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A Game of Chess

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2012

Author: Stefan
Date: 28  March 2012
Temperature: -13C
Wind Speed: 5kts
Temp with wind chill: -15C
Sunrise: 8:39am
Sunset 7;15pm

 

The White Knight is talking backwards, and the Red Queen is off her head

 

The night watchmen, having a game of chess. Frank Hurley and Leonard Hussey (Shackleton Expedition) 1915
http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p66.18.28/


With such a diverse set of personalities here on base people have very particular ways of relaxing and trying to form a distinction between work and private time.


Chess is a massive passion of mine, and its ability to open up an ever changing arrangement of problems is something I hold to be special as the winter draws on. Indeed, this desire to create mental scenarios which are not based on reality, is of great importance when sustaining what is rather an abstract existence down here. I often find that people who have the ability to take you on a journey in your mind, is of great relief, as the possibility of that physical voyage is often impossible off base.

 

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Cape Evans chess board (Inspected by Stefan & George) AHT Stef

With this in mind I was overjoyed to realise Cape Evans Hut’s chess board was in this years collection to be conserved, (and my team mates were good enough to let me be the one to work on it). It’s not often you get to conserve an object which has had not only physical interaction but also such thought and mental tension soaked into each black and white square of its fabric.


Depending on which way you look at it, I’m very lucky this season in having George with me, who was somewhat of a chess child protégé in the 1980s. Rumours suggest chess became quite heated upon the old (now empty) Russian base, let’s hope George and I can keep our castles cool.

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Author: Susanne
Date: March 21, 2012
Temperature: -28.3°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -62°C
Sunrise: 7:56AM
Sunset 8:00PM

When I am asked about my Antarctic experience, people are always curious about my favorite part. My answer: the people I meet!


The Antarctic Heritage Trust is logistically supported by Antarctica New Zealand, a government entity responsible for maintaining the base operations at Scott Base and supporting science events. The first time we meet the ten Scott Base crew that we are wintering with, is when we arrive on the ice. It’s always an exciting time since the summer season team is leaving and we are new faces to get to know. Over the past few months, we have spent more time with this spectacular crew and I also wanted to share the rest of their stories with you.


Shane is the Science Technician this year and originally hails from Queenstown, NZ. While his background is in electronics product design, he spends his time on the ice doing weather observations, maintaining the science experiments, and repairing electronics. After talking with Shane, I learned that his favorite part of being here is the winter family and that you can be yourself and find support in each other. He was attracted here by hearing about others good experiences and enjoys meeting and working with the types of people that come to Antarctica.

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Shane at Discovery Point. Credit: Shane.


Naomi is the winter team First Aider and Domestic from Brisbane, Australia. In addition to living in New Zealand for 7 years, she has been attracted to living in different environments and has spent time in Africa and Canada.  Coming to Antarctica is something she has always wanted to do and her favorite part has been the people! With a diverse background as an ambulance volunteer and world traveller, she enjoys the work schedule and hopes to be able to get career experience.
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Naomi at Lake Vanda. Credit: Naomi.


Our winter chef this season is Bobbie from North Canterbury, NZ. Coming to Antarctica was a childhood dream and this is her second season with Antarctica New Zealand. Bobbie has a background in cafes and catering and produces some of the most incredible vegetarian dishes I have tasted. It helps that Bobbie herself is a vegan! She was attracted here by the mystery and magic that the continent holds and appreciates the fact that not a lot of people get to enjoy this opportunity. Her favorite part of the experience so far has been the view from the kitchen window! Not many chefs can wake up to a sunrise over the Antarctic continent!

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Bobbie at Cape Bird. Credit: Naomi.

 

Hayden is the Telecom technician for the season and is responsible for linking us with the outside world! Originally from Palmerston North, NZ, he studied telecommunications and specialised in wireless engineering. Also a world traveller, Hayden wanted to experience the remote ruggedness of Antarctica that few get to experience. During the summer he assisted with several science events and was able to see truly untouched areas such as the Dry Valleys and Darwin Glacier. His favorite part of being here is the entire experience and as he perfectly puts it, “to look out over the ice shelf and see an untouched place of beauty”. Hayden is also on the Search and Rescue team for Scott Base and I know that we are in good hands with his years of experience and his appreciation for the environment.

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Hayden at the Darwin Glacier. Credit: Hayden.


Simon, our fearless winter base manager, is originally from Invercargill, NZ. In addition to leading the base through the winter, Simon serves as field support and coordinates outdoor activities and gear maintenance. With a background in the building trade, he has travelled extensively and worked on sites in NZ and Australia. Wanting to do something he was more passionate about, he pursued ski patrolling and guiding while getting a diploma in ambulance practice. With this experience he heads the Search and Rescue team at Scott Base. His favorite part of the experience here has been the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beautiful and powerful place that Antarctica is.
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Simon at the South Pole. Credit: Trudie


I have really been enjoying my time here and having the opportunity to spend the winter with such great people. It really is the team that makes this experience so special!


 

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Author: Gretel

Date: 21/03/12
Temperature: -29.1 deg C
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48.9 deg C
Sunrise: 7.49am
Sunset 8.08pm

 

While in Antarctica, Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators lodge at New Zealand’s Scott Base, Ross Island. Once described as ‘the best hostel in the world’, Scott Base plays host to some of the top scientists in the world as well as dignitaries such as the King of Malaysia. Many talented people are employed by Antarctica New Zealand to keep Scott Base running and to support the science events that come here to stay while they collect data, carry out observations and experiments. In summer there can be over 100 residents. During  winter the Scott Base personnel consists of only 14 hardy souls. You may be familiar with us 4 AHT conservators so now we’d like to introduce you to the rest of the family.

 

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Andrew (aka The Sheriff) is one of the engineers who keeps the base running, maintaining and repairing the boilers, air handling units, generators and fuel lines on a daily basis. Ever since as a small boy, when he heard the ‘sounds of Antarctica’ on a 45 record (now you’re revealing your age Andrew!) he has relished the opportunity to experience this continent. Andrew loves the challenge of working in isolated environments – previously he crewed super yachts, sailing half-way round the world – and he certainly makes the grade as an extreme engineer.

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Jodie (JC, his second name is Curtis) is on a quest for knowledge – both of himself and the wider world. As the base carpenter his mission is to improve the base infrastructure for greater sustainability. He enjoys supporting the scientists who utilise  Antarctica as their ‘experimental playground’, and in the process learning more about this continent, and consequently the world, from them. Back in New Zealand Jodie runs his own architectural-building business, and organises festivals – enjoying the gathering of the flock and spreading the good word.

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Jeff (or Capt Jack the Pirate as we call him) is here for the adventure, fulfilling a dream he held as a young boy. His task is to service, repair and maintain our very durable fleet – which ranges from a chainsaw to a D6 Bulldozer – taking pride in taking care of the fleet. In the past he has honed his mechanical skills in snowfields and on super-sized sheep stations. Jeff’s Antarctic voyage is sustained by his love of the outdoor environment and the natural world, marvelling at the harsh yet beautiful continent and the vastness of this place.

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Tom (the Tank, see the photo) believes world peace can be achieved through water (or more precisely reverse osmosis). As the water engineer he manages the waste water treatment (aka the P.O.O. plant) and the reverse osmosis plant – where he makes and creates fresh water from seawater. Tom enjoys the changes in Antarctica weather and the challenges it presents.  A lover of wildlife and the natural environment he’s looking forward to getting back to hunting, shooting and fishing in the mountains and the bush of New Zealand.

 

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Steve (colloquially known as Wilbur but I’m not sure why) is a veteran. He’s seen 2 full seasons and this tour of duty is his third winter. As the resident electrician he’s a bright spark and his work keeps many of our vital systems, such as heating, water and energy production on the go. Having worked and travelled all over the world he realised Antarctica was the last continent for him to conquer. He enjoys the variety offered by the job, working with, and meeting good people.


Well that’s the men of engineering at Scott Base. Our next blog will introduce you to the rest of the family.

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Fire in the Hole

Posted by Conservators Mar 15, 2012

Author: Georgina
Date: 14/03/12
Temperature: -8.7c
Wind Speed: 7 kts
Temp with wind chill: -16c
Sunrise: 6:58am
Sunset 9:02pm


The last few weeks have seen a great many changes as Scott Base has made the transition from summer to winter mode.  The summer is a hectic period of 24-hour daylight when there can be  as many as 90 people on base at any time, made up of science teams and project groups as well as support staff.  Now however, we are down to our full winter complement of 14; a skeleton base crew of 10, plus our 4 AHT conservators.  Officially this change was marked by the flag ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1957, when the youngest person on base is tasked with lowering the old summer flag and hoisting up the winter version; a small pennant-type standard that can better withstand the inclement weather to come.

 

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Flag ceremony at Scott Base © AHT/Susanne


Now, postcards and letters home have been hastily written to make the last mailbag, and last-minute orders of supplies and fresh vegetables have been received.  Finally, last Tuesday our crew gathered outside to toast the departure of the final flight from Pegasus Air Strip. Now there will be no movement on or off the continent until August.  An exciting time for all.

 

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The McMurdo ice pier used during summer for off-loading ship cargo; no longer needed and destroyed at the start of winter with high explosives

© AHT/Georgina

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Author: Stefan
Date: 13-03-2012
Temperature: -7C
Wind Speed: 15kts
Temp with wind chill: -19C
Sunrise: 6;51am
Sunset 9;10pm

 

 

One of the many pleasures of living on Scott Base is the proximity of some of the most amazing wildlife, just metres off our shoreline. We can often sit in the lounge with a coffee and see Weddell seals lolloping around like sausages of black and grey oil paint on a white canvas.

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Stefan and a lone Adelie Penguin at Cape Evans   © AHT/ Stefan

 

During the ice breakout, blow holes and wider expanses of water open up between the wincing epic slabs of ice and explosions of Minkie Whale breath summon your eyes and nose to their location, breaching up through the puzzle of ice plates.

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Emperor Penguin in front of Scott base  © AHT/ Giddeon

 

Indeed all the wildlife here has distinct and quite dramatic elements to their turning up on base. The odd Emperor Penguin can arrive with no friends, and seem to have a look in its eyes, like it wants you to shout out on a huge Antarctic tannoy (like in supermarkets) “lost Emperor Penguin, could his mother (aka his father) please make his way to the freezer section to pick him up. Please?”. All this makes you realise the epic distances the animals cover, and so so slowly.  I’m still awaiting for my first Orca sighting, but with the ice freezing over, alas, that ship/whale may have sailed.

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R/V Nathaniel B Palmer

Posted by Conservators Mar 11, 2012

Author: Gretel
Date: 29 February 2012
Temperature: -11 deg C

We had some interesting visitors dock at McMurdo Station recently. The Research Vessel Nathaniel B Palmer landed at Hut Point, as did The Nimrod during Shackelton’s 1907-1909 Expedition. Both ships witnessed Discovery Hut as they berthed, still standing from Captain Scott’s 1902 Expedition. However, there the similarities end.

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Nathaniel B Palmer with icebreaker and Mount Discovery in the distance © AHT/Gretel

 

Nathaniel B Palmer R/V is a 94 metre Antarctic research icebreaker in the service of the US National Science Foundation. Named after the first American to sight Antarctica, she is capable of carrying 37 scientists with a crew of 22, on missions of up to 75-days. Equipped with an array of biological, oceanographic, geological and geophysical components to study global change there is still room for a helipad. One example of her scientific prowess is the multi-sonar which constantly maps the sea-bed as she sails, slowly piecing together the jigsaw of what lies below the stormy seas.

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The Nimrod, under sail and steam, forcing her way through the pack ice towards Cape Royds 1907-09 © Royal Geographical Society


By contrast The Nimrod was a 41 year old sealing boat before purchase by Shackleton and being refitted for his Antarctic Expedition. Despite being a sail and steam boat, she needed to be towed from New Zealand. Her heavy cargo, which included a motor car, live sheep and ponies prevented her from carrying enough coal to get her from Antarctica and back. Towing her as far as the Antarctic pack-ice would help her to conserve coal and ensure the return of the ship.


I wonder what the early historic Antarctic explorers would have made of the fantastic research capabilities of the Nathaniel B Palmer and her ability to weather the Antarctic stormy seas with such relative ease.

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All Aboard!

Posted by Conservators Mar 9, 2012

Author: Susanne
Date: 23/02/2012
Temperature: -12°C
Wind Speed: 15km/h
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 4:49AM
Sunset 11:14PM

 

 

Believe it or not, even in Antarctica there are tourists! The curiosity and desire to discover new places and experiences is something we all share with the early explorers. We were very excited this past week to showcase our work with passengers from the Spirit of Enderby, operated by Heritage Expeditions.


The passengers were all well travelled and knowledgeable individuals from universities, museums, and non-profits. They are specifically on board to raise awareness for the environmental and cultural issues that are occurring between Stewart Island and the South Pole.

Visiting Scott Base is a large part of their experience and one of the highlights of the tour is the Antarctic Heritage Trust laboratory. Even though we are just starting our season, we still had many exciting projects to share. Stefan, being an avid chef, happened to be working on several kitchen related objects. George showcased some of the newspapers and cards the explorers used (which she has become quite partial to). Gretel displayed the pony accoutrements that have been found at the huts, such as leather straps, and I spoke about wool socks and clothing.

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Stefan and Gretel speaking to a group from the Spirit of Enderby © AHT/Susanne

 

One of the best parts of our job is getting to share what we do with the public. The cruise ships that pass through Antarctica are a great way to show people our work firsthand. It was fascinating to get to meet and interact with such interesting people. They also wrote several fantastic blogs about their visit: www.ourfarsouth.org. Maybe we will see you next time!

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Antarctic Field Training

Posted by Conservators Mar 7, 2012

Author: Gretel
Date: 14 February 2012
Temperature: -10.8 °C
Wind Speed: 23 knots
Temp with wind chill: -22.1°C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset: n/a


Now that we are in Antarctica there is a lot to learn about our new ‘home’. Antarctic Field Training teaches us how to camp out in the field as well as what to do in emergency situations where we might have to survive outdoors under unexpected circumstances.


We learn about how to make the best of our extreme weather clothing - layering up thermal underlayers, fleece pants and tops, salopettes, 3 different types of jackets, and a variety of neck gaiters, hats and gloves. Antarctic weather is explained:  the wind can be deadly in conjunction with cold climates: wind speed of 20 knots at minus 10 degrees Celsius results in wind chill temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius! We are taught about survival bags; these include items such as tents, sleeping bags, primus stoves, dehydrated food and chocolate, enabling survival in extreme conditions for at least 3 days.

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Polar Tents © AHT/Gretel


Finally we spend a night camping in the field. We use polar tents – based on a design used by Captain Scott during his Antarctic expeditions. They are quick and easy to assemble and very stable in strong winds due to their pyramidal shape; snow is shoveled over the tent flaps to secure them, and the tent accessed via a fabric tunnel which can be securely tied up in bad weather.

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Ice Kitchen © AHT/Gretel

 

We had the luxury of an ice kitchen within which to cook and shelter from the wind. Formed from blocks of compact snow and sunk into the ground the kitchen provided a haven within which to eat and relax in the shadow of Mount Erebus.

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News Team! Assemble!

Posted by Conservators Mar 4, 2012

Author: Georgina
Date: 21/02/12
Temperature: -3c
Wind Speed: 2 kts
Temp with wind chill: -5c
Sunrise: 3.26am
Sunset 12.50am

 


Whoever thought that being at the bottom of the world would open a door into the glittery world of TV glam!  On Saturday, TVNZ presenter Heather du Plessis-Allan and camera-man Byron Radford visited us at Scott Base to shoot some material about life in Antarctica as a feature for New Zealand’s Television One News.  As part of the shoot, our team was asked to talk about the conservation project and some of the conservation work we will be doing over the season.  This proved an excellent opportunity for us to showcase the work of the Trust, and also to pull out some of the more iconic artefacts, many of which we had yet to see.

 

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In the AHT lab: a break during filming. © AHT/Susanne

 

After sprucing up the lab and combing our hair into some semblance of tidy, we each overcame our nerves to be interviewed in front of the camera.

 

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‘Alright, TVNZ, I’m ready for my close-up!’ Gretel works the shoot like a pro. © AHT/Susanne

Here at Scott Base we get one hour of news beamed in each day via satellite, which we can watch during dinner in the communal area. We are yet to learn whether our footage will make it onto national TV, but certainly our eyes will be glued to the box over the next few days.    
 

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Author: Stefan
Date: 22- Feb- 2012
Temperature: -10.6
Wind Speed: 10kts
Temp with wind chill: -22
Sunrise: 3:26am
Sunset 12:50am


The handover and transition between summer and winter conservation teams allows us a brilliant opportunity to have a bit of banter, share interesting and humorous stories and occasionally something fascinating about the huts. All these little signs of human activity left by the explorers leads to some lingering conundrums of what exactly happened 100 years ago.

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Snow meter at Cape Royds © AHT/Stefan

 

Although he worked relentlessly, Gordon (Lead Timber Conservator) shared with me that he had a little time with the summer team to investigate the suspicious holes in the snow meter outside Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. After some high tech stick insertions (eat your heart out CSI) through entry and exit points, Gordon was set on the conclusion that someone had been shooting at the meter from the hut door, and also from the shoreline. Dear readers in the distant world, any thoughts on why?

 

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Historic image of Shackletons Hut with snow meter visible Circa 1908 Photographer unknown © Alexander Turnbull Library