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Hibernation Hinterland

Posted by Conservators Apr 29, 2012

Author: Georgina
Date: 24/04/12
Temperature: -20c
Wind Speed: 5 kts
Temp with wind chill: -30c
Sunrise: 12:31 pm
Sunset 1:10pm


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The sun says ‘goodbye’ for the next 4 months (photo by S. Shelton, ANTNZ)

 

Yesterday, some lucky members of Scott Base went to an area called Castle Rock to toast the final rising and setting of the sun, with only 39 minutes in-between dawn and twilight. Over the past month or so, the days have been getting progressively shorter, but now the sun will not return above the horizon until late August. It is a big moment for all those living and working here, as it heralds the start of the long dark night of the Antarctic winter.

We drove to the spot in a hagglund, (a Swedish snow-tank) found a good picnic place and put up our deckchairs to admire the scenery and take photos. On the drive back, we made a brief stop to ‘Igloo City’ which is comprised of 5 igloos which were built over the summer and are now largely collapsing. A couple of them still had roofs, so we excavated the doorways and climbed in! It was a welcome break from work, and a good reminder of the amazing environment we live in.

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Igloo City! (photo by G. Evans, AHT)

 

As the light closes in, our base crew of 14 will be drawn ever more together. 24 hour darkness can produce interesting effects in people, and as the winter progresses, some may expect disturbed sleep patterns, forgetfulness, tiredness, general annoyance, and an increased tendency to put on weight; it’s an experience that none of us would miss for the world!

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Lest We Forget

Posted by Conservators Apr 27, 2012

Author: Stefan
Date: 25-04-2012
Temperature: -20C
Wind Speed: 15knts
Temp with wind chill: -32C
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

Today Scott Base held a service in remembrance for all the brave Antipodean men and women who have served in conflicts around the world. Anzac Day, first held in 1916, has a strong focus on the thousands who fought and died in Gallipoli  fighting the Turkish. But with New Zealanders and Australians still serving around the world, the emotive effect of the day is still very present and humbling.

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Simon (Base Leader) raising the flag from half mast. © AHT/Stefan

 

Back in the UK I have been involved in the restoration and conservation of many war memorials, and with military service in my family history, I’m always taken aback by how sad and grateful I am for the greatest sacrifice, that continues to be made around the world.


War had its impact on the expeditioners in Antarctica. The diminishing British Empire seeking pride in the achievements of both Shackleton and Scott, applied an undesired pressure on their progress. Lawrence “Titus” Oates served with 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in the Boer War and was severely injured (a gunshot shattering his left leg and foreshortening it by an inch, once healed). Some historians believe that this war wound greatly affected Oates’ chances of making the return journey to Cape Evans.

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Painting of Lawrence Oates’ last moments by John Charles Dollman

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Preservation Week

Posted by Conservators Apr 26, 2012

Author: Susanne
Date: April 18, 2012
Temperature: -16.3°C
Wind Speed: 11knots
Temp with wind chill: -20°C
Sunrise: 10:33am

Sunset 3:09pm

 

 

Starting next week, museums, libraries, and archives all over the United States will be celebrating Preservation Week. This annual event promotes conservation for collections of all sizes from museum collections to personal family heritage. Objects are the only tangible evidence we have of the past and the work of conservators and preservation specialists is critical to saving these irreplaceable treasures of human and family history. While the remote locations of the huts prohibit large amounts of visitors, the Trust has developed other resources that you can use to “visit” the huts and see the conservation work.

 

To check out a virtual tour of the huts visit the Trust’s webpage at http://www.nzaht.org/AHT/PhotoandVirtualTour/.


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Stefan and Susanne discussing the conservation of tins with a lab visitor. © AHT / Gretel

 

One way that we share the conservation projects taking place on the huts is through public tours during the winter season. We invite our friends from McMurdo Station, located 4km away, to visit the laboratory and view some of the artefacts undergoing conservation work. These tours are always a fun way to talk with people and explain the processes used to protect this iconic collection. We all feel very fortunate to be a part of this project and it’s a great reward to be able to share it with you!

 

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Woollen sock from Cape Evans after conservation.

Note the repair to the heel area and how even the repair has worn through from wear © AHT

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Author: Gretel
Date: 18 April 2012
Temperature: Minus 17 deg C
Wind Speed: 4 knots
Temp with wind chill: Minus 21 deg C
Sunrise: 10.34am
Sunset 3.09pm

 

 

In my last blog I posted the Scott Base winter crew recreation of Captain Scott’s last birthday dinner. Apparently some people thought that we did a great job with Photoshop. In fact the entire affair was created from scratch and took many late evenings of hard work by some very talented people. Here I shall give away some of our secrets…

 

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Captain Scott’s last birthday dinner recreated © Steve Williamson

 

The setting for the photo is not the original base hut at Cape Evans but the warm and comfortable lounge of Scott Base. The interior of the hut was recreated by our base carpenter Jodie, using tongue and groove for the wall, and modern pine for the antiquated shelving. Our artistic director, George, stained wallpaper to mimic the ceiling and painstakingly painted the sledging flags with a helping hand from Susanne and myself. Old bed linen was utilised for these and the Union flag, which Naomi very accurately recreated (for an Australian), while overseeing the whole project. Shane utilised the photocopier to reproduce the backdrop from the original image on a large scale from many sheets of A4 paper and a lot of sticky tape. Stef was a master of illusion magicking jugs from blotting paper and aluminum foil, salt cellars out of laboratory glassware and bent aluminium wire, and bone-handled knives from sponge and masking tape; but his pièce de résistance were the soda siphons fashioned from thermos flasks, papier mâché and copper gauze. In fact the only ‘real’ items in the photo, apart from the people were the food and chocolates made especially for the occasion by our chef Bobby. The whole team pulled together to set-up and recreate the scene and get into character for the final photo, captured on camera by Steve the sparky. So much effort went into the mock-up that for now we’ve decided to keep that corner of the lounge as it is.
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Stef and George lounge about © Gretel

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Crazy Golf

Posted by Conservators Apr 16, 2012

Author: Georgina
Date: 11/04/12
Temperature: -26c
Wind Speed: 25 kts
Temp with wind chill: -42c
Sunrise: 9:25am
Sunset 4:21pm


At Scott Base we work 6 days a week over the winter, but once a month we get a full weekend off. For the ‘long’ Easter weekend, we decided to get creative and build and play a 7-hole crazy golf course all around the station.  Our crew of 14 was divided into pairs to make one of the holes. My construction abilities don’t extend far beyond cardboard and duct tape, so I was lucky to find myself paired with Tom who is an engineer.  On Saturday we were able to throw together a truly glorious hole called ‘Escape from Rat Lab’ in which the golf ball rolls around through a succession of pipes.

 

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‘Escape from Rat Lab’: Tom revels in the glory of his creation (photo by G. Whiteley, AHT)

 

Amongst the others was ‘Polynesian Putt Putt’ in which you have to hit the ball through a model volcano setting off a musical dancing hula girl. The ‘Turbinator’ was an electric turbine with enormous rotating blades, erected in the computer lab. One of the favourites was ‘The C17’ which involved hitting the ball by the Administration block into a model of the C17 airplane, which then flew down the hallway on a zip-line, before landing on the runway in ‘Christchurch’ (somewhere in the vicinity of Engineering).

 

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Susanne; considering her shot from Christchurch Airport (photo by A. Williamson, ANTNZ)

 

On Sunday we all got dressed up to play in our golfing gear; with plus-fours, tweed caps and rain-macs. Despite a couple of disqualifications for dubious golfing practice, a good game was played by all; a truly memorable Easter!

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Of What Lies Within

Posted by Conservators Apr 13, 2012

Author: Stefan
Date: 10th April 2012
Temperature: -22C
Wind Speed: 15kts
Temp with wind chill: -41C
Sunrise: 9.17am
Sunset: 4.30pm

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Stefan delving into a tin of 100 year old custard. AHT Stefan

“The constant draw of the fume cabinet whirred steadily like the idling  of a contented bees nest. Nitrile gloves had enveloped my hands without a snag or curse, and the rare sense of ease filled me with anything but. The air was dense with a dull smell, which only rumoured to the true overwhelming nature of what stench could lie within the heart of the looming rusty monolith before me.  Armed only with a spoon, I approached the vessel in a familiar routine of dining, but dear lord this mass could not be stomached. With the lid tentatively removed, the greenish yellow contents emerged like a bad moon rising…custard.”

 

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Tin samples (left to right) custard, salt, anchovy paste, polishing compound. AHT Stefan

 

Emptying  tins is a daily occurrence working with AHT. Depending upon how badly the object is corroded/stained, you get a varying clarity of what you may have to empty and dispose of. The contents are only removed when objects are found to be leaking, and could place other parts of the collection at risk. The majority of the contents are placed in biohazard bags and flown back to New Zealand to be incinerated, yet we always take a small sample to be placed in science freezers, in order that we can research or investigate this material whenever we choose. Anchovy paste (suspected) has been the smelliest sample I’ve taken so far, but my team mates assure me that, chocolate and butter are far worse.

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Remembering Scott

Posted by Conservators Apr 10, 2012

Author: Gretel
Date: 6 April 2012
Temperature: -15 ° C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -25 ° C
Sunrise: 8.46am
Sunset: 7.07pm

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Captain Scott’s last birthday dinner 6 June 1911 © Herbert Ponting

On Thursday 29th March 100 years ago, Captain Scott made the last entry in his diary before succumbing to starvation and exhaustion in the freezing cold, on his return trek from the South Pole.

"Since the 21st we have had a continuous gale from W.S.W. and S.W. We had fuel to make two cups of tea apiece and bare food for two days on the 20th. Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far.
It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.

R. SCOTT.

For God’s sake look after our people."

At Scott Base we marked the momentous occasion with a commemorative dinner. It was a solemn and yet celebratory affair. Speeches  and toasts were made and remembrance given not only to Captain Scott but to all those whose lives have been claimed by Antarctica.

Earlier in the day the Scott Base winter team posed for a photograph to mark the event. We recreated from scratch the scene of the last birthday dinner for Captain Scott, held at Cape Evans on 6 June 1911. According to his diary, that night Scott and his men dined on ‘Clissold’s especially excellent seal soup, roast mutton and red currant jelly, fruit salad, asparagus and chocolate’. Comparing menus I think we at Scott Base had the better cuisine. I’ll leave you to compare the photographs...

 

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Recreation of Scott’s birthday dinner at Scott Base 29 March 2012 © Steve Williams

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Author: Susanne
Date: April 4, 2012
Temperature: -24.7°C
Wind Speed: 19 knots
Temp with wind chill: -60°C
Sunrise:8:29AM
Sunset: 5:20PM


We all have a special connection with Antarctica, whether it is through a love of the environment and wildlife or in the stories of the early explorers. I always listened in admiration to people who had an even closer connection by being related to members of the early expeditions such as Captain Scott's grandson, Falcon Scott.


After my first season with the Trust in 2008, The Mariners’ Museumhttp://www.marinersmuseum.org, America's national maritime museum, where I worked, hosted an exhibit on some of the early American expeditions and displayed Antarctic material from the collection. One of my favorite pieces was the figurehead from the Bear of Oakland. A fantastic name like that has to have a great story, but little did I realise it would create my personal Antarctica connection.

 

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USS Bear after World War II


The vessel Bear was constructed in Scotland in 1874 as a precursor to modern icebreakers and over the years was used for sealing, commerce, and exploration of the polar regions (most notably on the Admiral Byrd expeditions). Many sources regard her as one of the most enduring and notable polar exploration ships.  She was eventually sold to Oakland, California as a museum ship earning her the name Bear of Oakland. The Bear was originally owned by W. Grieve and Sons in Scotland, which is where my connection lies. The surname Grieve has a strong Scottish history in my family and while I haven’t yet been able to trace myself to the Bear, I still find it very serendipitous!

 

What is your link to Antarctica?

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Sundog

Posted by Conservators Apr 2, 2012

Author: Georgina

Date: 28/03/12
Temperature: -23c
Wind Speed: 25 kts
Temp with wind chill: -38c
Sunrise: 8:39am
Sunset 7:15pm

 

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Sundog seen from Scott Base (photo by G. Evans, AHT)

 

For the past few weeks, we have been enjoying the rising and setting of the sun in something approaching normal daylight hours.  On Monday we were able to see a sundog, (scientific name: parhelion); a very special atmospheric phenomenon in which bright spots of light appear in the sky on either side of the sun.


Sundogs are created by ice crystals in the air which act as light-bending prisms. When randomly orientated, a complete halo or luminous ring around the sun is created, but at lower levels the crystals (sometimes called diamond dust) become vertically aligned, causing the light to be refracted horizontally.

 

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Detail (photo by G. Evans, AHT)

The spots we saw were like partial blurred rainbows, with the red side innermost. I didn’t get the chance to see one of these when I was last here in 2010, so I feel very lucky indeed to have seen one now.  Sundogs (also known as mock or phantom suns) can be seen anywhere in the world, but rarely as obvious or as bright as when the sun is low on the horizon and in very cold regions like Antarctica.