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One man and his pan

Posted by Conservators Jun 28, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 12 June 2016

Temperature: - 31C

Wind speed: 5 kts

Temp with wind chill: -40C



Above is the obituary of one Thomas C. Clissold, taken from The Polar Record.  Having worked as a Chef for many years it always amuses me when if I happen to mention Clissold's name, my work space neighbor (Jaime) retorts, "Oh! Mr Grumpy ". Although Clissold can seem very stern of expression in Ponting's photographs, if you have worked in catering it's very easy to understand why the rigours of life might give you a furrowed brow.


Our Chef, Damian is a joy to have on base.  He's a true talent and manages to maintain a very laidback and jolly disposition.  But as the long Antarctic winter marches on you can see why someone like Clissold would have been in a unique position. Whilst many of the men would be finding differences in behavior and working practices endlessly grating and annoying, it’s an entirely different prospect to cook a hot dinner for someone you might not like day in, day out.


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Cooking pot before treatment


Food and its quality determines so much of what happens with morale on base, and in reading how miserable a poor cook made life on the Discovery expedition, you can see how much of an impact Clissold's service was to a happy life in the Cape Evans hut.

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Cooking pot after treatment


I've recently been lucky enough to work on one of the cooking pots, (famously featured in a Ponting photograph), with Clissold at the stove………….looking grumpy.


Author: Marie

Date: 17 June 2013

Temperature: -24

Wind speed: 15

Temp with wind chill: -32

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


You probably know that Scott's choice of ponies and motor sledges against dog-hauling contributed to his terrible fate. We have already mentioned the ponies, and now for the motors:

Back in France, a few kilometres from my home town, there is a mountain pass quite famous for having dodgy conditions in winter. On this specific pass, in 1908 French Antarctic explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Robert Falcon Scott, not convinced by dog-hauling sledges, conducted the first motor sledges test.   Two French companies worked together to produce the sledges they were willing to offer to both expeditions.


Charcot tried a 200kg motor sledge, which was really successful. The next day, Scott tried a 750kg sledge.  The weight appeared to be a major problem as the sledge sunk in the snow, stopping the chain rotation and so the motor.  But the load capacity (several tons against 400 pounds for a pony, 200 for a man and 100 per dog) was such an advantage that both explorers decided to carry the machine to the ice.


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Capt. Scott at the Lautaret Pass, in front of Glaciers' Hotel


In 1909, Charcot shipped his motor sledges to Antarctica on his boat the Pourquoi Pas? considering them as an experiment for future expeditions and relying on man-hauling for the party.


The weight of Scott’s sledges was a predominant problem again as the party unloaded the cargo at Cape Evans in 1911. Being too heavy, one of them broke the ice and got lost in the sea.  The party had already decided on restrained use of the motor when engine complications started…


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An unidentified component with a broken pipe....


I started working on a potential 'car part' or 'engine part' last week. They are still unidentified, but as Stefanie and I are just starting classes with our dear mechanic Lex, we hope to solve the mystery.


Bowers' Annex

Posted by Conservators Jun 17, 2013

Author: Jamie Ward

Date: 12/06/2013

Temperature: -27.7 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 22 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -45 degrees celcius

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


For the members of Scott's Terra Nova expedition, the hut at Cape Evans provided a warm, secure shelter. But the fact that it had to also accommodate all their food and equipment, whilst at the same time maintaining a useable living space, meant that space was always at a premium.


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Beginning the excavation of the south wall of the Terra Nova hut


Luckily, both wooden food boxes and to a lesser extent the horses' fodder bales, provided a ready supply of regular building blocks from which extensions to the hut could be created. With the addition of roofs made from surplus timbers, the remains of packing crates, and a final covering of roofing felt and canvas, stables were fabricated and Bowers' Annex was built against the southern wall of the hut to store much of the expedition food. At around 25kg each, neatly stacked Colman's flour boxes, produced excellent external walls, strong and heavy enough to resist the worst of the Antarctic weather.


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The remains of Bower's Annex


A few years ago, the remnants of the Annex were excavated from solid ice, beneath a deep snow drift and the remaining badly deteriorated boxes were carefully removed to Scott Base for conservation. After over three months' work, this task is now complete and a total of 79 boxes, most still with their original contents, will return home to Cape Evans this coming summer. 


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Conserved Colmans flour boxes - JW. New timber weathers to silvery grey over a few years.



Author: Marie

Date: 09/05/2013

Temperature: -25 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -30 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a


Light is life, and so is poetry. I had this very simple thought slowly building up in my mind throughout this week.


We walk out of the night on Sundays. A few weeks ago, we were walking to see, between two nights, an inch of blue sky, we were looking at appearing light from under an ice roof; Now, we walk again, just to stare at the white hidden into the complete darkness.


An inch of blue sky, a glance into a Velasquez book by the fireplace, poems on Auroras that Jaime translated, the Aurora I saw last night, and then this morning a question: what I am going to write on? What's really meaningful here? All these precious moment merged into evidence. We're living here, as anywhere, out of light and words. There are just different lights and different words.



Blue light through the ice


Our flashes of light are made of moon rays on the ice shelf, our city's lamps are hanging from the stars in faded green auroral curtains and the sunray touching one's hand has been swapped for an electric sparkle.



Enlighten cities of ice


From all over the world, we're here sharing our songs and our slangs, we remember Italian and Greek, comment on English Latin roots and on Verlaine's lover.

Here we live and that's how we stand.


Author: Stefanie

Date: 29/05/2013

Temperature: -27 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10/13 kts

Temp with wind chill: -55 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a



The environment in Antarctica is extremely dry. It is an average of 18% Relative Humidity in the lab at Scott Base and while the development of corrosion on metal artefacts is inhibited, the dry humidity is not so kind to organic materials. Great effort is made to prevent paper artefacts from curling during their treatments and to introduce a degree of humidity to aid the treatment of organic objects. A humidity chamber is normally constructed for this purpose:



Humidity chamber constructed by Stefan and Jam for the treatment of leather harnesses.


We also suffer the consequences of the dry environment and continuously strive to remain hydrated by drinking copious amounts of water. Our water bottles have become permanent accessories. Moisturisers and silicon barrier creams are found distributed throughout Scott Base to help combat flaking skin and cracking fingers. Some people apply sticky tape around their fingers to prevent their skin from completely splitting, some apply eye-drops daily and everyone is seen applying lip balm regularly. And so, one very memorable Sunday, we constructed our own humidity chamber. Rain was made by spraying a room down with pressure water and for a few glorious hours we basked in rain, puddles and high humidity… 


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Humidity Chamber constructed by Mike for the treatment of Scott Base staff.


A Stitch in Time

Posted by Conservators Jun 6, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 29/05/2013

Temperature: -27 degrees C

Windspeed: 10kts

Temp with wind chill: -39 degrees C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


It's been a particular pleasure this season to see some iconic pieces of the expeditioner's clothing pass through the conservation lab at Scott Base. It was noticeable last season that many of the gents clothing companies who had originally supplied the Terra Nova crew, were dedicating there AW2012 season to the heroic age. And a 100yrs of their own heritage.


Although companies such as Wolsey, Burberry, and Jaeger ran with collections that were heavily themed with clothes of the expeditions, one designer took it a step further and produced a limited edition range which celebrated individual garments attributed to shore party members. i.e. P O Evans's Jacket, and Charles Wright's Balaclava etc.



Nigel Cabourn's 'Henry Bowers Deck Jacket' Credit: Nigel Cabourn


Nigel Cabourn (the designer wrote this about his work) "As a designer whose collections are inspired by history and real vintage clothing, my visit to the Polar Institute inspired me to base my AW12 collection on Scott and his team as a dedication to their fantastic feat. The wealth of information I found at the Institute spurred on my inspiration to create 12 individual garments that represent the achievements of Scott and his team on their last expedition"



Nigel Cabourn's 'P.O. Evans Expedition Smok' Credit: Nigel Cabourn


Additonal item photos available here:


The collection is a very beautiful tribute to the men, and even though single garments run into the thousands of pounds, I think I may be treating myself to a winter coat when I return home if there are any still available. Happy shopping.


Hip Hip Hooray

Posted by Conservators Jun 5, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 4 June 2013

Temperature: -25 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -38 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a


It's natural that when a small group of people live together in close quarters in a harsh environment and a remote location such as Antarctica, a strong camaraderie develops and a bit of a deal is made when there's something to celebrate … and of course birthdays are one of those things.

This week marks the anniversary of Captain Scott's birthday – he celebrated his 43rd, and what was to be his last, birthday at Terra Nova hut on 6 June 1911. He wrote: 'It is my birthday, a fact I might easily have forgotten, but my kind people did not … an immense birthday cake made its appearance and we were photographed assembled about it. Clissold had decorated its sugared top with various devices in chocolate and crystallised fruit, flags and photographs of myself'. Scott goes on to describe how, later, they all sat down to a sumptuous spread of: 'Clissold's especially excellent seal soup, roast mutton and red currant jelly, fruit salad, asparagus and chocolate—such was our menu'. 


Click here to see a picture of Scott's birthday celebration 


Here at Scott Base, Becky our winter base leader, recently celebrated her birthday and asked for something a little more low key, forgoing the seal (!!) in favour of some simple fish 'n' chips out of newspaper in the bar with a screening of the Australian movie The Castle. Damian our cook topped it off with a totally OTT igloo-shaped dark-chocolate rum cake covered with white-chocolate drops, and filled with layer upon layer of chocolate cream ... a creation of which I'm sure Clissold would have approved!


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Birthday celebrations at Scott Base