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Antarctic conservation

217 Posts authored by: Conservators
1

Author: Stefan
Date: 22- Feb- 2012
Temperature: -10.6
Wind Speed: 10kts
Temp with wind chill: -22
Sunrise: 3:26am
Sunset 12:50am


The handover and transition between summer and winter conservation teams allows us a brilliant opportunity to have a bit of banter, share interesting and humorous stories and occasionally something fascinating about the huts. All these little signs of human activity left by the explorers leads to some lingering conundrums of what exactly happened 100 years ago.

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Snow meter at Cape Royds © AHT/Stefan

 

Although he worked relentlessly, Gordon (Lead Timber Conservator) shared with me that he had a little time with the summer team to investigate the suspicious holes in the snow meter outside Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. After some high tech stick insertions (eat your heart out CSI) through entry and exit points, Gordon was set on the conclusion that someone had been shooting at the meter from the hut door, and also from the shoreline. Dear readers in the distant world, any thoughts on why?

 

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Historic image of Shackletons Hut with snow meter visible Circa 1908 Photographer unknown © Alexander Turnbull Library

1

Night At Cape Royds

Posted by Conservators Feb 23, 2012

Author: Susanne
Date: February 15, 2012
Temperature: -8 °C
Wind Speed: 32 km/h
Temp with wind chill: -17°C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


One of the most adventurous things we get to do in Antarctica is to take a helicopter ride to visit the historic expedition bases at Cape Evans and Cape Royds. After several safety briefings, we suit up in our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear and head to the helicopter pad. This can be an intense experience with a loud, heart thumping rotor beating overhead, but the flight crew and Scott Base staff move us safely on board and on our way, enjoying the fantastic scenery that Antarctica has to offer.


After unloading our gear and survival bags at Cape Royds, the helicopter was quickly off to see to another science team. We had a few hours to enjoy the base and appreciate the daily life that Shackleton and his men endured before packing up to meet the helicopter at our scheduled time.  In the meantime the weather had changed.

 

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Setting up camp near the survival wannigan in a Condition 2 storm © AHT/Georgina


After several hours of waiting and regular radio contact with Scott Base, the weather was continuing to worsen to a Condition 2 category with low visibility and high winds. We quickly realised we would be staying the night at Cape Royds. All eight of us snuggly fit into a survival wannigan nearby which provided some sense of relief and a respite from the cold. The survival bags had enough food for three days and tents to provide shelter for the night. Our time was spent as I imagined in a similar to the early explorers by telling stories and playing games with the limited items in the survival wannigan. The following day, the weather continued to change dramatically between beautiful open skies and reduced visibility. Our only chance was to find a window of opportunity for the helicopter to safely travel between Scott Base and Cape Royds. That window came just as we were breaking into lunch and that feeling of hearing the chopper blades in the distance was indescribable.

 

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Relaxing in the living room area © AHT/Georgina

 

This experience was a true testament to how unpredictable the weather can be. Safety precautions, serious training, and regular scenarios are a reminder that we do live in an extreme environment. We were thankful to have the necessary items we needed such as a primus stove, food, and shelter, and I was that much more humbled by the experiences that the men from Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition men endured for several years in the spirit of exploration and science.

2

Author: Stefan Strittmatter
Date: 06/02/2012
Temperature: -11C
Wind Speed: 9kn
Temp with wind chill: -19C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


Life in Antarctica is a very human endeavor. For Captain Scott and the men of the 1910-13 expedition, and (to a much more flimsy degree) we four conservators, food (and its preparation) becomes of upmost importance very quickly.


Scott and his team were well placed at both Cape Evans and Discovery Hut to take advantage of the abundance of Weddell seals and their blubbery bounty. Al Fastier and his summer team of conservators have done a wonderful job of conserving an epic slab of this oozing mass of fat, (still present in the Cape Evans hut stables). Indeed a slight lean of the trough means there’s a filtered cup of oil slumped to the edge, making it effortless to visualize a frost bitten face swinging round the corner to scoop up and replenish a gasping stove.

 

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Seal blubber trough outside Cape Evans Stables © AHT/Stefan


Nowhere near as hardy, Susanne, Gretel, George and I were happy to ditch the heroic approach, and cook with soot free faces on the nifty ‘Primus’ stoves,  Scott Base has kindly supplied us with for AFT (Antarctic Field Training). A bit of a fiddle at first, but once the white gas starts to roar and the first brew is at the boil, you can’t help but feel a certain bond and romance, about the hardship and fun this wonderful place can offer.

 

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Cooking during winter AFT (Antarctic Field Training) © AHT/Stefan

1

Arrival

Posted by Conservators Feb 13, 2012

Author: Georgina
Date: 26/02/12
Temperature: -4.8c
Wind Speed: 8 kn
Temp with wind chill: -13c
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A

 

So here we are in Antarctica at last!


Gretel, Stefan and I have come from the UK, while Susanne our lead conservator hails from the USA.  We shall be here at New Zealand’s Scott Base in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica for the next 7 months during the Austral winter, and shall be conserving artefacts that have been temporarily transported here for the season from Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  It has been a long road getting here for all of us, with the last few months being taken up with medical exams, psychometric testing, packing and general preparations, as well as saying goodbye to friends and family back home.

 

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Waiting to depart at Christchurch Airport. L-R: Jeff (winter mechanic), Susanne, Gretel, Stefan, George

 

Both Susanne and I are returnees, having worked on the programme before, but for Stefan and Gretel it is their first time in the big white South!


I  was last here in 2010 and am very much looking forward to experiencing a second winter.  Every season is unique according to group dynamics and personalities on base, not to mention the artefacts themselves posing new conservation challenges.


I had initially felt a little nervous about meeting my immediate AHT colleagues and wider Scot base family (a small team of 14 people in total), given that we will be living and working together so closely for so long… but things are looking good so far, so watch this space.

 

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AHT winter team arrive on the ice! C 17

0

Author:      John
Date:        January 2012

 

My time spent working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust team at Ross Island Antarctica on the conservation of Shackleton’s Hut and Scott’s Hut at Cape Royds and Cape Evans respectively is drawing to an end.  I am 21 and from New Zealand on a programme called the Sir Peter Blake Trust Youth Antarctic Ambassador. We were at Cape Royds for 3 weeks in November and spent the remainder of the Antarctic summer at Cape Evans. We are the New Zealand Antarctic Programme’s  longest running field camp, spanning from the beginning of November to the end of January.


Antarctica is well known as being the coldest, windiest and driest place on earth. Each of these factors makes living in Antarctica challenging and demanding but when the correct procedures and equipment are used it is generally a pleasant and workable environment.


Keeping warm is obviously key. Antarctica New Zealand provides all the clothing which is similar to what would be worn on a ski field.  Thermal under layers, microfleece and wool then a wind stopper outer. At the beginning of the season it was down to minus 20 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, all exposed skin must be covered. A balaclava and goggles are worn.


Wind is the Antarctic killer as this creates additional cold or wind-chill which draws substantially more heat from the body. In mid December, the temperature rarely got to -10 degrees Celsius  and was often above zero. With no wind, it seems as though it is much warmer than it actually is. Activity level has a great deal to do with warmth and hence keeping cool is an issue when many clothes are worn during high activity levels and are shed – sweat becomes very cold when activity level reduces. So managing clothing is a learning curve.

 

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At work © AHT

 

We sleep in traditional Scott Polar tents. They are a proven design and can survive winds over 120 km/h when sufficiently guy roped. The sleeping bags are very warm, a down sleeping bag within another and a cotton sheet inner and outer. Normally this is too warm so one bag acts as a duvet. Liquid human waste is excreted in a tide crack (sea ice cracks due to the tide next to the land). When in the tent, we pee in a plastic “pee” bottle. Solid human waste is collected in a bucket and transported to be incinerated in New Zealand. The 24 hour day light takes a bit to get used to. The only time cue is the position of the sun or watch. The tent is always bright orange.

 

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Home on the Ice  © AHT

 

The environment is not dirty although there can be dust. We have no shower in the field but typically once a week I would have a flannel wash. This is more effective than you might think and uses minimal water.  Luckily we were able to go back to Scott Base for a shower mid trip.  A week per clothing set is standard during normal work. Socks are hung to air for a couple of days before being reused. Every few weeks, clothing is washed in a bucket. This level of cleanliness would be generally unacceptable elsewhere but we maintain a healthy level of cleanliness.  It is an almost sterile environment and very dry. We have no animal contact, dirt/mud or warmth so the dirtiness and bacteria encountered with camping or tramping at home is not an issue here.


Due to the creativeness of the team, we eat well. The food is dehydrated and frozen with an occasional supply of fresh food called “freshies”. We are near a penguin colony so we do not eat poultry as this could introduce disease. Because of the cold and high energy requirements, we eat substantial amounts of salami, cheese and chocolate. Fresh bread is cooked daily and the occasional cake.


Social interaction is key to healthy wellbeing. We have a lot of fun together with varied intellectual and humored conversation. Being busy working means our minds are always occupied. Sunday afternoons are a rest time which is stimulating and we would generally sit and watch a movie together. We have little opportunity to interact with family and friends at home. Calls can be made on the satellite phone although this is very expensive and difficult to fully engage in conversation with such short calls. We have daily radio communication with Scott Base Com’s to catch up on the news and pass on any messages.  I always remind myself that no news is good news. It is harder for the members of the team who have close family and are not used to this level of isolation. Personally I have enjoyed  the opportunity to be isolated from the high levels of social stimulus in my normal life. We concentrate and thrive on the fundamentals; personal social interaction, good food, shelter and warmth.

3

Captain Scott's only Grandson - Falcon Scott visits Antarctica, January 2012


Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s only grandson, Falcon Scott, is helping to conserve his grandfather’s most famous Antarctic base this Antarctic summer season as part of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust’s team of conservation specialists. Falcon took time out to answer a few questions about his experiences and the achievements of his famous grandfather.

 

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How does it feel to be visiting Antarctica on the centenary of your grandfather’s expedition?


It is really amazing to be here in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica where my Grandfather set up the bases for his two expeditions to explore the coast and interior of Antarctica. It’s especially good to be here at the 100th anniversary of his successful attainment of the South Pole for Britain.


Part of your work in Antarctica is helping to conserve the expedition Hut for the Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand). What were your impressions on first entering the Hut, and how did it feel to be in the place they lived and worked?


The work to conserve the Terra Nova Expedition Hut at Cape Evans is in full swing. There are currently seven Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand) staff living at the site in a camp, and working on the building. This year, the work is concentrated on the interior of the hut  -  the furniture, bunks and  shelves etc.  As a late arrival to the camp, after spending Christmas with my family, the guys were already on site working but had very kindly re-assembled the interior of the hut in an orderly state for me to see on arrival.


When I first went into the Hut, I found it to be a very moving experience.  On entering the main interior room, the wardroom table stretched ahead of me, with the chairs on each side standing empty, but in the same position as in the famous photograph of the midwinter dinner and my Grandfathers birthday dinner.  It felt like there was still a presence of my Grandfather and the men sitting round the table, like his spirit was there.   Around the corner to the left is the area where my Grandfather had his den, a partition wall on two sides enclosing his bunk, some shelves, and the desk where he planned the southern journey to the Pole. Wilson and Evans slept opposite, a few feet away. I spent an hour on my own in the Hut, just soaking up the atmosphere, it was magical, and personally a very emotional experience.


Given your background as a carpenter, what kinds of practical things will you be doing to help out?

 

My work in helping the team this year involves lining the latrines hut against the ingress of storm driven ice and snow (which can get through tiny holes and gaps in the building), using canvas and bitumen felt, and replacing the original felt lining using photography to re-position every detail authentically including the orientation of every nail. I will also be helping to preserve some of the sea ice sledges and working on furniture items in the hut.


Can you get a sense of how it must have felt like for Scott and his men exploring this vast unknown territory? 


When the Terra Nova arrived through the storm swept seas of the Southern Ocean, through the pack ice, and finally penetrated the seasonal continental ice sheet to reach a point suitable for access to the Ice Shelf and the interior, they were 2,500 miles from the nearest human habitation, with no contact to the outside world  -  no radios, or satellites, no helicopters, or planes to drop extra supplies. Their survival for a full year, including the extreme weather of an Antarctic winter rested on the stores they had planned for, and loaded on to the ship. In addition, they had all the equipment for the most ambitious and comprehensive scientific programme ever undertaken by an expedition ship.


The tragic fate of the polar party told in your grandfather’s last diary remains one of most famous stories of the last century. What did it mean to you when you were growing up?


As a child I didn’t hear very much about my famous Grandfather. I remember my mother reading to me the Ladybird book about the expedition, and my sister had told me that he was famous when I was about three years old. But my Father was not really very interested and very much pursued his life as a painter, naturalist, and conservationist.


Your father Peter Scott was a conservationist, heeding to his father’s advice to be interested in natural history, rather than games.  How important do you feel natural history and sciences were to Scott?

 

I think my Grandfather was influenced by his friend Edward Wilson who was a distinguished zoologist, and having worked on the development of torpedoes in the Navy, was well into research and science. He became more and more interested in natural history as time went on.

                                                                         
Your grandfather’s expedition brought back over 40,000 scientific specimens from Antarctica, which now reside in the Natural History Museum’s collections. Do you do you feel this scientific legacy might have been overshadowed by the story of their deaths?


I am sure there have been periods when the very considerable scientific achievements of my Grandfather’s expeditions have been forgotten and writers have concentrated too much on the polar journey and the deaths of the five men on the return.  This, of course, is significantly due to the recovery of his diary in the following spring by the search party, and to the exceptional writing ability of my Grandfather with the contents of that diary.  The fact is, they were unlucky; they had warm weather at the outset, making the conditions difficult for the ponies, exceptionally cold weather on the ice shelf on their return (a one in 40 year cold period), unexpected evaporation of fuel supplies caused by faulty seals at the supply depots, and a diet that did not replace lost calories fast enough. These things all put together sealed their fate.


Finally, Robert Falcon Scott’s image has been through many manifestations throughout the last century.  How would you like him to be remembered?


I would like him to be remembered as masterminding one of the greatest expeditions to have left European shores, and to have added significantly to the culture of expanding the knowledge of mankind, and for his example of thinking through a wide programme of study and his determination and endurance in the face of adversity to carry on the work to the highest standards.  And for this to be inspirational to future generations.

 

Watch a video about Falcon Scott's visit to the Terra Nova Expedition Hut at Cape Evans

0

Author: Jaime at Cape Evans
Date: 18 December 2011
Sunrise: NA
Sunset: NA

 

For both the artefact and building conservators working at Cape Evans, Herbert Ponting’s historic images are  one of the most valuable sources of information we have as to how Scott’s Terra Nova hut was built and used. The incredible quality of those original photographs and the ability to store them digitally, gives us a wonderful on-site resource for the task of restoring the fabric of the hut.

 

Unfortunately for us though, Ponting not did not set out to produce a precise record of the whole hut, its occupants and its environs, but that only makes the job of searching out information even more interesting, as the details we are looking for are usually incidental fragments of a far larger image. This has been the case in recent days for the reinstallation of the stove flue system and the acetylene lighting pipes, all of which hang up in the open roof space of the hut. It is unlikely that Ponting would have ever set up his camera simply to record the interior of the hut roof and yet nearly all the information we need appears somewhere in one of his images. Acetylene lamps float unnoticed over the heads of men lost in the celebration of a mid-winter dinner or stand insignificantly on a table, providing light for Wilson to work on his drawings. In other photographs, flue pipes lurk in darkened roof spaces while Evans bandages Dr Atkinson’s frost bitten hand and outside the hut, a chimney stack rises slightly askew from a distant roof, as a group pose for the camera before setting out on a journey to the Western Mountains.


It is difficult to emphasize not just how important these images are for the work of conserving the hut, but also what a pleasure it is to pore over hugely enlarged areas of a photo and to then finally discover the tiny detail you are searching for.

6

Author: John K
Date: 15 December 2011
Temperature: 0oC
Wind Speed: 1.8 Knots
Temp with wind chill: 0oC
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


While investigating a box of miscellaneous mechanical components outside the hut I came across this interesting little object, function unknown.


It is a flat sheet metal stylised figurine, 155mmm high and 75mmm wide, one arm outstretched, with one leg only that slides vertically with about 5mm travel. Behind the top of the leg is a punched hole, 6mm diameter. The original outline of the figure appears to be exaggerated front and back, possibly for balance?

 

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Mystery object, front view. © AHT / John

 

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Mystery object, back view.  © AHT / John

 


At the bottom of the leg are two cleats, possibly to hook over or on to something.

 

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Mystery object, side view. © AHT / John


The figure is rusted and no markings or paint layers remain.


What is the function of this intriguing object? I have had suggestions such as: a child’s toy; an indicator that some process is completed, or some mechanical decoration on a clock.


Any suggestions as to its identity and function will be greatly appreciated.

0
Author: John
Date: 13 December 2011
Temperature: -7.2°C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: °C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset: N/A
Part of the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation programmme is to conserve artefacts from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut over the winter. Artefacts are carefully packed and transported back to Scott Base where a team of four conservators will work on the artefacts in a specially provided conservation laboratory for return the following summer. Where the early explorers transported their supplies man hauling sledges, we use plastic cubers on sledges towed behind Hagglunds (tracked vehicles). The trip from Cape Evans back to Scott Base  is 25 km, travelling at 10 kph to ensure safe travelling for sometimes fragile artefacts.
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Loading artefacts in cubers on sledge © AHT/John
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Approaching Scott Base over the Sea Ice © AHT/John
0

Full circle

Posted by Conservators Dec 22, 2011

Author: Lizzie Meek
Date: 1 December 2011
Temperature: -1.4 oC
Wind Speed: 3 Kts
Temp with wind chill: C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


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Cape Evans and snow © AHT/Lizzie

 

During the months of January-October whilst working in the AHT offices in Christchurch, I am often emailed queries and photographs (or as I like to think of them ‘presents’) relating to artefacts the conservators are working on at Scott Base over the winter months. But I still only see a small percentage of the some 1300 artefacts the team has handled during that time.
Now, here we are at Cape Evans in December, it’s snowing outside, and all of a sudden it feels like Christmas: John and I are unwrapping hundreds of objects to return them to their hut locations.


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A woollen jersey returned to Cape Evans this season © AHT/Lizzie

 

You get a very unique and interesting perspective on life in Antarctica 100 years ago when you see about 60 different pairs of socks in a row, some hand knitted, some machine-made, most of them darned or patched. We’ve been commenting on the limited colour palette of brown, grey, khaki, black and dark blue, and get quite excited by small flashes of bright colour. I like to think they took their polka dot Sunday socks home with them on the ship.

 

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A Wolsey sock on Day’s bunk © AHT/Lizzie

 

There’s a great sense of completion as we see objects returned to their place in the hut, with form and detail more fully revealed, but without removing the signs of age and use from the heroic era. So to the winter conservators, Sarah, Martin, Julie and Jane, thank you for your skill and hard work, and for my early Christmas presents!

0

Author: Martin

20 November  2011
Temperature: -1.5 degree C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -1.5 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a

 

 

130 boxes and a year later, I am back at Cape Royds returning to the north wall all of the food storage boxes I excavated last summer and then conserved over winter at Scott Base.

 

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Back again © AHT

 

Beautiful weather and little wind makes it even more enjoyable and satisfying to look at them again, back in their own environment. Ernest Shackleton's men used these boxes to build pony stables and even a garage for the first motor car in Antarctica. Never intended to last for a hundred years, they were in desperate need of treatment and I am confident they will now last for many more years to tell such an important part of the history of the early explorers.

Up to 2000 stores boxes were loaded on the expedition ship Nimrod and it is always fascinating to see the countless creative ways they have been used in and around the hut.  Apart from being building blocks, they have supported bed frames, served as shelves and wall cladding and even provided the cover for the first ever book printed in Antarctica, The Aurora Australis.

 

All I am left wondering now is what my colleagues in another hundred years might do with them.

 

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  Martin working on boxes © AHT

0

Stormy Weather

Posted by Conservators Dec 8, 2011

Author: John
Date: 27 November 2011
Temperature: -2.1oC
Wind Speed: 8.5Kts
Temp with wind chill: -10oC
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


One of the aspects of Antarctica that fascinates me as a relative newcomer is the changeability of the weather conditions, sometimes over periods of less than an hour.


After spending two weeks working at Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, our camp transfer by helicopter to Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans was disrupted by wind and low visibility, and our team was split in half for 24 hours, Monday and Tuesday.


The Icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov, kindly offered the team some showers, but even that was disrupted by changeable weather and low visibility. We all managed to have our showers though, and that was bliss after two and a half weeks without!


On Thursday and Friday we had very strong winds that make working outside at Cape Evans challenging, and sleeping ‘interesting’ with the wind noise and the tents flapping. Interestingly, the Scott Polar Tent double walled design has changed little from the original as used by Scott and has proved itself over the years well able to withstand strong winds.  I am very happy about that!

 

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Stormy Morning, Saturday. © AHT/ John

 

Yesterday morning things calmed down again, with only a slight breeze blowing.

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After the Storm, Sunday. © AHT/ John

 

This Sunday evening the wind is picking up again with the weather forecast to turn.


The transitions from wind and whiteout conditions (like being inside a ping-pong ball) to crystal calm and peaceful can sometimes be quite startling.

0

Author: John

Date: 13 November 2011
Temperature: -3.20C
Wind Speed: 12.5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -6.7oC
Sunrise: None, the sun is always up in the sky in Antarctica at this time of the year.
Sunset None.

 

 

While undertaking conservation work at Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarctica, I noticed this example of the expedition making do with whatever spare materials that were at hand. It highlighted for me the remoteness of the location, the distance from resupply sources, and the resourcefulness of the expedition members, This makeshift hoe was made from a spare mattock handle with part of a broken shoe last carefully and securely lashed to the end with rope. To tension the lashing a disused metal file was driven under the lashing. For some reason, this resourcefulness appealed to me.

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Improvised hoe © AHT/John.

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Detail of last and lashing method © AHT/John.

0

Author: Lizzie

Date:  12 Nov 2011
Temperature: -7.7
Wind Speed: 14.9 gusting 20 SE
Temp with wind chill: -19

Last night we had the neighbours around for dinner ….yes, despite the isolation there is another camp about 500m away from us, where the American Penguin Scientists Dave, Katie and Jean will be based from mid November through to late January. They are part of an ongoing research programme which studies the penguin populations of Ross Island, looking at breeding habits, population statistics, feeding and foraging patterns and general health and habits of the birds. The colony here at Cape Royds is relatively small, being only about 2000 breeding pairs, but with the ice edge close by this year (about 1km from the colony), food is abundant, and the penguins are sleek and fat and just starting to lay their eggs.
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The sea ice and sea ice edge, Cape Royds © AHT/Lizzie

We enjoyed listening to Jean and Katie tell us about the penguins, and if you would like to know more they have an excellent website, including several penguin web-cams, which can be found at www.penguinscience.com
Meanwhile, whenever we have a calm evening you will find us out after work on the rocky outcrops above the penguin colony, watching the Adelies on their nests, and looking out for the smaller numbers of Emperors who come in to the sheltered spots below the Adelie colony to rest and preen.

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Emperor penguins through binoculars © AHT/Lizzie

0

Author:  Al

Date:    25 November 2011


“It blew and blew and when he thought it could blow no more the wind picked up and it blew some more!”


The bright yellow polar tents greeted their old friend from the south by quivering in excitement.  Each gust tug, tug, tugging at the cold metal tent pegs firmly hammered home into the frozen scoria at Cape Royds.


As the Tormentor violently shook the tent canvas, the guy ropes hung like the rigging in a sailing ship riding out a storm in the roaring forties.  BLOW YOU *#@#* BLOW!  If we could only reef in the sails so we could get some sleep.  Peace, peace.


After unrelenting days of being buffeted you feel like screaming into the cold face of the Tormentor, STOP!  But your words would only get carried away in the next gust before they can be heard.  Frayed canvas and frayed nerves, tired but unable to get a restful night’s sleep, never asleep or never awake as the tent flaps against your sleeping bag cocoon.  In this slumberland you can’t help but ponder the thought of the thin canvas fabric being ripped away leaving you exposed and naked to the elements while your cold weather clothing is whipped across the thin white frozen skin of the Ross Sea.

 

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The wind stops as suddenly as it starts, the loud silence is a foreigner in the field camp. Only the chatter of the neighbouring Adelie penguins can be heard.  It will be impossible to get to sleep with this deathly silence. Every slight movement, cough or scratch will be amplified to the field camp in the stillness of the night, all privacy lost.


Where is the crazy Tormentor from the south?  No-one to sing and sway us to sleep tonight. Then there is a gentle breeze, a cold lick to the cheek, followed by the first gust from the south. Once again the tents begin to quiver in excitement.  Welcome back my friend from the south.  WELCOME BACK.  It’s a love hate relationship we have.

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