind of emergency requiring immediate attention. A quick glance at the pager however reminded him that he had put himself on the Aurora Alert list. Anyone who sees an Aurora Australis (also known as Southern Lights), can phone in the information to McMurdo station which then gets relayed to people on the list. And it is certainly a sight worth getting out of bed for. A mesmerizing, magical light display with sheets of green light moving like curtains in a breeze across a dark sky. The light of an Aurora is emitted by atoms, molecules and ions in the upper atmosphere that have been excited by the solar wind, which is basically a stream of electrons and protons. The density of magnetic field lines in the polar regions channels this effect and makes it visible.  

 

Resized 2.jpg

Aurora Australis over Scott Base - Troy Beaumont

0

Mysterious white powder

Posted by Conservators May 4, 2011

Posted by  Julie


Date: 26/4/11
Temperature: -20
Wind Speed: 22
Temp with wind chill: -40
Sunrise: August
Sunset


1_Lab tour.jpg

Americans invade the conservation lab and Sarah keeps them enthralled with fun facts about old textiles.  © AHT/Julie

There is a good deal of interest in our conservation work from the Americans working four kilometers away at McMurdo Station.  In response, one night after dinner the AHT conservators ran tours through the conservation lab for a total of about 30 visiting Americans.

 

2_Tin overall.jpg
Tin of mysterious white powder. © AHT/Julie

One of the objects we showed on our tour was a tin from Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds.  Full of white powder with a little handmade scoop (made from the lid of a ‘round fifties’ carton of cigarettes), the tin has a handwritten label that is only partially legible.  We asked the Americans: can you read this label?  It was a genuine question as we hadn’t completely deciphered it ourselves. - We had done some chemical tests on the powder and it was not reacting as it should have based on our guesswork.

3_Detail of label.jpg
Detail of label. © AHT/Julie

The Americans came through!  A couple of people on the tour read the label as, ‘French chalk’.  (French chalk is another name for talcum powder.)  Mystery solved!  Talcum powder could have had a number of uses: not only was it used as a skin and foot powder, it could have been used as a lubricant for machinery (it is helpful in the repair of tyres) and can also be used to remove grease.