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Bad Weather

Posted by Conservators Oct 29, 2012

Author: Kevin

Date: 24 October 2012

 

 

I was up at 4am all bags packed and just about to get dressed up in my warm gear for the 5 hour flight to Scott Base. My excitement to be finally on the way to the “ice” was turned to disappointment on receiving the news that bad weather on Ross Island had delayed our departure by at least 24 hours.

 

My mind turned to the weather and how much we take it for granted these days.  Today we simply have to log on to the internet, google “Antarctic weather” and we are given a choice of sites to look at.  Sites such as http://www.yr.no/place/Antarctica/Other/Scott_Base/   This Norwegian weather organization gives us hour by hour predictions and information as well as links to web cams that show us what it is actually like now.  Antarctica New Zealand also hosts webcams on their website http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/

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Cape Evans Stevenson's screen © AHT/Falcon

 

So different from the explorers of just over a 100 years ago, at the forefront of the science of meteorology as we know it today. For them, looking at satellite images from a warm office was not an option. They were required to go out to the weather station whatever the weather, getting dressed up in all of their warm clothing, often struggling against the conditions to find the weather station, physically handling the instruments, recording the information on paper before resetting the instruments, and then struggling back to the sanctuary of their huts, frozen to the core.  It is easy to forget that whilst others were out performing deeds of derring-do, the seemingly endless scientific tasks such as recording the weather continued to be carried out by those whose names have not become household.

 

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Reinstalling the conserved Stevenson's screen © AHT/Gord

 

Last season the weather station at Cape Evans was skillfully conserved by fellow team member Martin, and placed back in its original position as testament to those who visited it many times a day month after month. Personally I am itching to get on site and continue the skilled work carried out by those before me.

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Land of the Midnight Sun

Posted by Conservators Oct 25, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 17 October 2012

Temperature: -19C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -26C

Sunrise: 03:58

Sunset: 11:29

 

 

Early summer is an extremely changeable time in Antarctica, not only in terms of the human activity that is ramping up for the season, but in the natural world around us as well.  The temperature creeps reliably upwards while the sea ice thickens daily, Emperor penguins depart whilst the Adélies start to arrive, and lots of baby Weddell seals are born. 

 

Most noticeable of all, however, is the arrival of 24 hour daylight.   Because of our southern latitude, the amount of sunlight we get each day increases here more noticeably than it does at more equatorial latitudes.  Right now, although the sun still technically 'sets' and 'rises' it really only appears to creep behind the mountains on the horizon for a bit before re-emerging on the other side.  We never really have true darkness anymore, and 3:00 in the morning is almost as bright as 3:00 in the afternoon. Even when it is overcast, the reflecting whiteness of the snowy landscape means that it is still bright outside.

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Pressure ridges in late evening sun © AHT/Jana

 

For some people the 24 hour daylight is difficult to get used to, and their biorhythms and sleep habits suffer as a result.  Sleeping in a tent in bright daylight can be a bit challenging when we are living in the field, but we are usually so exhausted from the day's work that sleep never eludes us for long!

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Staff around the flagpole

Posted by Conservators Oct 17, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 10 October 2012

Temperature: -15C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -21C

Sunrise: 05:11am

Sunset: 10:16pm

 

 

The transition from winter to summer season here at Scott Base brings about a number of significant changes. Winter staff start to leave after 13 months of living and working together, a new crew is introduced to the base, science groups start arriving and helicopters buzz around again.  For Simon, our winter manager, it is also the time to officially hand over the base to the incoming team.

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Staff around the flagpole.

 

Last Saturday, to mark this point and follow a long held tradition, everybody gathered around the flagpole in front of the base to watch the youngest  person on base lower the small winter pennant and raise  the larger summer flag.  It is a little ceremony which has been kept alive ever since Scott Base was officially opened on 20 January 1957.

Flag pole Image 2.jpg

Summer flag is raised.

 

The historic flagpole, found around Scott’s Discovery Hut, had been presented to Sir Edmund Hillary (who helped found Scott Base) by Admiral Dufek that year and Able Seaman R.Tito, the youngest person on base, raised the NZ flag for the first time.  Ever since then the flagpole has been a focal point in front of the base.

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Cape Evans Redux

Posted by Conservators Oct 9, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 3 October 2012

Temperture: -33C

Wind Speed: 2 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: 5:35am

Sunset: 7:36pm

 

 

As Martin described in our last blog, we were recently able to make a quick trip out over the sea ice to Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans.   I had especially been looking forward to seeing the hut again, as three and a half years have passed since the last time I set foot inside.  In the intervening years conservators have been working diligently to reconfigure various aspects of the hut to their original layout, many artefacts have been treated, and I had been eagerly anticipating seeing all of these changes first hand. 

Terra Nova Hut.jpg

Captain Scott's hut at Cape Evans

 

Stepping into the hut is always a powerful moment: it is quite dark inside at this time of year as the windows are still covered by snow, and it takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.  When they do, all sorts of artefacts - bunks and boxes of foodstuffs, scientific equipment, the large table in the centre of the room –start to emerge from the dimness, standing where they did when the hut was inhabited by the explorers of Scott’s expedition.  A prescient silence also fills the hut, and there is a great sense of stillness that I find somewhat jarring – jarring because the wind outside is often howling by comparison, but also because when the hut was originally occupied, it never would have been so quiet inside. 

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Artefacts emerge from the darkness

 

Making my way around all the little nooks in the hut, it was rewarding to see how many artefacts have been conserved and how the sense of place has been so well preserved.  I am looking forward to moving out to our work camp at the huts so we can once again spend most of our days inside this special place.