Skip navigation
1 2 3 4 ... 15 Previous Next

Antarctic conservation

225 Posts authored by: Conservators

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.

LM Clissold's pot (Small).JPG

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.

Conserved Finneskoes in Scott's Terra Nova hut (Large) (Small).jpg

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.

The conserved enamel dish on the officers table (Large) (Small).jpg

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!


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.


Image 1 (Small).JPG

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.


Image 2 (Small).JPG

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!


Image 3 (Small).JPG

N-ice work!


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.

Photo 1 (Small).jpg

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!


Photo 2 (Small).jpg

Aline, Stefanie, Meg and Sue just landed


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.
Pump before treatment (Small).JPG

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.
Makers plate (Small).JPG

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.
Pump after treatment (Small).JPG

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.
Cracked bulb (Small).JPG

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.
Pump on workbench (Small).JPG

Fleuss vacuum pump on workbench © AHT/Josiah Wagener


Home, Sweet Home!

Posted by Conservators Dec 22, 2013

Author: Nicola Dunn

Date: 23 December 2013




It’s hard to believe that in early November Sy, Lizzie and I made the trip from Scott Base to our new home which is just a short walk along the beach from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (built for the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition). Travelling in a tracked vehicle known as a Hagglund we headed out across the sea ice following the route frequently taken by members of both Scott and Shackletons expeditions around the shoreline below Mount Erebus. Behind us we pulled sledges of supplies to sustain us for 3 months, and the historic artefacts that we are returning to the hut after conservation treatment.

Hagglud & Sledges at SB.jpg

The Hagglund and sledges on the sea ice outside Scott Base being prepared for the trip to Cape Evans



Our camp is basic but comfortable and we soon settled in and now feel quite at home. Whilst we each have our own tent for sleeping other areas are made up of converted freight containers towed over the ice and left on site from year-to-year. Two adjoining containers are used for cooking, eating and warming-up and the kitchen area has a diesel fired stove on which two pans are constantly melting snow for our water supply.  The views from the windows over the sea ice are spectacular.


Tents at Cape Evans.jpg

Our tents on the beach at Cape Evans with cloud formations around Mount Erebus in the background



We have all the basic staple foods for cooking and Sy has constructed an ice block freezer outside for our meat, cheese and vegetables that need to stay frozen when the temperatures edge above zero during the summer. The kitchen has a gas stove and oven, a breadmaker which I love using, and a yoghurt maker. We carefully sort and label our rubbish and the poo from the bucket in the little toilet block before sending it back to Scott Base and NZ for disposal.


We can communicate with the outside world by radio to Scott Base and by a satellite phone to the rest of the world.  The electricity for computers and charging batteries is provided by solar panels.

Camp at Cape Evans.jpg

The camp at Cape Evans with our tents in the foreground, the green accommodation containers, red and black conservation laboratory and Terra Nova hut in the far distance



Working in Scotts hut we find ourselves asking questions about the daily lives of the men that lived there, and these often echo questions asked by friends and family as they try to imagine our camp set up. If you have any questions about how we live – just ask.


Sun set no more

Posted by Conservators Oct 31, 2013

Author: Josiah

Date: 30 October 2013

Temperature: -16.6C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -23C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February


I love sunsets. The setting of the sun can be serenely pretty or transcendently beautiful. I spent many years fighting forest fires and saw some truly spectacular sunsets coloured by the smoky air. Here in Antarctica the sunsets have been especially wonderful.


1 Early season sunset (Custom).JPGEarly season sunset over Observation Hill © Josiah


Each sunset down here is a treasure because there aren’t very many of them. The day that I arrived in Antarctica, 1st Sept, was the first day that the sun had peeked above the horizon in about 4 months and it quickly dipped to the first sunset of the spring.


2 First sun rise-set (Custom).JPGFirst sun rise/set of the summer © Josiah


From 1st Sept to 22nd Oct we had a series of wonderful sunsets. They can last for hours here as the sun gradually slopes down toward the horizon turning the sky from pale blues to rich oranges, yellows, and fuchsias, then gradually through pastel purples and rust hues and finally into deep indigo.


3 Sunset from Obs Hill (Custom).JPGSunset from Observation Hill © Josiah

4 Soft sunset over the sea ice(cropped) (Custom).jpg

Soft sunset over the sea ice © Josiah

5 Sunset over Crater Hill (Custom).JPG

Sunset over Crater Hill © Josiah


Each sunset becomes shallower and longer as the days lengthen until eventually the sun just barely dips behind the horizon.


6 Dramatic sunset from Scott Base (Custom).JPGDramatic sunset from Scott Base © Josiah


And then it sets no more. We had our last sunset of this year on 22nd Oct. Unfortunately we had 2 days of clouds and snow on the 21st and 22nd so the technical last sunset wasn’t visible, but I did manage to get some good pictures of the sunset on the 20th.


7 Last Sunset (Custom).JPGLast Sunset of this year © Josiah


Now, although the sun no longer sets, it does sink low and traverses the Southern horizon throughout the night. For several more days, or maybe weeks, this will give us wonderful long, almost sunset shows of golden orange skies throughout the night.


8 Sun traversing the South (Custom).JPGThe unsetting sun traversing the southern horizon © Josiah


Eventually the sun will be high enough that there will be essentially no difference between night and day. Some time in February the process will reverse and the sun will gradually work its way back down to the next sunset on 20th Feb. Here at Scott Base we celebrated the final sunset of this year in grand style with the traditional Hawaiian Luau themed party.


9 Last Sunset Party (Custom).JPGLast sunset party © Mike


All Change

Posted by Conservators Oct 14, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 11 October 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -37C

Sunrise: 5am

Sunset: 10.20pm



When we arrived at Scott Base, Josiah and I joined a small team of 10 people who had just spent the winter on the ice. Whilst it was busy, it was also relaxed and quiet, but suddenly it’s all change. The summer season has begun and the base population has swollen to over 50 excited people, many of whom have not been to the ice before.

Image 1 (Custom).JPG

Preparing dinner in the outsoor kitchen © Issac


Last weekend we got to know some of the new crew as we joined them to learn Antarctic Field Skills from the specialist trainers – how to survive in the Antarctic environment, while working, having fun or in an emergency. 


We put together sleep kits of layers of thick sleeping bags, collected food supplies, learnt how to light camp stoves in sub-zero temperatures and discussed how to protect ourselves from frost bite. We then headed out to spend the night camping in tents similar to those used by the early Antarctic explorers.

Image 2 (Custom).jpg

Breakfast time in a blizzard - warming tea, Milo and porridge © Nicola


That evening, after digging a kitchen area protected by snow blocks, we heated water and dined on packets of dehydrated food. When we turned in at 11pm it was still light and the weather perfectly calm. But this is Antarctica! Overnight the winds increased and in the morning we emerged from our flapping tents into near blizzard conditions. Although I’ve done field training on my two previous trips to the Ice it was always in fine conditions, so I really enjoyed experiencing some ‘real Antarctic weather’.

Image 3 (Custom).jpg

Preparing to de-camp


Thanks to the training Josiah and I now feel confident as we make plans to head out to spend three months camping at the historic hut sites.  We are definitely looking forward to the experience. 


It's about science

Posted by Conservators Oct 3, 2013

Life in Antarctica is and has always revolved around scientific study and discovery. When Captain Scott proposed his expedition to the South Pole in 1910 he felt that the primary purpose of the expedition was scientific study. He commented in his journals that if they reached the pole then people would pay attention to their scientific research. If they failed to reach the pole then their expedition, with all of its discoveries, would be largely ignored.

Wilson and Bowers check the thermometer on the ramp June1911 (Custom).jpg

Wilson and Bowers check the thermometer on the ramp. 7 June 1911 © Scott Polar Institute


Today science is still the driving reason for work in Antarctica. The American McMurdo station is run by the National Science Foundation and New Zealand’s Scott Base, run by Antarctica New Zealand, is used primarily as a staging area and support base for a variety of scientific projects each year. Now, as then, much of the research done on this continent is environmental study. Researchers here study the movement of the Polar ice sheets, particulate concentrations in the upper atmosphere, air and water temperatures, weather patterns over the polar region, biology of the marine life, and any number of other subjects that may have subtle but wide reaching implications for the world in general.

Mike and Tim check the thermometer in the ice (Custom).jpg

Mike and Tim check the thermometer on the ice. © Josiah Wagener


As a part of that research, the staff here at Scott Base periodically measure the thickness and temperature of the sea ice in this arm of the Ross Sea. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to join Scott Base staffers Mike and Tim for an evening trip to check on one of the sea ice probes in the bay. We travelled about 25 kilometres by Hagglund to reach a small instrument table anchored far out in the middle of the ice. Without a GPS it would be difficult indeed to find this one speck in the middle of the vast white flat. They downloaded the recording from the array of thermometers buried through the depth of the ice, changed the batteries in the device, then drilled a new hole to check the current thickness of the ice and of  the layer of soft ice crystals forming on the underside of the sheet.

Drilling a hole to measure ice thickness (Custom).jpg

Drilling a hole to measure ice thickness. © Josiah Wagener

As we left the remote site we had a beautiful view of sunlight piercing through the clouds onto one of the glaciers that feed ice into this sea.

Sunlight on mountains and glacier (Custom).jpg

Sunlight on mountains and glacier © Josiah Wagener


Scaling the Castle

Posted by Conservators Sep 26, 2013

Yesterday evening the AHT team, along with a few other intrepid explorers under the guidance of the expert Mike Rowe, climbed Castle Rock, a prominent landmark on this peninsula which was often mentioned by the early explorers. Castle Rock is a reddish volcanic plug standing up sheer from the top of the ridge of the peninsula.

Image 1 260913 (Custom).JPG

Castle Rock prominent on the ridge line between Scott Base and Mt. Erebus © AHT/Josiah


We rode a Hagglund snow vehicle out about 3 miles to the base of the rock, then climbed around the side to the top in time to watch another fantastic sunset. The view from the top of the castle is stunning. The mighty volcanos Erebus and Terror, which form the backbone of Ross Island, dominate the eastern horizon.

Image 2 260913 (Custom).JPG

Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror from Castle Rock © AHT/Josiah

Image 4 260913 (Custom).JPG 

The conservators atop the Castle © AHT/Josiah


To the south is the ice barrier and White and Black Islands. To the west, the ridge tapers off to where Scott Base and McMurdo sit on either side of Observation Hill on the edge of the frozen sea. Across that sea Discovery Peak dominates a jagged range of mountains and glaciers that hold back the ice of the Antarctic plateau. To the north, we looked toward Cape Evans where we will be spending most of our summer, and beyond it to distant Cape Royds where some open water is showing beyond the edge of the sea ice.

Image 3 260913 (Custom).JPG

Cape Evans, Cape Roys and Delbridge Islands © AHT/Josiah

Image 5 260913 (Custom).JPG

Sunset over the Royal Society Range © AHT/Josiah


As the sun abruptly set behind the western mountains this tableau turned to gold, to fuchsia, and to plum.

Image 6 260913 (Custom).JPG

Mt. Erebus as the sun sets © AHT/Josiah

The ever whistling wind stung our cheeks and noses but it was hard to tear ourselves away from the spectacular view to hike back down to the Hagglund to return to our comfortable Scott Base. I hope that we may find another opportunity to go up to Castle Rock, but as the days rapidly lengthen I doubt if we will have another chance to see a sunset from up there again this year.

Image 7 260913 (Custom).JPG

Catching the Hagglund home © AHT/Josiah


Under Pressure

Posted by Conservators Sep 20, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 18 September 2013

Temperature: -21C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Sunrise: 7.10

Sunset: 18.30



photo 1 (Custom).jpg

Heading for a walk amoung the pressure ridges © Josiah


The pond in the village where I grew up would occasionally freeze over in winter and, with my head filled with images of polar explorers, I always wanted to walk onto its thin, enticing shell of ice.  So, this evening it was a great thrill to be able to step from the land in front of Scott Base and onto the 2m thick sea ice.

photo 2 (Custom).jpg

The moon rising above the jagged silhouttes of the broken ice © Nicola


I was heading out to explore the extraordinarily beautiful features known as the pressure ridges.  Formed as the ice is squashed up against the land during winter these jagged walls of ice are slowly forced up into strange, distorted, awe-inspiring shapes. As the tide rises puddles of sea water appear around their base then freeze into ponds of blue ice. The shapes are never static, and over the coming months they will gradually change; fracturing, splitting and sagging under their own weight.

photo 3 (Custom).jpg

A jumble of fractured sea ice and frozen ponds with Mount Erebus behind © Nicola


I carefully followed the safe flagged route, probing the snow in front of me with a pole, checking for new cracks in the ice. In the gloom as the sun went down I was confronted with two massive dark shapes – seals. During the summer hundreds will make their way through the cracks around the pressure ridges and come up for air. I left them peacefully relaxing on the ice and headed back to the base.

photo 4 (Custom).jpg

Seals lying on the ice amoung the pressure ridge walk © Nicola


Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 10 September 2013

Temperature: -36.7C

Wind Speed: 8 knots

Temp with wind chill: Approx -50C

Sunrise: Around 8am

Sunset: Around 4.30pm



Greetings. This is my first trip to Antarctica so it is an all new land of wonder for me. Nicola and I joined the AHT team on the Ice just a week ago and will be taking over the blogging duties from here. We were most fortunate on our flight down to have clear skies and a plane with plenty of windows for a fabulous view.

Sea ice from plane (Custom).JPG

Sea ice from the plane


We crossed sea ice about half way from New Zealand.

1st view (Custom).JPG
The Antarctic coast


and had our first view of the coast of Antarctica an hour or so later.

Victory Mountains (Custom).JPG

The Victory Mountains

We passed over the spectacular Victory Mountains,

ross island (Custom).JPG

Ross Island and the Ice

and after about 4 hours of flying had our first look at Ross Island, our home for the next 5 months. The broken pack ice meets the more stable sea ice which in turn meets the massive continental shelf ice around Ross Island.

Josiah on ice (Custom).JPG


We landed on a runway scraped in the unending flat sheet of the continental ice and set foot on the Last Continent, a vast, surreal, frozen landscape, an entire continent to which no human has ever been native. We are here to tend the few fragile threads that link us to the very first people ever to inhabit this remotest of lands. But like them we will be here for only a short time before returning whence we came, leaving this continent where the icy land, sea, and sky reign majestically uncaring of the few people who come and go upon the surface.

I feel that a good adventure has begun.


Author: Sue



We all know there are no bears in Antarctica, despite some early maps of the continent having vignettes showing polar bears here. But there’s one little chap with a very adventurous spirit who’d like to set the record straight.


In 1993 my childhood teddy bear, Bambino, took a trip to Antarctica … wintered-over here, in fact. I was working at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney at the time and sponsored my bear—whom I’d had since birth—to sail to Antarctica with a couple of hundred other brave bears under the capable leadership of inspirational Australian adventurers Don and Margie McIntyre. Newsletters recounting Bambino’s exciting adventures on the high seas and the ice were duly received as Bambino weathered the storms and rode out the long, cold, dark, windy months. He returned home some time later, none the worse for wear, with proud photos alongside penguins and outside an explorer’s hut. I paid his bear fare—all funds raised went to support the Camperdown Children’s Hospital in Sydney—and a good time was reportedly had by all.

Bambino with penguins Image 1 1993 (Custom).jpg

Bambino gives a wave as he mingles with a colony of Emperor penguins, 1993

Bambino hut excursion Image 2, 1993 (Custom).jpg

Group excursion to Mawson’s hut, 1993 (Bambino circled)


And so when Bambino learned I was planning to winter-over here with the Antarctic Heritage Trust this year, 20 years later, his paw shot up in an instant (although I can't help but notice that it's always up!) and he insisted on tagging along.


Appropriately attired and excited by the return of some semi-daylight to the continent this week, the forever-young Bambino was spotted out surfing some snow drifts around Scott Base. (And I’m not really a teddy-bear person at all, but it’s a cute little story.)

Bambino, 2013 Image 3 (Custom).JPG

Bambino surfs some drifts at Scott Base, 2013


The product sells itself

Posted by Conservators Aug 23, 2013

Author: Marie


Wind speed: 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -29

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


We have been enthusiastic about conserving 100 year-old food products: the great wrappers and labels, the inventive marketing and all the types of lid, cork and sealing we discovered. Even then, companies were offering freshness, purity, expertise and the latest scientific research and up-to-date technology to put on your plate.

An unopenned egg powder carton LS.JPG

An unopened egg powder carton


What a relief to know that 'The operations are under the supervision of a trained staff of experts with the result that important improvements are constantly being made' to your table salt composition. You can be sure that the salt in the tin is the best possible for your ‘bones, brain and nerves'. You can also rely on pickles, as they are 'recommended by the faculty of digestion'.  And, indeed, some of the food is beautifully preserved and looks incredibly fresh.

Some of the sales pitches LR.JPG

Some of the sales pitches


But, the top of the range was reached last week by egg powder in cardboard cartons, both for its persuasive sales pitch and actual quality. It is 'not a substitute but pure eggs without shell or moisture', in a new-style patented cardboard carton!  I'm not trying to sell the product, but even the most damaged carton (the one we had to open, sample and empty since it was leaking its contents) was in incredibly good condition. 

The actual pure fresh eggs in powder form LR.JPG

The actual pure fresh hens eggs in powder form

Leaflet detailing directions of use LR.jpg

Leaflet detailing conditions of use


The leaflet inside was in such brilliant condition that our loud and repetitive 'Oh! My! Gosh!' made our colleague in the next office rush in to check if everything was alright with us.  And, that was the very last artefact I had the chance to conserve at Scott Base before leaving the ice - lucky me!


Leaving a mark

Posted by Conservators Aug 20, 2013

Author: Stefanie    

Date: 20 August 2013

Temperature: -15.3

Wind speed: 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -45

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A



Andrew Keith Jack, part of the Ross Sea Party, owned a yellow oiled jacket and slept in the same bottom bunk bed as Thomas Griffith Taylor had in 1911 in the Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. We know this because his name is inscribed with the same hand on both: 'A K Jack' has been written in thick bold letters on the inner collar of the yellow jacket and on the wall beside the bunk in the Hut. Thomas Griffiths Taylor also wrote his initials at the same bunk. The names on the walls continue to mark a presence, promoting historical value. 

Image1 LR.jpg

A K Jack's yellow oiled jacket

Image2 LR.jpg

A K Jack's mark in bunk


For most, wintering over in the Antarctic is a once in a lifetime opportunity and therefore leaving ones mark behind can be significant and meaningful. At Scott Base we cannot write our names on the walls beside our beds or leave our belongings behind when we depart. Rather, we leave behind a mark in the form of a winter-over photo, which depicts each member of our 2013 winter-over team and hangs on the winter-over wall of fame.


Image3 LR.jpg

Winter-over wall of fame


With the ever increasing light on the horizon, we can see the end of winter and anticipate the first sun rise, flight and fresh food with great excitement. But we must also prepare to say our farewells and leave. Last Wednesday, we celebrated our last supper together as a team and the following day Stefan and Marie left us. It is oddly reassuring that they remain with us in the form of floating heads in the 2013 winter-over photo…


The meat packing district

Posted by Conservators Aug 12, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 12 August 2013

Temperature: -20C

Wind speed: 11 knots

Temp with wind chill: -32C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


Working as a team to conserve and restore Bower's Annex, is extremely challenging. Making sense of the mass of wood and its brooding contents often has us scratching our heads. Recently Jaime arrived at the door to my cage (working area) and 'gifted' me a piece of timber. Neither from a Venesta nor a Coleman's solid timber box, the section of wood, would now become an object, and my responsibility to conserve. Jaime had noticed it had some semi-legible bleached print on the surface, where the original paint had eroded away.

DSC01474 Timber LR.jpg

Piece of loose timber, suspected to be from a mutton packing crate © AHT/Stefan


After perusing the print again and again, the "From Tho#,  Bor###### & Sons" led me to see if a company called Thomas Borthwick & Son's was registered at the time. By a stroke of luck one of my searches led to a brilliant history of frozen meat suppliers in Australia and New Zealand.


It appears most likely the section of wood came from a packing crate containing frozen mutton. There are many accounts in the mens’ diaries as they set sail from Christchurch on the Terra Nova of mutton dinners and the gifted carcasses from the Lyttleton community that hung from the rigging.

DSC06799 Discovery 2 LR.jpg

Mutton carcass in Discovery Hut's store room © AHT/Stefan


There is still 2 freeze dried sides of mutton that reside in a store room at Discovery hut: although butchery styles and size/maturity of mutton will be similar the world over, it's spooky the similarity between the carcass at Discovery hut, and those hung in the Tomoana Freezer Works in Napier, New Zealand.

mutton Tomoana freezer LR 3.jpg

Tomoana Freezer works, Napier, New Zealand


Thomas Borthwick & Sons are still trading today in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, and are still very much in the meat business.  Sadly however, both then and now, there is no spring Welsh lamb in Antarctica, a far superior beast, especially on the plate.

1 2 3 4 ... 15 Previous Next