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Author: Stefanie White

Date: 27 May 2014

Temperature: -13

Wind speed: 20 / 18 kts

Temp with windchill: -25

Sunrise: 9.30am

Sunset: 3.38pm



The Ross Sea Party of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) is one of the most fascinating groups of explorers to stay at, and make extensive use of, Discovery Hut. Their mission was to lay depots to aid Shackleton's planned traverse of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to Ross Island via the South Pole. After laying depots, one group waited over two months at Discovery Hut for the sea ice to harden so to be able to walk back to Cape Evans and join the rest of the team. During these months the stranded men recovered from ill health and as they were also ill-equipped, improvised games and made tools out of salvaged materials.


Lamps that were made out of old food tins and fueled with seal blubber offered 'a flickering glimmer of light in the dark interior'.


Discovery Hut was an important staging post for the Ross Sea Party. Stranded inexperienced men with inadequate equipment and a determination to complete their mission were forced to improvise clothing and equipment in order to survive. Some of these artefacts are currently in the lab. 


Clothing was repaired with materials and fabrics salvaged from inside the hut.


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Jacket worn and heavily repaired by a member of the Ross Sea Party


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An Improvised snow shoe made out of a plywood supply box


Snowshoes were made out of plywood from Venesta supply boxes that, in the example above, originally contained Spratt's Special Cabin Biscuits. The resourcefulness, creativity and determination of the Ross Sea Party is seen every day in the lab as we continue to conserve artefacts from Discovery Hut.



Macro Magic Moments

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2014

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 20 May 2014

Temperature: -38.2

Wind speed: 10kts

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A



As AHT conservators we're always marvelling, ooh and aaahing at objects from Discovery Hut as they pass over our work benches. In many cases we can directly identify what we're working on as the same object shown in the historic photographs. There are many iconic objects from Discovery Hut which give the viewer a strong sense of connection to the heroic expeditions, particularly objects that are complete or in surprisingly good condition.


Such objects include cooking pots, hand-made tools and clothes, shoes and long-johns and beautiful boxes of Fry's cocoa tins. Working close-up with objects gives an altogether different experience and connection with these objects. As you document, repair or prepare surfaces at close range the finer details of the materials, use or re-use becomes apparent. The beautiful patina or severe delaminating corrosion that develops on metal that has been sitting in the Hut for over 100 years;  the stitch pattern on a home-altered mitten; or the cutting and reshaping of bits and pieces to form an object for which purpose we may never be too sure. It’s this type of detail which sparks the imagination and appreciation for beauty in the macro world. To me this is just as rewarding as seeing the objects in the broader picture. Who had a hand at this object? Who lit this burnt-out match? Whose ideas transformed the object in front of me?


On the rusted metal edging of a biscuit supply box I recently worked on I happened to notice the stamped letter 'B' in the rivets securing it to the box. No more than 3mm's it seemed like a little gem among the rust.

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'B' Rivet



I'm currently working on a Nansen cooker, a type of aluminium cooking pot system designed to work with a spirit fuelled primus stove, and whilst removing corrosion realised that the scrape marks on the side of the pot were left there by the last cook. Who was the last person to cook that day? How awful was the concoction and how hungry were they?


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Scrape the pot


Then to the small and sweet. This tiny stamped markers mark, The Gutta Percha Company London, is all but 10mm across on a sweet little bottle only 12cm high. In the age of big bold logos this is a refreshing company sign.

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The Gutta Percha Company


I'll continue to look out for more magical macro moments and keep you posted.


Celebrating Easter

Posted by Conservators May 6, 2014

Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 23/04/14

Temperature: -26 degrees

Wind speed: 11 mph

Temp with wind chill: - 38 degrees

Sunrise: 11.42am

Sunset: 2.00pm



The week before Easter in the Antarctic Heritage Trust lab, I had been working on chocolate. Not because I was excited about Easter and hoping to get the traditional magical chocolates, but because a wooden box of Fry's Cocoa tins came into the conservation lab for treatment. A large paper label remains on the side of the box, still clean and brightly coloured, an element that usually disappears because of age and weather conditions. The five tins inside were in good condition and unopened, still full of their contents.

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Box of Frys Cocoa tins (side 1)  before treatment

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Box of Frys Cocoa tins (side 2) before treatment


Captain Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition brought quite a lot of cocoa to Antarctica in 1901, as a healthy and also sweet, delicious drink. It is true that chocolate is very enjoyable, especially when you are in this climate and landscape. It seems that the explorers were consuming cocoa often, and having chocolate during Easter made me think about them, how a simple drink or meal can become a golden distraction and delicacy!

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Tins of Frys Cocoa


For Easter at Scott Base we all wrote clues for each other and Sunday was animated by people running from one side to another, hunting for their eggs. I really enjoyed this way of combining a social event with all the team down here and to remember what is happening in the "real world"! Finding our chocolate eggs at the end of the game was delightful! And it made this sweet very special.