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Top memories

Posted by Conservators Feb 27, 2014

Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 28/02/14

 

This is my first time in Antarctica, and since I have been here, each day is more surprising than the day before. After two weeks of getting to know the new lifestyle and the objectives of the paper conservation work, I went last week for an evening walk. Two friends from Scott Base working for Antarctica New Zealand came with me. We were enjoying the sun and the weather, still warm at the end of the summer (already -15 ⁰C). Walking here means being well covered especially because of the wind and the temperature, but the landscape and the silence around are very special.

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The cross at the top of Observation Hill last Friday

 

We went up Observation Hill, between Scott Base and McMurdo Station, where a cross was erected in 1913 in memory of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his party who died on their return from the South Pole the previous year. Because of the difficulty of the path to the top, and the surrounding landscape, reaching the top and arriving at the cross was a very moving experience for me … I realised the danger and the exceptional lives of these men, who came to Antarctica more than a century ago.

 

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My bench at work with artefacts in conservation treatment

 

After having spent my first week on the conservation of artefacts that represent their quotidian life in the Antarctic in Scott's Discovery Hut—their food, their tools, their clothes, etc.—and getting to the cross, I had a completely different feeling about these artefacts and realised in a very concrete manner the exceptional qualities of these men. Top view, top memories …

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The stories of an artefact

Posted by Conservators Feb 25, 2014

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 26/02/14

 

 

 

Returning to visit Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans was an incredibly rewarding experience. The sun was especially bright that day making our view from the helicopter ride from Scott Base sensational.  Upon arriving we found Adelie penguins and seals playing in the shore break. Entering the hut is a magical experience where one steps back into the time of the historic explorers.  As we walked around the hut I noticed several objects that our previous winter team (which I was part of) conserved and had been returned to their place in the hut by the recent summer team.

 

The stories associated with artefacts play a major role in their interpretation, historical significance, value and conservation treatment and upon seeing the artefacts we conserved, I felt a personal connection and a new story that I associate with those artefacts. I was reminded of all the conversations, the deliberations, the analyses and the treatments that we carried out last year. I remember the excitement in the lab, when Stefan conserved Clissold's cooking pot, which now takes prime place in the kitchen area of the hut.

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Clissold's pot, conserved by Stefan, returns to its central position in the kitchen area of the hut

 

The Finnesko boots, which I spent so many hours reshaping and rediscovering now hang at the Hut's entrance.

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Finnesko boots hang beside the entrance to the hut

 

Not only did Marie conserve an enamel dish uncovering the residue of caramelized sugar on its edges, but also convinced our chef to recreate a Scott style rhubarb pie in a similar dish at Scott Base, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. That enamel dish now sits on the wardroom table in the officer's area in the hut.

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The conserved enamel dish on the wardroom table in the officers area of the hut

 

I look forward to the stories that I may associate to the artefacts I conserve this year!

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The great outdoors

Posted by Conservators Feb 20, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 21/02/14

 

 

With environmental awareness, survival skills and effective team processes topping the agenda, the incoming AHT winter team got stuck straight into Antarctic Field Skills training following our arrival on the ice last week. This included a couple of days out on the ice shelf (in spectacular weather, thankfully), forming teams to carry out a variety of tasks and learning or refreshing some vital skills.

 

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Getting started and discussing the design

 

After selecting appropriate layers of clothing for the minus 12-degree temperature, preparing our individual sleep kits and pitching our polar tents, we set about designing and building our kitchen in which to shelter from the breeze, light our stoves and boil water to prepare our dehydrated dinners-in-a-bag. Using saws and shovels to cut and lift ice blocks, we simultaneously created a pit and constructed walls, not forgetting some seating and a bench for cooking. Being somewhat easier than it sounds, before long our far-from-perfect but nonetheless perfectly adequate little ice-kitchen took shape.

 

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Looking good - the team relaxes in the ice-kitchen

 

In we piled, and some reasonable curries and pasta dishes (and considerably better camaraderie) were enjoyed late into the bright sunlit night.

 

Good training … good fun!

 

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N-ice work!

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Change of shift

Posted by Conservators Feb 11, 2014

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 11/02/13

 

 

What an exciting week it's been for AHT on the ice! A shift change has brought four fresh conservators to Scott Base for the winter-over season and a much anticipated home-coming for the summer conservators and carpenters. For a short time we’ve been a group of nine AHT staff at Scott Base.

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Sue, Sefanie, Aline and Meg after fuel refill, Invercargill

 

The 2014 winter-over team consists of Lead Conservator Sue Bassett (AUS), Stefanie White (IRE), Aline Leclercq (FRA) and Meg Absolon (AUS). Following a whirlwind of introductions, inductions and field skills training we're all excited and ready to unpack artefacts from Scott's Discovery Hut for conservation treatment. And just to top off a fabulous first week in Antarctica, a pod of Orcas swam past the dining room at dinner time. Thanks for the welcome!

 

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Aline, Stefanie, Meg and Sue just landed

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Mercury in a vacuum

Posted by Conservators Feb 4, 2014

Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 05/02/14

Temperature: -2C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February 2014

 


This summer I spent several days conserving the Fleuss vacuum pump found on the bench in the science corner of the Cape Evans hut. This is a hand powered single cylinder vacuum pump made of cast iron and cast brass.
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Fleuss vacuum pump before treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener


The pump would most likely have been used for drawing a vacuum in a bell jar in order to run chemical experiments at 0 pressure, or to draw chemicals through a filter system for experiments. It was made by the Pulsometer Engineering Co. of Reading, England, from a design patented by Henri Fleuss who was famous for inventing self contained diving apparatus in the late 19th century. He called this model the Geryk after the German scientist who invented the general style of vacuum pump in the 17th century.
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Makers plate © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 


The pump was heavily corroded, having been exposed to over a century of high humidity and regular freeze/thaw cycles. Most of the ironwork had been painted black at one time and part of the vacuum bulb and the pump cylinder had been painted red, however, only flaking traces of the paint remained.
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Fleuss vacuum pump after treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 

Remnants of mercury in the bottom of the bulb and the valve chamber of the pump has resulted in chemical degradation amalgamation leaving some of the metal porous and crumbly. We are unsure of the purpose of the mercury, and would be interested in any knowledge our readers can give us as to its purpose within the pump.


One unfortunate side effect of contact with mercury is that the solder and brass of the vacuum bulb has become very fragile and has cracked around the base.
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Cracked bulb © AHT/Josiah Wagener


To conserve the item, the rust was reduced with hand tools and abrasive pads then the remaining rust was converted with a tannic acid solution. The resulting dark surface was coated first with acrylic lacquer and then with microcrystalline wax. A brass rod splint was fashioned to hold the cracked bulb in place.


The treated pump will resume its place on the end of the science bench, now stable and protected for many more years.
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Fleuss vacuum pump on workbench © AHT/Josiah Wagener