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Posted by Cricket

 


Ernest Shackleton’s hut from the Nimrod expedition at Cape Royds sits on the coast of Ross Island beside an Adelie penguin rookery.  In contrast to the quiet and elegant beauty of Captain R.F. Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, Royds seems more intimate and personable, partly due to it being nestled in a cove amongst rolling hills, but also because of our penguin neighbors.  I think Royds might be my favorite, and this is because we’re so close to the penguins, which we can watch across Pony Lake and hear chattering all day long as we work in and around the hut.  It’s fantastic to be so close to these funny little birds which seem to be constantly busy and fidgeting.

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Shackleton’s hut with the Adelie penguins in the background © AHT/Cricket


Last night we had a special treat.  After dinner we heard a different bird call like a low trilled honk.  It was the sound of Emperor penguins.  We spotted about a dozen coming along the coast from the north, slowing making their way south across the ice.  In contrast to the quick and sometimes random Adelies, the Emperors appear calm and methodical.  They are a stately bird.  They moved in a straight line, stopping at times for twenty to thirty minutes, before continuing on their way.  We sat on the cliff for almost two hours, eager for them to get closer and willing them to hurry.   They finally made it to the edge of the Adelie rookery where they paused for a time before carrying on.

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Emperor penguins on march © AHT/Cricket

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Hi, It's TV's Ben Fogle here.

 

I'm in Antarctica working on a documentary about Captain Scott. It's been a fantastic trip so far. I'm living with the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation team at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's last expedition base. A few days ago I helped Diana, Cricket and Lizzie load up the 1500 objects conserved at Scott Base over the winter and a hagglund (tracked vehicle) brought the vast array of objects out over the sea ice. A long slow and delicate operation. These arrived safely and the team have been busy repopulating the building with the objects.

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I have been struck with the atmosphere, presence and history at Cape Evans. The place has a unique smell which is not unpleasant. It's a mix of seal blubber, old food, leather and textiles. The classic images of Herbert Ponting coupled with the evocative diary entries of Scott's expedition members really bring this place to life.

 

The dedication of the Trust staff in this challenging environment is inspiring to witness. I'm hopeful we can do this magnificent place justice in the documentary.

 

Ben Fogle

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Posted by Diana


Date: November 12, 2010
Temperature: 0 degrees celcius
Wind Speed: none
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up
Sunset: The sun does not go down


We have been working at Captain RF Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Ross Island for two weeks. While onsite we live in a camp not far from the hut with views of Mt Erebus and the Barn Glacier.

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Dive hut with Erebus is the background © AHT/ Diana

 

Located close to our campsite is an American scientific event dive hut . A heated wanigan covers a diving hole which has been drilled into the ice.  You can see to the bottom 85 feet below, with krill and other small water creatures swimming round in the hole – a wonderful place to visit. This evening I walked across the sea ice from our camp on land to the hut. The snow has been blown off and the amazing warm weather and blazing sun have made the ice is so slippery you can almost skate with your boots.

 

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Inside the dive hut © AHT/ Diana

 

I was in the hut with Stu, one of the Antarctic Field Trainers from Scott Base, watching the marine life and thinking wouldn’t it be fun if a seal swam by when one appeared – it was barreling towards the hole till it saw us and then it made a big “U” turn. We were completely startled as she came so quickly and then swam by, a beautiful dappled grey form sliding by the hole.

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Scott Base weather

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 2, 2010

Posted by Diana


Date: November 3, 2010
Temperature: -15.4
Wind Speed: 12 knots with gust to 30 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up all the time
Sunset


Here in Antarctica the weather is very important, as it was when Captain RF Scott and his men were at Cape Evans. Back in 1912 the readings were all taken using manual instruments, as can be seen in this image of Dr. Simpson taking the weather at Wind Vane Hill.

 

Today we have an electronic system which monitors actual wind speed and temperature as well as recording it on a chart. This is in the weather area of the Hatherton laboratory at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

 

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Hatherton Laboratory ©   AHT/Diana


During a big storm the needle on the wind speed meter can jump up 50 knots, or sometimes more. There is also a graph which continually records data. Some mornings, if it was windy through the night, I go up to the Hatherton Lab to see how strong the wind was. Last night we had gusts over 50 knots. There was a white out when I happened to wake up and look out at 3 am. Thankfully the wind died down as today was the day we packed to head out to Cape Evans.  More on that to come.

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Science talk

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 2, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 27, 2010
Temperature: -19.5 degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: none
Temp with wind chill: -19.5 degrees Celsius
Sunrise: The sun is up!
Sunset  Next sunset February 20, 2011


The first explorers to Antarctica came with a sense of adventure and purpose. They conducted significant scientific and meteorological observations as well as exploration. Today the main emphasize on Ross Island is science. Scott Base is supporting 75 scientific events this summer. Many science events are supported at US base McMurdo Station and there is also the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center. While working at Scott Base we have the good fortune of attending talks presented by the scientists. This week we went to a talk at McMurdo presented by a joint US French group who are using super pressure balloons to take reading over Antarctica to assist in monitoring the ozone http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/science/aeronomy.shtml.

 

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Galley Hall at McMurdo © AHT/Diana

 

Early on in our stay at Scott Base (winfly) I joined some folks in a walk up Observation Hill.  Back then it was still dark after dinner but there was light in the sky from aurora borealis and a full moon so it was possible to see a lot. From high up Ob Hill we looked back at McMurdo Station and saw a bright green laser beam shining up from one of the research groups and then one of the high pressure balloons were launched. Spectacular!  It was nice to have the opportunity to hear what this balloon was doing up there in the sky.

 

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The cross on Observation Hill that night at winfly © AHT/Diana

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  Balloon inflated, 4 February 1902  © CR Ford, Royal Geographical Society

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 27 October 2010
Temperature: -20C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -20C
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


This week, Diana and I started preparing for the second phase of our 6-month summer term, which involves camping and working at historic British expedition huts.  Our target deployment date is next Tuesday, 2 November 2010, if everyone arrives from New Zealand in time and the weather permits.  Our schedule for the next three months begins with two weeks at R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, a brief return to Scott Base to resupply, then a month-long session at E. Shackelton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, a two week re-group period back at Scott Base for Christmas, and, in January, a final month back at Cape Evans.  It’s a lot of movement, which requires careful planning on everyone’s part, including the engineers, carpenters, mechanics and field support staff at Scott Base.

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Sorting food boxes © AHT/Cricket 

For us, one of our tasks is to organize the 35 food boxes.  Each box contains provisions for one person for 20 days and includes a range of quick, high-energy food such as peanut butter, honey, jam, pasta, rice, spice packets, dehydrated meals, cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, oat bars, powdered milk, energy drinks, coffee, tea and cereal.  Yesterday we unpacked each box, parceled everything out and repacked placing one food type per box.  In the field, we’ll each rotate through cooking duty, and since our average group size is 10, having the boxes arranged by food type makes it easier to pull in bulk what’s needed for each meal.  Seeing all this food got me thinking about what meals I could make.  I’m certain about one thing, cereal will trump the dehydrated fish pie dinner.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 20 October 2010
Temperature: -23C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)

 

Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began.  When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work.  The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public.  It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.

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TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT

 

The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting.  The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica.  Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea.  Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.


The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings.  It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom.  Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY).  At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.

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Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT

 

One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch.  The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch.  After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?

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Flag raising ceremony

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 20, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 20, 2010
Temperature: -22 degrees C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26degrees C
Sunrise: 3:24 am
Sunset 12:07 am

 

The conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust come to Scott Base at Winfly (early August) and stay until almost the end of “Mainbody” ( the summer work term) when the “Winter over” conservators come in. This means that the AHT conservators get to know two seasons of Scott Base employees.
We recently took part in the Flag raising ceremony which is held to celebrate the work of the outgoing 2009/10 team by the incoming 2010/11 team. It is in commemoration of the first flag raising ceremony held at Scott Base.

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Winter flag © AHT/Diana

 

In 1957 a short but impressive ceremony took place, attended by Sir Edmond Hillary, Captain Harold Ruegg, Administrator of the Ross Dependency, Captain Kirkwood from the Endeavour, Admiral Dufek (US Navy), Captain Weiss from the USNS, Pte. John R. Towle, the press and workers associated with the establishment of Scott Base. The youngest member of the party, 20 year old Able Seaman Ramon Tito RNZN, hoisted the first flag. The flag pole used was an historic one recovered from Hut Point where it had been placed by R.F. Scott in 1902-04.

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Joel attaching the flag  © AHT/Diana

 

Our 2010 ceremony had 20 year old Joel lower the flag which flew all winter and raise the new flag. The top of the flag pole is still the original from Scott’s era.

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New flag up © AHT/Diana

 

The ceremony had a turning of the page feel about it with the excitement of the new crew at being in Antarctica and for the departing crew the prospect of seeing their families again after 13 months on the ice.
 

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Date: 13 October 2010
Temperature: -26C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -39C
Sunrise: 4:48am
Sunset 10:39pm



I recently conserved a single leather slipper from the hut of R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova 1910-1913 expedition.  The slipper looked old, well worn and was crushed almost flat.  An intimate detail was the owner’s addition of straw padding on the bottom, presumably for added cushioning and warmth.  My treatment goal was to clean off the heavy layer of dirt and reshape the slipper in order to restore its original shape.  During the initial cleaning, while carefully unfolding the crumpled tongue, I found, to my surprise, the punched initials, “FD.”

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Slipper,  Before Treatment © AHT/CricketDetail of Tongue, After Treatment © AHT/Cricket


I read that the men from these early polar expeditions often carved, wrote or stamped their initials onto their belongings and was excited to actually find such a mark.  “FD” most likely is Frank Debenham, a young Australian who was one of three of Scott’s geologists.  In early 1911, Debenham joined the four-man team and completed the Western Journey, which mapped the western mountains of Victoria Land, making geological observations and other scientific studies. This image shows Debenham grinding Geological specimans in July, 1911.

 

 

In his career, Debenham was prolific.  During his time in Antarctica, he had the idea of creating a learning center and repository for Arctic and Antarctic research.  In 1920 he, along with Raymond Priestley, a fellow geologist from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Nimrod 1907-1909 expedition, opened the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University.  The Institute is famous for its comprehensive polar library and archives, and to this day, remains Britain’s leader in polar research and glaciology.

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Wanigans

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 14, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 13th  2010
Temperature: -27degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -39 degrees Celsius
Sunrise: 4:48am
Sunset 10:30pm

 

Some of the containers here on Scott Base are called wanigans. This was a new word to me. It generally is attached to the containers which have skies attached to them. These containers are pulled around on the ice or snow and used for many things. Some are emergency shelters along the roads and routes used most often. Some of the science events outfit them as laboratories which are then pulled to the area where they want to work. The Antarctic Heritage Trust use wanigans as our kitchen, carpentry shop and conservation lab.

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Science event wanigan © AHT/Diana

 

So where does the name wanigan come from? Well here is another connection with North America. The word is believed to have origins in the Ojibwa language, waanikaan, "storage pit," from the verb waanikkee-, "to dig a hole in the ground." The word has been borrowed into English and is used in Eastern Canada and the US as well as Alaska, to describe a temporary hut usually built on a log raft to be towed or floated to a work site or as in Antarctica a small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids to be dragged along behind a tractor train as a place for a work crew to eat and sleep.

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Campsite Cape Evans December 2009 © AHT/Lizzie

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 6 October 2010
Temperature: -15C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 5:30am
Sunset 9:50pm

 

Sundays are our day off at New Zealand’s Scott Base, and, when the weather permits, these are the best days to set off on longer hikes.  There are a series of marked trails throughout the southern tip of Ross Island, one being a hike up to Observation Hill that Diana featured in previous blog, and another is called the Cape Armitage Loop.  Last Sunday, a friend and I walked the 8k trail that took us out in front of Scott Base, along a flagged route over the sea ice to the U.S. McMurdo Base.  It is an open and flat route that affords views of the distant Trans-Antarctic mountain range, and White and Black Islands, and follows along the back side of Observation Hill.

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Trail System on the Southern Tip of Ross Island © AHT/Cricket


The trail is named after Albert Borlase Armitage, who joined R.F. Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition from the merchant service and served as Scott’s navigator and second-in-command.  Among other accomplishments, Armitage successfully led the Western Journey, becoming the first to ascend the Ferrar Glacier and reach the summit of Antarctica.  This was quite a feat considering that his party consisted of seaman who had little cold weather and no climbing experience.  One author said that before this journey, the highest any man from that party had ever climbed was up the mast of a ship.  Though likely an exaggeration, it serves as a helpful reminder that most of Scott’s men had never before experienced anything like the Antarctic terrain and climate.

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View of McMurdo from Cape Armitage Loop © AHT/Cricket

 

Armitage’s Western Journey was quite difficult and the party suffered fierce blizzards, altitude sickness, and one even a heart attack.  Surprisingly, all survived and returned safely to the Discovery base camp.  Knowing a little of the history, I smile at the irony of the Cape Armitage Loop name, for the trek is a tranquil and relatively easy route that, as advertised, offers solitude and escape.  And, it conveniently ends near the coffee shop at McMurdo where you can sit back and have an easy rest of the day with a big mug of hot chocolate.
 

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Containers

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 6, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 5, 2010
Temperature: -14 degree Celcius
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -20 decrees Celcius
Sunrise: 6:07 am
Sunset 9:22 pm

 

If you go to any major harbour around the world or have sat at a railway crossing waiting for a freight train to pass, you will be familiar with containers. Also known as intermodal containers, ISO containers the dimensions of which have been defined by ISO: 8-ft(2.4m) wide x 8-ft(2.4m) high and in 10 ft (3m) increment lengths. They are constructed of .98in (25mm) thick corrugated steel. These containers are used to move freight using multiple modes of transportation from rail to ship to truck without ever having to be opened. The design incorporates a twist-lock mechanism atop each of the four corners, allowing the container to be easily secured and lifted using cranes. At New Zealand’s Scott Base they have many containers which arrive by ship in the summer months. They have multiple uses as readymade storage and shelters.
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Outside view of summer lab © AHT/ Diana

 

The Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation lab is made of three refrigerator (reefer) style containers ingeniously attached together and equipped with electricity, windows and heat.
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Inside view of summer © AHT/ Diana

 

There is a historic northern connection with this southern use of containers; one of the pioneers of intermodal containers was the White Pass and Yukon Route (WP&YR), an isolated narrow gauge railway which linked the port of Skagway Alaska with Whitehorse Yukon.   In 1955 WP&YR acquired the world’s first container ship the Clifford J. Rogers.


Next week I will talk about some of the other uses of these containers in Antarctica.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 28 September 2010
Temperature: -28C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -36C
Sunrise: 6:47am
Sunset: 8:45pm

 

Last Saturday, we celebrated the end of the winter season at New Zealand's Scott Base, Antarctica, with a special dinner prepared by Bobbi, our chef.  The evening was the last time all 14 of us could unwind and be together before the 36 new summer and winter-over crews arrive this week.

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The dinner table © Antarctica NZ/Alfred

 

After an afternoon of base tasks (Diana and I worked up good appetites while helping clear snow from around all the entrances), we gathered around a table full of appetizers of herb chicken balls, spicy shrimp , pesto bruschetta and smoked salmon, and watched the beginning of the Grand Final Australian Rules Football game between St. Kilda and Collingwood.

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Dinner and dessert © Antarctica NZ/Alfred

 

We then all moved into the dining room and sat down to a  cleverly plated meal of  jam-crusted rack of lamb served with polenta, steamed green beans and honey roasted yams.  The lamb was an unusual treat since meat bones are an expensive waste on this continent where all rubbish has to be shipped out.  For dessert, we had panna cotta drizzled with blueberry sauce and topped with hardened twists of caramelized sugar.  It was a great evening.  The opportunity to relax, hear stories from the winter and laugh was the best treat, especially in light of these last couple weeks when everyone around the base seems cocooned away, spending long days in their work areas getting ready for the handover period.

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Posted by Diana

 

Date: September 29, 2010
Temperature: -25 Degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: +30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35 degrees Celsius
Sunrise 0647
Sunset 2045

 

The weather at New Zealand's Scott Base in Antarctica is becoming warmer and the sun is up for a very long time now. This affords us the opportunity to take advantage of the Ross Island Trail System. Several trails around the base are used for recreation. I decided to head up Observation Hill (Ob Hill) after dinner one evening. Ob Hill has an elevation of 250 meters and has a steep rugged track which has lovely views of the Wind farm, McMurdo (US Base), Scott Base (NZ Base) and beyond.

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The trail markers © AHT/Diana


Observation Hill was named because it was used as an observation point from which to spot the return parties from the pole. At the top of Observation Hill is a cross, erected in 1913 by the remaining members of the British National Antarctic Expedition, in memory of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s party which perished on the return journey from the South Pole in March of 1912.

 

The cross bears the following inscription (including an excerpt from Tennyson’s text Ulysses chosen by Apsley Cherry-Garrard):


IN MEMORIAM
CAPT. R.F. SCOTT.R.N
DR E.A. WILSON CAPT L.E.G.OATES INS. DRGS LT. H.R. BOWERS R.L.M.
PETTY OFFICER E.EVANS R.N.

 

WHO DIED ON THE
RETURN FROM THE
SOUTH POLE MARCH

1912


TO STRIVE, TO SEEK
TO FIND
AND NOT TO
YIELD

 

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When I saw the names carved into the cross I thought of the hours that must have been spent waiting, looking into the distance, for Scott’s party that never returned.

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Posted by Cricket


Date: 22 September 2010
Temperature: -16 C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: -43C
Sunrise: 6:33
Sunset: 19:03

 

On one clear and calm Sunday morning, several of us from New Zealand's Scott Base geared up with food and clothing, piled into the Hagglund and headed to Cape Evans for a day visit.  Cape Evans is the site of R.F Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, which was built in January 1911 as a base camp for his second and last Antarctic tour.  A lot of incredible stories come from this expedition, including Edward Wilson’s winter trek with two other men to an Emperor penguin colony at Cape Crozier and Scott’s attainment of the South Pole.  Unfortunately, Scott and his men all perished on the return.


It was a two hour trip that took us out over the sea ice and following the coast of Ross Island.  Due to a huge glacier in our path, we stopped short of the site and hiked the rest of the way in, taking the route that Scott’s men would have traversed.

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Windvane Hill © AHT/Cricket


Our first look at the camp was from high up on Windvane Hill, where a cross stands commemorating 3 members of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1916) who died in the vicinity in 1916.   We then hiked down and around the hut, admiring what a picturesque and well situated spot it is.  Finally, we unlocked the hut door and slowly stepped into the dim interior.  What a magnificent sight.  As I have often heard, it really does retain the remarkable feeling of Scott’s men having just stepped out.

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Terra Nova Hut © AHT/Cricket


We quietly worked through the hut, studying the long, well-photographed dinner table, the bunks with handwriten notes and pictures drawn on the boards, and the galley stacked with jars and tins of food.  Without discussion, both Diana and I refrained from taking any pictures.  When talking about it afterwards, we found that we both wanted only the memory of our first visit.

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