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Stitching history

Posted by Conservators Mar 25, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Date: 20 March 2013

Temperature: -13.8

Wind speed: 50 / 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -28C

Sunrise: 05:50

Sunset: 20:00

 

 

I smiled when I saw the sewing kit that we were issued with when receiving our extreme cold weather gear in Christchurch. The kit being quite basic and wrapped in fabric reminded me of a time long past, a time when each member of Scott's team was responsible for caring for and repairing their own gear and clothing.

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Mittens, from Terra Nova hut, with several historic repairs

 

Now as the last plane has left us for the winter and we must make do with whatever supplies, equipment and gear we have, that sewing kit has become a little more vital and our connection to the past habits of Scott and his men enhanced.

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Mike, from Field support, making his mark by repairing a tent

 

While conserving some items of clothing from Scott's Terra Nova Hut, I noticed the remarkable repairs made over and over again to the same areas in mittens and several socks. These repairs not only tell of how the items were used, worn and torn, but also convey how much care was taken to wonderfully patch, stitch and darn clothing. 

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Trans-Antarctic Expedition: George Marsh sewing a tent. Unknown Photographer. TAE 865:1956/1958

 

On Scott Base, we also take great care to repair, recycle and reuse as much as possible, including clothing. Field support have been repairing and maintaining the tents for years. As they continue to make these repairs they are also developing a pattern of historic stitches that is not unlike those found in the mittens most recently conserved.

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Peace at last

Posted by Conservators Mar 20, 2013

Author: Jaime

Temperature: -15C

Wind speed: 10 knots

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

With departure of the last flight last Saturday, we are finally alone here and after the frantic activity of recent weeks, a real sense of calm has overtaken both Scott Base and Mc Murdo.

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Ship offload at McMurdo © AHT/Jaime

 

A year's supply of fuel has been delivered, enough for both of the bases here, and the US base at the South Pole. The container ship was here for well over a week, off-loading food and equipment 24 hours a day, and finally departing loaded with unwanted waste, materials and vehicles. There has also been a huge exodus of personnel as science events depart and the additional staff needed to keep the bases running during this time, return home.

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Spot the departing plane © AHT/Jaime

 

So now, with just 145 people over at Mc Murdo and 15 here, it is all over until the end of August, when the whole process will begin again. We all gathered outside and toasted the departing plane, as it lifted off the ice in a cloud of blown snow, turned to make a farewell pass over the base and disappeared north to the real world.

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Author: Sue

Temperature: -14 degrees

Wind Speed: 0

Temp with wind chill: -14 degrees

Sunrise: 05:50

Sunset: 20:12

 

 

Last Friday was a day like any other for us in the lab at Scott Base. A crate of frozen objects from Scott's Terra Nova hut had just thawed and I selected one for treatment. In this case, it was a wooden-backed bristle brush for grooming the expedition's ponies – ponies Scott intended to use in his 1912 dash to the South Pole. Hailing from Vladivostok, they were all white or dappled grey and numbered nineteen, but didn't fare well and were soon down to ten—Bones, Chinaman, Christopher, James Pigg, Jehu, Michael, Nobby, Snatcher, Snippets and Victor.

 

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Lawrence Oates with ponies at Terra Nova hut May 26th 1911 © H. Ponting SPRI ref: P2005/5/0459

 

Not only was the grooming brush well-worn from much use, it held a tangle of pale hairs and released a surprisingly pungent and pervasive odour of horse and manure, as if it had just been used. I commented on this to my Irish colleague, Stefanie, before our conversation turned back to our plans for St Patrick's Day celebration ... 17 March.

 

But my thoughts soon wandered to the expert horseman who was in charge of the Terra Nova expedition's ponies, a certain Captain Lawrence Oates. For Oates, 17 March, St Patrick's Day, was his birthday. And, tragically, it was also almost certainly the day he died, on his thirty-second, in Antarctica, 101 years ago. Oates is famous as the member of Scott's Polar Party who, ravaged by frostbite, scurvy, malnutrition and the effects of a war wound, self-sacrificed by walking out of the party's tent in a blizzard with the words "I'm just going outside and may be some time" in the hope it would enable the other team members—Scott, Bowers and Wilson—to survive the return journey from the Pole. Sadly it didn't … they all perished some twelve or so days later and Oates’ body was never found.

 

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Pony grooming brush from Scott's Terra Nova expedition

 

And so this 17 March, as Scott Base celebrates St Patrick's Day 2013, we also salute a true gentleman of the heroic era and a man of remarkable bravery, loyalty and gallantry … Captain Lawrence Edward Grace ('Titus') Oates (17 March 1880 – 17 March 1912).

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Author: Stefanie

Date: 6 March 2013

Temperature: -24C

Wind Speed: 30 / 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: 04:54

Sunset: 21:10

 

 

In preparation for the winter's extreme cold and darkness, we have moved the conservation laboratory from the summer container into the science preparation areas in the Hillary Field Center (HFC) which is inside Scott Base. This space, which is usually occupied by scientists carrying our research during the summer, is an ideal space for any conservation laboratory. It is very spacious and well equipped with good lighting, benches, chemical storage cupboards, sink and computer. This, in addition to our documentation and conservation equipment, materials and chemicals makes up our new work space. 

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Marie and Stefan in the recenetly installed winter lab

 

As the summer-winter lab transformation occurs every year at winter and back again at summer, all of the conservation lab equipment, materials and chemicals are stored in a very orderly fashion in labeled white crates. Therefore our move from the Antarctic Heritage Trust container to the science preparation area in the HFC was very swift.

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Stefan, Sue, Jaime and Marie working in the winter lab

 

As Sue and Marie packed and moved white crates from the summer container into the HFC, Stefan and I cleaned and prepared our new winter lab. Benches were layered with absorbent tissue and polyethylene sheets, the microscope was mounted, crates were allocated new homes under the benches, a photographic and documentation area was set up and chemicals stored in their designated chemical cupboards. And then in came the fume cabinet, which was kindly installed by the engineers. We are now set for the winter.

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Staying Alive

Posted by Conservators Mar 11, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 24 February 2013

Temperature: -5 C

Wind Speed:  5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -9 C

Sunrise: 23:51

Sunset: 04:10

 

 

Anyone spending time in Antarctica needs to learn how to live and work safely and how to survive in the harsh environment … and that includes conservators! Taking part in Antarctic Field Skills training is a basic and early part of the induction process following arrival on the ice, and the five members of the AHT Winter Team headed out overnight with the other ten people who will winter-over at Scott Base this year.

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Setting up camp below Mt Erebus

 

The field skills training involved an introduction to Antarctica New Zealand's zero-harm philosophy, applying its risk assessment process, and learning the protocols surrounding the Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs which the heroic-era huts come under). And then there was understanding how to effectively use our many layers of supplied clothing, what is found in a 'survival bag' (such as a shelter and dehydrated meals) and how to use it, polar-tent pitching (using tents of much the same design as those used by the heroic-era explorers), sleep-kit construction for different conditions, stove lighting, toileting and waste management, and communications planning and procedures. All very useful and necessary skills.

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Base engineer Dave barbequing, Antarctic style

 

We were fortunate to have spectacular weather, and for those of us who are new to this, no darkness, allowing us to find our way in and out of our tents and multi-layered sleeping kits successfully! We also picked up some useful tips from old hands on barbequing Antarctic style, keeping drinks off the freeze, and frisbee-playing in deep snow, with gloves. A fun trip!

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Polar Tents

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Sun setting, or rising

Posted by Conservators Mar 7, 2013

Author: Marie-Amande

Date: 6 March 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: Everlasting

Sunset: Everlasting

 

 

Antoine de Saint Exupery was a French pioneer aviator and writer who travelled worldwide and disappeared at sea in a plane crash in 1944. Due to the discovery of his identity bracelet ('gourmette') nearby in 1998, his aircraft has been located and excavated. The recovery and exhibition of these artefacts are not without connection to the work we are doing at Scott Base on artefacts from Antarctica's first explorers.

 

But the real connection for me is Saint Ex' famous novel The Little Prince. The Little Prince comes from a very very small planet, so small that he only needs to move his chair to see the sun set or rise.

 

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Sun setting, or rising

 

We are actually living on a similar tiny planet named Scott Base. The sun, which started setting on 20 February, is currently curving so low in the sky that it seems to be everlasting sunset or sunrise. We just have to change windows to see orange and gold colours floating around Black and White Islands in the morning, surrounding Mount Erebus' summit at lunch, lying on the Dry Valley Mountains after dinner, and finally hiding for a few minutes at midnight.

 

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Sun setting, or rising

 

Should I say that The Little Prince is about exploration and explorers, about leaving and missing home, about experience and knowledge? There are many more connections to make.  To understand why we should consider snow drifts behind the doors as baobabs, I invite you to read the novel or to attend my French class every Friday evening at Scott Base.