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Antarctic conservation

167 Posts tagged with the antarctica tag
1

Author: Julie
Date: 29/6/11
Temperature: -28
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 41
Sunrise: August
Sunset August



Wind farm from Crater Hill.jpg

The wind farm from Crater Hill.  Photo: Julie

Scott Base is powered by wind turbines.  Installed by Antarctica New Zealand and Meridan Energy in 2009, the three wind turbines are producing all the electrical power that Scott Base needs, plus a large surplus which is directed to the United States’ McMurdo Station.  More information on the wind turbines is here:
http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ross-island-wind-energy

 

An earlier blog entry about the wind turbines is here:
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/community/antarctic-conservation/blog/2010/09/14/changing-the-oil-in-the-wind-turbines

 

Part of the Scott Base winter-over staff work programmme is to maintain the wind farm.  Ground temperatures are measured as part of the environmental monitoring at the turbines.  Last week I drove with Victoria, the Scott Base Science Technician, up to the wind farm to take thermistor string readings.  Thermistor strings measure the ground temperature at various depths around the turbines, basically by measuring electric resistance, which varies with temperature.

 

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Victoria takes a thermistor string reading from inside the comfort of a truck.  Photo: Julie

There are three thermistor units.  One can be read without getting out of the vehicle, sort of like using a drive-up ATM machine (except that you don’t drive away with more cash).  The other two require actually putting on cold weather gear and getting out of the truck.

 

Back at the base, Victoria enters all data into a spreadsheet and generates an ongoing graph of temperatures with respect to depth.  As you might expect, half a metre down the temperatures follow the air temperatures, fluctuating widely.  However, at 12 metres down, the temperatures remain fairly stable at about -17 C, only fluctuating a couple of degrees a year.

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Fire Alarm

Posted by Conservators Jul 5, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 29.6.2011
Temperature: -30 degree C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -55 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a



The siren is ear piercing and the continuous voice coming out of the PA system calm but firm: Evacuate the building. Go to the nearest fire exit. Evacuate the … And I am, as Murphy’s law dictates, in the middle of a particular tricky gluing process on historic food boxes. Frustrated at first, but a little pulse of adrenalin helps me drop everything and get on the way to the assembly point. You never know.

 

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Fire fighting gear — ready to go © AHT/Martin

Fire is by far the biggest risk to Scott Base and the people living here. Main reasons are the extremely dry atmosphere inside and outside, as well as a number of workshops, power generators, boiler rooms etc. all close together under one roof. Sophisticated systems are installed to protect the buildings, raise alarms and fight, if necessary, fires anywhere on the base.


In addition to that, all Scott Base staff have gone through a very intensive fire fighting training. Our group of 14 is divided into two fire crews, each of them on duty every second week. If the alarm goes off the duty group locates the source and attends to the fire. Within the group allocated roles include crew chief, auxiliary, hose runner and BA (Breathing Apparatus) carriers.


Luckily it was yet another drill and since I was not on duty I was soon back rescuing the unfinished gluing process.        

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Taking the plunge

Posted by Conservators Jun 27, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 22nd June 2011
Temperature: -24°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C

 

It’s a tradition here at Scott Base to take a plunge into the ice cold water at Mid-Winter. As with everything else in Antarctica, it takes a huge amount of effort to set up. First, there is the hole. This can take days to dig and often needs to be cleared again the morning before the plunge as ice builds up overnight.


Despite this year’s sea ice break out at the start of Winter, the ice in front of the base was still 1.2m in depth. The snow had to be cleared from the top of the ice and then a chain saw was used to cut a hole big enough for a person to jump in.


The water tends to be warmer than the air temperature so being in the water is quite pleasant; well for about thirty seconds. It was approx -2°C in the water and the air was around -20°C.

Image 1.jpg

Russell climbing out of the polar plunge hole with Troy manning the safety harness.
Credit: Petal Cottle

 

The most difficult part is psyching yourself up to jump into a hole in the ice that is filled with slushy water followed by climbing up the ladder into the cold air as the water freezes on you. Once you get back into the heated wannigan (an insulated container), you then have to wait for the water in your shoes to defrost enough to be able to remove them.


I suppose it doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable experience, but it is exhilarating and the closest thing we will get to a long soak in a bath down here.

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Midwinter dinner

Posted by Conservators Jun 24, 2011

Scott Base team midwinter web.jpg

     Scott Base team at midwinter. Photo: Jane

 

Midwinter is an important turning point in the life of all Antarctic winter-overs. Greetings and invitations to midwinter dinners are sent out by all the Antarctic stations. It is a time to reflect on the achievement of past explorers, the scientific work that is being done around the continent and to look forward to the coming light and reunions with friends and family.


Last night, on the 100th anniversary of Robert Falcon Scott’s last midwinter dinner, the team at Scott Base commemorated the occasion with a magnificent meal prepared by our chef Lance, and then a great party afterwards. Julie prepared a menu in the style of Edward Wilson’s original watercolour menu. The dining room was festooned with the flags of the Antarctic treaty nations and smaller route flags of red and black.  15 invited guests from McMurdo Station joined us for the festivities.


It was a wonderful evening, shared with great friends, in a very special part of the world.

 

Midwinter watercolor for web.jpg

     Midwinter dinner menu. Photo: Julie

 

Posted by: Sarah

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The Bare Essentials

Posted by Conservators Jun 16, 2011

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 15 June 2011
Temperature: -13 Deg C
Wind Speed: 35 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 27
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A



In 1914 a group of men known as the “Ross Sea Party” landed at Cape Evans on Ross Island.  The Ross Sea Party’s mission was to lay vital food and equipment depots for Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition which was planning to cross Antarctica.


A small science party was to remain ashore.  Apart from some stores, very little equipment and no clothing was taken ashore.  On 6 May 1914 the ship the Aurora was blown out to sea and could not return. The ten men ashore feared the worst, thinking all hands had been lost.


The men decided that their second planned trip to cache supplies for Shackleton must be completed despite their setbacks and lack of supplies. They had no way of knowing that the Endurance was also in terrible trouble, and the depots they would lay, which took a deadly toll, would never be used.
Lacking the appropriate clothing, the Ross Sea Party improvised sledging clothing from fabric and tents left behind by Scott’s 1910 expedition.  Below is an image of a handmade jacket sewn from canvas material, that is also found in the hut as curtains, insulation and bags.  Although sewn with a heavy hand, the jacket with its wooded toggle buttons is very well crafted.   The wind proof trousers are made from green canvas, which is also found as tents, tarpaulins and bags inside the hut at Cape Evans.

 

 

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Ross Sea Party hand-made jacket © AHT

 

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The grimy, sooty nature of both articles of clothing tells the tale of the hardship that the Ross Sea Party went through.  The men saved precious fuel for depot laying and burned seal blubber for heating and cooking, the greasy soot infiltrating all aspects of life in the hut.
 

Ross sea part hand-made trousers © AHT

0

Finding The Way

Posted by Conservators Jun 16, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 15.6.2011
Temperature: -10 degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 60 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40 degree Celsius
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


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Flags ready to go © AHT/ Martin 


Many people who have been to Scott Base, NZ's science base on Ross Island, Antarctica, have had experience with flag making. It means feeding a piece of fabric on to a bamboo stick and fixing it with one screw –  then repeating it about a hundred times.  (The screw by the way ensures that the flags and therefore the route is showing up on the radar when travelling in a white out) Literally hundreds of these flags are used to mark all the routes across the ice and they have become a feature of this part of Antarctica of almost iconic proportions. Yesterday I had the chance to go out with Troy, our field support person and base manager, to replace a number of flags in preparation for the next summer season. Equipped with a battery drill, 25mm extra long drill bit and bundles of flags in a sled we drive or walk along the route. As we go along, we look for missing or half buried flags, drill a 400mm deep  hole and insert a new flag. In -15 degree C with little wind and a full moon, it was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours out and about away from the workbench.      

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Out on the ice in the afternoon  © Troy Beaumont

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Party at Scott Base

Posted by Conservators Jun 10, 2011

Author: Jane

 

Wind Speed: 15 knits
Temp with wind chill: -27°C

We often socialise with our fellow Antarcticans from McMurdo Station, one of the United States Antarctic Program bases. We have film nights, bingo, trivia and of course parties, among other things.


This past weekend we threw a dress up party with live music in our mechanics workshop. There were four bands playing, one of which was from Scott Base. Most of the bands have only been together for a few months, but they all still sounded great.


At the beginning of the season I told Julie she would be up playing guitar on stage before the Winter was out but she flatly denied it. I was right!  The band practiced regularly in preparation for the party and did not disappoint, nor did any of the McMurdo bands.


The organisation and set up took quite a bit of time, but everyone enjoyed the night so it was well worth all the effort.

 

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The Scott Base band playing. From left: Anthony, Julie, Lance, Victoria. ©  AHT/Jane

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Ice and Snow Formations

Posted by Conservators Jun 3, 2011

Date: 02/06/2011

 

Posted by Julie

 

Temperature: -22

Wind Speed: Gusting between 20 – 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 36  to  -41
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Ever since the spectacular ice breakout in February, the ice forming over the water in front of Scott Base has steadily been growing thicker.  Last week the ice was judged thick enough to walk on. Troy, our base leader, Jane, and I set out to mark a safe route for walking through some nearby pressure ridges.

 

Troy is an experienced glacier guide, and so we got the bonus of getting Troy to talk about the snow and ice.  In a crack in the ice we discovered some spectacular, large, faceted ice crystals.  This is sometimes known as crevasse hoar. Troy explained that these ice crystals form and grow in glacial crevasses and in other cavities where a large cooled space is formed and in which water vapor can accumulate under calm, still conditions with a large temperature gradient. The vapour then attaches itself straight to the ice crystal forming a hollow hexagonal shape.

 

faceted ice crystal.jpg

Faceted ice crystal. © AHT/Julie

We also found impressively large icicles.  Icicles require liquid water and so they are notable: the temperature rarely goes above freezing, and certainly has not been above 0 degrees for many months now.

 

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Jane impersonating a radioactive rhinoceros by shining her headlamp through an icicle. © AHT/Julie


Most spectacular are the pressure ridges themselves.  Pressure ridges form because even very thick sheets of sea ice are mobile. As the sea underneath moves, or when the temperatures fluctuate, the ice shrinks and expands, cracks and shifts.  At Scott Base, the sea ice is bordered by Ross Island on one side and the permanent, immobile ice shelf (80 km thick) on the other.  The relatively thin sea ice between has nowhere to move except upwards, and so plates of ice are very slowly pushed up vertically along cracks, eventually developing into spectacular ice formations. These pressure ridges survived the recent sea ice breakout in February, meaning they are at least 14 years old, the date of the last ice breakout.

 

Pressure ridges.jpg
Pressure ridges.  The formation in the foreground is approximately 5 meters high. © AHT/Julie

0

Emergency Conservation

Posted by Conservators Jun 3, 2011

Posted by Martin

 

Date: 01.06.2011
Temperature: -17 degree C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a

 

Sarah mentioned earlier that the explorers in the Heroic Area were very skilled in fixing things and being creative with the limited supplies they had. See this image of Mears making dog harnesses.


Not wanting to be outdone, Julie responded promptly to an urgent conservation task of a slightly different kind. I had been outside for a while in about minus 30degree C and was very happy to get back into the warm base. Pulling off headlight, hat and frozen neck gaiter, I threw off my glasses as well and heard them landing with a sickening noise on the concrete floor. A resin frame at that temperature becomes very brittle which means I could see the fuzzy contours of my glasses separated from the lens. Julie however, in true Antarctic spirit wasn’t fazed and after 24 hours in her care, my glasses almost looked like new.


Photo 2  Martin's glasses under repair.JPG

Martin’s glasses under repair © AHT/Martin


P.S. I just heard that Julie has moved on to fixing the mouthpiece of a saxophone for Victoria, our multi talented base musician.     

0

An Outsider's View

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Author: Troy Beaumont, Scott Base Winter Manager


Date: 23/05/2011
Temperature: -21.3
Wind Speed: O knots
Temp with wind chill: -21.3
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


When I found out about the blog that the AHT team here writes, my curious/nosey nature got the best of me. It’s an excellent read but I did notice that there is not too much about the people behind the blog.


They work all hours, and their unabashed enthusiasm and passion for conserving Antarctica’s unique human heritage is amazing.  Watching them relate an article of clothing to a photograph, an historic object to a passage of a book, is something the staff and I really enjoy.


It’s great to have them as part of the Scott Base team here for winter 2011.   In addition to their work with the AHT, they all contribute to base life in other ways.  Sarah is an excellent cook, and has made several dinners for the entire base on the chef’s day off.  She is also a fine watercolorist.  Jane is a social butterfly and has taken on party planning for the entire base. In her spare time, she has written a song about conservation.  Julie plays guitar and sings backing vocals in the Scott Base band, and has two groupies and a roadie.  She occasionally lurks around with a sketchbook, scaring people.  Martin is the only person on the AHT team who can get into a truck gracefully.  He is also a ping-pong champion, a cult figure, and builds igloo walls in strange places.

 

Sarah repairing ice axe holes to a hat Photo 1.jpg

Sarah repairing ice axe holes in a hat © Troy Beaumont

 

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Julie cataloging artefacts © Troy Beaumont

 

 

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Jane conserving historic food tins  ©  Steven Sun

 

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Martin repairing boxes © Troy Beaumont

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Tent Repairs

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 23/5/2011
Temperature: -27
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

 

 

Scott Base on Ross Island is very isolated for much of the year and new supplies are often impossible to get. An enormous amount of planning goes into getting all the things that Scott Base and all the scientists need in the field, many years in advance.  Additionally great care is taken to make things last and as much as possible is reused and recycled. This has not changed since man first arrived on the continent.

Troy Beaumont Repairing a polar tent resized.jpg

Troy repairing a polar tent © AHT/ Sarah


The Field Support Officer and Base Leader, Troy Beaumont, has just spent many weeks repairing polar tents for the 2011/2012 summer science season, with the industrial Singer sewing machine.

 

There is a Herbert Ponting image of P.O. Evans inside Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition Hut at Cape Evans, at a similar  but hand cranked Singer sewing machine, working with heavy canvas.


These ongoing connections with the heroic era remind us how lucky we are with all the modern facilities we have, and that we must also value and respect what we have here.

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Sea Anchor

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Sarah, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 18 April 2011
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28

Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


Two items arrived on my desk at Scott Base a few weeks ago. The catalogue record described them as wind socks, but as soon as I opened up the box I realised that what I had were not wind socks.


The items are cone shaped canvas devices with a wooden loop at the large end. Three ropes are tied around the wooden loop and extend to a central point above the cone of fabric.  The material is far too heavy and there is no swivel point to allow the cones to catch the wind direction.


I had no idea what they could be used for. I wondered if they would have been used to dredge water or other items from the ocean, as they showed signs of being in salt water, and having just treated the plankton net, I was thinking they could be related to science.


The week I was treating these unknown items, we had a tour of the lab for staff from the American Base, McMurdo Station. It was then that a number of Americans on the tour suggested they could be small sea anchors or drogues.
Drogues used in the ocean, attached to a small boat to slow or help steady it and have been used since antiquity.


The shape, construction and size is certainly correct for a small boat.

 

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Sea Anchors from Cape Evans © AHT

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Sun Dogs

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Jane, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 19th May 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C
Sunrise:
Sunset


Jane 19 May Sun dogs.jpg

Sun Dog between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror © AHT/Jane


We were treated to a rare sight just before the sun left us a few weeks ago. A really spectacular sun dog was visible when the sun was low beside Mount Erebus. Sun dogs are seen as a ring of light or halo around the sun with bright spots on either side. They are often seen in Antarctica when small ice crystals are blown up into the air. As they fall towards the ground, they align vertically and act as prisms which defract the light creating the effect. It is a really spectacular sight which we will unfortunately not see again for some time!

 

Sun dogs 2.jpg
Bright spot from the side of the sundog in front of Mount Erebus © AHT/Jane

0

Author: Julie
Date: 11/5/11
Temperature: 17
Wind Speed: 11
Temp with wind chill: -24
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 


On our work list is an object from Scott’s hut at Cape Evans described as: Wooden case, marked: To be sent away by August 20th 1910. Balloons for South Expedition, 2 large canvas items, disintegrating celluloid.  The box was assumed to contain Scott’s weather balloons.   Last week we brought the box inside to begin work.  Well… in the end this box contained 43 items, none of them weather balloons, and none of them celluloid.  Several are mysterious.  Amongst the contents, things that I am personally fond of include:


A sheaf of amber-coloured transparent sheets.  It’s not celluloid, cellulose acetate or cellulose nitrate, but it does react like sized gelatin.  We are not sure what this is.  It does not seem to be cooking gelatin.  It is not film.  Historic tracing paper? Any ideas?


A felt-covered aluminum canteen with a cork stopper, with as-yet unidentified crystallized contents.


Several sections of ‘London Magazine’, including a racy story about Peggy who is about to marry a man who had a fling with her Aunt Bella, and Bella is scheming to break up the engagement. I’ll never know the outcome asI can’t turn the page!


11 small cotton ration bags, some containing dried figs, raisins, and cocoa.  Elsewhere in the box were plum pits, tea, biscuits, and canned goods.

Disintegrating gelatin sheet.jpg

Disintegrating amber-colored sheets in situ in the box © AHT/Sarah

 

Canteen London Magazine food bags.jpg

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A Box of History

Posted by Conservators May 15, 2011

Author: Guest blogger Jana


Date: 10/5/11
Temperature: -21
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Temp with wind chill: -27
Sunrise: August
Sunset

 

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A box of mystery tins from Cape Royds © AHT

 

A Box Of History

 

A box made of wood,
At first glance rather ordinary,
With a closer look,
Steeped in history,
Shrouded by mystery,
An artefact, a reminder of the past,
Of the hardship endured down South.

One of many to be conserved by Sarah, Julie, Martin and Jane,
A task fit only for the patient or perhaps a Saint.

Huddled around this box of hidden treasure,
Meat, medicine or soap? Hard to gather,
Ready to unleash what dormant for decades has been,
Martin with his tools and utmost care breaks in,
And we all peek in.

At the history that lies within…

 

Author Bio:
Jana is the Scott Base first aider, domestic, and a member of the Search and Rescue team.  She was present at the opening of a box of tins from Cape Royds, opened for the first time in 100 years.  We are still trying to identify the contents of the tins.


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