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Hidden gems

Posted by Conservators Jul 30, 2013

Author: Jaime

Date: 30 July 2013

Temperature: -31

Wind speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -49

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Having completed the restoration of the solid timber boxes from Bowers Annex, our attention is now focused on the fifty odd Venesta (VENeer from ESTtoniA) boxes, most of which were recovered from the same area.

 

These boxes formed part of a makeshift wall at the back of Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, but whereas the timber boxes were fairly sturdy, containing metal liners, densely packed with Colmans flour tins, the Venesta boxes are far more delicate objects, fabricated from 4mm plywood panels, riveted to each other through a light, steel, angled edging and filled with a huge variety of tinned and bottled food.

Unopened but full Venesta case LR.jpg

Unopened but full Venesta case

 

One hundred years of weather and corrosion have reduced the metal edging and canned contents to crumbling rust and the boxes to a mass of delaminated plies. It is only because they were excavated from densely packed snow and ice that both the panels and contents of some of the Venesta boxes have at least remained together.

 

Luckily though, the odd Venesta box fared better, opened but forgotten in a quiet corner of the hut and crucially, remaining relatively dry, and  undisturbed until this week. Within, nestled in straw, perfectly preserved bottles, wrapped in delicate tissue paper, as immaculate as the day they were packed. 

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100 year old Venesta contents

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Author: Sue

Date: 25 July 2013

 

 

Our work on the unconsumed food stores from Captain Scott's hut at Cape Evans is keeping us busy indeed. As case-after-case of food is opened, assessed, documented and stabilised (before being repacked into its restored wooden case), we are greeted with a constant stream of surprises and delights ... oh, and some unpleasantries too as we deal with leaking tins of 100-year-old meat, fish, and dairy products. Can you imagine what a tin of cod roe, turtle soup or anchovy sauce looks and smells like 100 years on? Best you don't.  

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Sue with margarine tins before treatment

 

One particular case piqued my interest this week—a case containing six large tins decorated with a gridded star-and-dot pattern, and the word 'MARGARINE' printed very boldly on each top, bottom and side. Margarine had been patented 40 years earlier by a French chemist and was, at that time, made predominantly of animal fat. The six tins were packed in sawdust in a plywood case on which the stencilled letters 'LYT …' were still legible, suggesting they had been taken on board Scott's ship, 'Terra Nova', in the NZ port of Lyttelton.  Captain Scott's journal more-or-less confirmed this with his mention that, while in Lyttelton in 1910 making their final preparations for the voyage south, "the various gifts and purchases made in New Zealand were collected—butter, cheese, bacon, hams, some preserved meats, tongues".

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Margarine tins before treatment

 

Curious as to why there was no maker's name on the tins, I did a bit of internet research to see who was making margarine in New Zealand at that time in the hope of identifying the brand. And what many internet sites (including the NZ Government's Te Ara site) led me to believe was that it was no-one. I found quite a number of references stating that production of margarine was illegal in New Zealand between 1908 and the '70s or '80s. Hmmm … Scott, 1910 … bootleg margarine? Must look into this a little further …

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Margarine tin after treatment

 

Find out more in Part 2 of the blog, following in the coming weeks.

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Being and Time

Posted by Conservators Jul 21, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Temperature: -25.6

Wind speed: 21 knots

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

I came to the Antarctic with a list of personal projects to achieve during my 8 month winter-over on the ice.  I imagined time passing very slowly over the dark winter months with seldom to do every evening. Consequently, I assumed it would allow one to accomplish several goals and I would finally finish Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and Heidegger's Being & Time, play the piano every day, learn another language and carve a chess set.

 

After 6 months of wintering over, I can now safely say that time passes very quickly and we always have so much to do. Having incorporated some of our personal objectives into everyday life, our evenings are always very busy. On Monday evenings, Marie and I attend a car mechanics class delivered by the base mechanic, Lex.  On Tuesday's, Jam and I have French class taught by Marie. Wednesday's have recently been nominated an evening to go climbing and the rest of the week's evenings are dedicated to the gym, social events, and the opportunities to learn unique skills like, for example, surgical suture.

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Dr. Fay from McMurdo Station teaches Marie and me how to stitch a cut would. Credit Becky Goodsell

 

Under the guidance and instruction of Dr. Fay from McMurdo Station, and armed with curved surgical needles, scalpels, forceps, syringes and pig skin, we set about learning sutures, stitching techniques and suturing a wound infield.

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Author: Marie

Date: 9 July 2013

Temperature: -42

Wind speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -52

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Health and safety are a priority down here, and it's for very good reason. As we are isolated from the rest of the word, we need to evaluate every situation and control any risk. Rescuing a party is a dangerous expedition in itself, and the Search And Rescue (SAR) team is constantly training.

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Nice weather for a day out

 

Hence, when a friend and I went skiing the Castle Rock Loop last Sunday, we had two radios with extra batteries, two head torches with spare batteries, a shovel, a medical kit, a GPS, extreme weather clothes, hand-warmers, food, pee bottles … when it was a three-hour journey on a flagged route, and a warm -25 degrees with wind chill.

 

But then it got windy when we were half way, and the forecast became uncertain. The situation was re-assessed and it was decided that we had better not pursue our journey. Happily we were just having tea in one of the shelters on the road and we just had to stay there and wait for a ride back. We spent time eating frozen candy and trying to play soccer (yes, in an artificial igloo!) to stay warm. Scott Base's Mike and Molly played the 'orange boys' and arrived with crisps and drinks in a Hagglund 40 minutes later… and so we just went back to base.

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The USAP emergency shelter 'Apple 2'

 

But at least, we can now start a story with "I was stuck in this igloo by blowing winds, when all of a sudden …" which can look very nice on Facebook … until one's mum sees it (and then the real trouble starts).

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Space

Posted by Conservators Jul 11, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -22 degrees

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -29 degrees

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

There are many outstanding things about living for a while in Antarctica. One of them is certainly meeting some of the other people who do the same, and learning about their roles here. We, with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, are fortunate to be involved in some of the more unusual winter work—and work that changes constantly—so there's always a lot of interest and fascination from others in what we do. We regularly have visits and/or enquiries from those at Scott Base and neighbouring US McMurdo Station who are curious to know 'what artefacts are in the lab today?' And they're never disappointed.

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The AHT team heads to the dome above McMurdo Station © AHT/Sue

 

A recent highlight for the AHT team was to be taken on a tour of the NASA facility at McMurdo by the two NASA engineers who are wintering-over there, and who have become our friends through our regular social inter-base darts evenings.

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The dish antenna inside the dome © AHT/Sue

 

The tour involved an overview of NASA's ongoing data collection programme from the many international polar-orbiting satellites that pass overhead … on average once an hour, and collecting such data as ocean salinity and temperature measurements. This was followed by a visit to the hilltop dome housing NASA's dish antenna. There, in minus 30-something degrees, we watched in awe as the 10m dish leapt with surprising agility to its task and tracked a satellite from horizon to horizon. Fascinating stuff, and beaut to see!

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Mid -Winter

Posted by Conservators Jul 10, 2013

Author: Jaime Ward

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -19.9

Wind Speed: 0

Temp with Wind Chill: -19/9

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Recently we celebrated mid- winter in true Antarctic fashion, with an elaborate dinner at Scott Base, for the fifteen of us and 25 invited American guests. The following evening was Mc Murdo's turn which, given their number of winter staff, was a much larger event to which we were all invited.

 

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Scott Base Mid-Winter dinner - Tim Delaney

 

This tradition of celebration goes back to the early expeditions, for whom the passing of midwinter must have been hugely significant, allowing them to look forward to the gradual return of the sun and a chance to get away from the cramped confines of their winter quarters.

 

http://http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.447/ Click here to see a photograph of Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut, June 22nd 1911.

 

Mid –winter has also given us all a reminder of that we on Ross Island are just one small part of an extensive international community of Antarctic winter residents at bases both on the continent and on the sub-Antarctic islands. A new tradition is emerging with each of the bases e-mailing their mid-winter greetings (and usually a group photo) to each of the others. We received about thirty and they now cover the dining room wall, a great reminder that in spite of all this apparent emptiness, we do still have neighbours.    

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Flexing our Lenses

Posted by Conservators Jul 4, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 2 July 2013

Temperature: -26C

Wind speed: 10 knotos

Temp with wind chill: -37C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Some of my favorite accounts of life at Cape Evans is how grateful and respectfully the men talk about their shared lecture series. You get a sense they are thriving of each others knowledge and love to learn from one another. I find it very saddening these days that immediacy and access to information on anything make many iPhone professors with a few finger swishes and the desire to listen, debate, and share in person is eroding rapidy.

 

http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.543/

Herbert Ponting lecturing on Japan.  October 16th 1911

 

The link attached is to a wonderful image of Ponting giving a talk about his time in Japan. He has brilliantly bleached in the glow of the projector and added in the image of the Geisha. I can't help, in looking at the photo to think how wonderful it would be to be back in a time where such mystery and intrigue still lay uncharted by most and learning was rich with personal accounts and captured audiences.

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Aurora show, on Scott's birthday.  © AHT/Stefan

 

Everyone on base is trying to do their best to keep 'Ponko's' art of photography alive, and we’re all happily learning from each other, not Wiki-searches!.