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Antarctic conservation

68 Posts tagged with the artefacts tag
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Boxes Waiting

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Martin

 

Date: 9.3.2011
Temperature: -18 Degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -43
Sunrise: 06:14
Sunset 21:49

Tools are a bit like dear old friends. You might not see them for quite a while, but if you do it is as if you have never been apart. So it was with a great deal of excitement and relief to see my own workbench and a box of tools arrive with the yearly supply ship at Scott Base in Antarctica. The trusty workbench, which I built 28 years ago as an apprentice piece, is quite a seasoned traveller by now, having come from Germany to New Zealand and now Antarctica.

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Workbench waiting for action © AHT/Martin

Glad to be reunited, we had a fully operational little woodworking shop up and running in no time. Sarah, Julie and Jane , the three object conservators on the team have their own lab where they conserve a whole variety of artefacts, but will also help me conserving a large number of wooden food storage boxes. Literally thousands of these boxes have been used by R.F. Scott and E. Shackleton on their Polar Expeditions. Apart from transporting and storing food, they were also used as building blocks. Full of food and having been out in the harsh Antartic environment for a hundred years, a couple of hundred of them are in desperate need of some care and will be my companions throughout the coming winter month.

 

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Foodbox in need of some care © AHT/Martin

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Due to the devastating earthquake in Christchurch the blog below, prepared by Sarah at Scott Base, was not posted when it was received on the 22 February 2011.  Staff of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and their families have not been injured but they are involved in cleaning up homes, etc.

 

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 21-02-2011
Temperature: -9
Wind Speed: 30 knots, gusting to 35 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: 2:31
Sunset: 23:27

Being an Australian I am always excited when I find an object that is directly connected to an Australian in one of the Heroic Era Expeditions. Andrew Keith Jack was a member of the Ross Sea Party, a part of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17. Andrew Jack was a physicist on the expedition, in his diary of the time he writes 'In the midst of eternal snows in a waste and barren land'. So I was rapped to be able to conserve A.K.Jack’s sou’wester , which was very stiff, flattened and misshapen when it arrived in the laboratory. It was swabbed with water to remove a salt bloom on the surface and then gently heated with a hair drier to allow it to be reshaped. It was padded and weighted until cool to ensure it held its shape.

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A.K. Jacks Sou’wester hat before treatment © AHT/Sarah

 

Sou'wester after treatment small.jpg

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Posted by Julie


Date: 14 February 2011
Temperature: -9.6
Wind Speed: 12
Temp with wind chill: -15


In the winter, the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation lab gets moved.  Summer AHT conservators work in a lab constructed from three shipping containers located away from the main building at Scott Base, Antarctica.  This allows the team to work out of the way of the scientific research activity on base in the summer.


In the winter, base activity goes to a minimum, so the AHT team can move into the main building. Not only does this make for more comfortable working conditions – conservators have stories about things freezing to the floor of the lab in the winter -- this means the outlying buildings do not need to be heated, saving on electricity usage.  (100% of the electricity at Scott Base is now wind-generated: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ross-island-wind-energy).

 

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The forklift brings the fume extraction unit into the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie


Everything in the lab is moved, including the fume extraction unit, solvent storage cabinets, bookshelves, and all tools, equipment, and supplies. This year’s move was accomplished in virtually one day with the help of several people on base, a forklift, numerous runs back and forth in a truck, and a “quad bike” (a four-wheel cycle) fitted with a trailer. The objects/textile conservators moved into a room normally used for research event logistics, and Martin, the conservation carpenter, has set up a workshop in a “cage,” or fenced-off area normally used for supplies storage.  (We promise to bring him food in the cage, and to let him out sometimes.)

 

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Jane and Sarah begin unpacking in the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie

 

We are now up and running in our winter space. We have lost our views of Mt. Erebus and lounging seals, but we have gained running water and closer proximity to both coffee and the toilets.

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Cape Evans Centenary

Posted by Cricket and Diana Feb 2, 2011

Posted by Jamie on 4 January 2011

 

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The British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition (1910-1913) seal  © AHT / Jamie

 

Today marks one hundred years since the landing of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his 30 men (six of whom were destined for Cape Adare as the ‘northern party‘), on the ship Terra Nova at Cape Evans.  In the coming weeks the ‘Terra Nova’ hut was erected in anticipation of various scientific endeavors for the coming year and ultimately attainment of the South Pole (some 30 odd days behind the Norwegian Amundsen).

 

Whilst there were no big celebrations planned for today (4/1/2011) there was a definite sense of occasion as we set off for work on Scott's hut, still standing tall, after one hundred years on the harshest continent on earth. It was the usual work around the hut, finishing off re-cladding the roof, repairing the stables and treating various atrefacts (currently Oates bed frame).


As we worked through the evening an Emperor penguin approached us across the fractured sea-ice, coming right up to the hut within arm’s reach. As we watched intently it carried on its exploration of the huts perimeter. Up close they truly are an impressive creature. Astonishingly large in stature both high and wide, their size enormous in comparison to their adelie cousins, the colour of their coats so stunning you could gaze at them for hours. It was certainly a moment to remember as well as a stark contrast (beyond the obvious) to Scott’s taxidermy penguin at his study table.

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Emperor penguin © AHT / Jamie

 

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Penquin on table at Scott's hut © AHT


After dinner I went for a walk to view the world from the lookout towards Inaccessible Island, managing to avoid the familiar attack by nesting skua.  Ahead in the distance, open water with groups of seals and penguins surrounding the water and an iceberg, as the Trans Antarctic ranges provide inspirational backdrop. As the snow began to fall lightly it became as serene as ever and I imagined a group of men frantically unloading the ship to spend over a year isolated from the rest of the world with aspirations of conquering the last frontier on earth. Whichever way you think about it the determination of those men was second to none, the stories of their hardships dressed down in diaries as only small hurdles.

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Water's edge © AHT


To end the day I had a walk around the hut as per usual. As described by Sir David Attenborough “It is a time warp without parallel”. Also a pretty cool way to wind down as this landmark day draws to an end.    

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The Tenements 1911 © Herbert Ponting, Antarctica NZ Pictorial Collection

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Blubber Pile

Posted by Cricket and Diana Jan 20, 2011

Author:          Diana

 

Date:             January 13, 2011
Temperature: -1 to -2 degrees celcius
Wind Speed: 15 knots (20-30 knott gusts)
Temp with wind chill: -roughly -8c
Sunrise: Sun is up all the time

 

There are no naturally occurring sources of fuel for heating or cooking available in Antarctica. It has therefore always been necessary to bring some source of fuel. Today we use LPG (propane) and furnace oil for heating and cooking. They come to Antarctica with the container ship in February every year.


During the Heroic Era of Antarctic discovery, coal and coal Bricketts as well as paraffin were brought down, but they also used something more local – seal blubber (fat). It was not as effective a heat source and left a sooty layer from its smoke but worked just the same.  See this image of Meares and Oates at the blubber stove, cooking food for the dogs, May 26th 1911.

 

The Ross Sea Party, stranded from their ship the Aurora when she broke free of her anchors in 1914-15, used primarily blubber for heating and cooking. There remains a pile of seal blubber at Cape Evans from this group. With the restoration work going on it was best to cover the pile but this week the table-like cover was removed. The surface was cleaned by picking the bits of scoria gravel, feathers and dust off.  A retaining dam was constructed around the pile of blubber to keep it intact. It is an amazing site and the aroma is quite distinctive.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 30 November 2010
Temperature: -6C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -13C

 

 

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Campsite at Cape Royds © AHT/Cricket

 

Our camp at Cape Royds sits over the hill and due east of Sir Ernest Shackelton’s Hut from his 1907 Nimrod Expedition.  We are nine, 6 carpenters and 3 conservators, and we each sleep in our own bright yellow polar tent, like the ones the early explorers used on their expeditions.  I am 5’6” tall and can just stand up straight at the center of the tent, which makes dressing into our bulky Carhartts and big Sorrel boots relatively easy.  The tent’s yellow fabric creates a strong warm light inside, which makes it nearly impossible to tell colours apart.  We laugh at how disorienting it is to know what a colour should be and see something entirely different.  Blues look like black, and purples are a horrible brown, etc.  The tents are remarkably comfortable, and though not as warm as the lower-to-the-ground Mountain tents, are wonderfully pleasant for longer field trips like our 4-week-long stay at Royds.

 

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Polar Tent © AHT/Cricket


We have the luxury of having a good sized mess created by two wannigans joined together at the side.  The wannigans are new this year and are retrofitted hydroponics containers from the days when vegetables and herbs were grown at Scott Base – we use many of the plant hooks and ceiling wires to hang our clothes and towels.  We have a propane stove for cooking, a small diesel stove for heat and melting snow for water, and a sink that is fed by a Coleman cooler and drains into a bucket.  It’s a relatively simple life here of work, base chores, relaxing in the evening and sleep.  It’s amazing how quickly one forgets about the clutter and noisy details of normal life like tv and telephone calls, and rediscovers how great good company and good books really are.

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Posted by Lizzie

 

I’m writing this from sunny Cape Royds, looking out onto Mt Erebus, just a small vapor trail visible today from Ross Island’s active volcano. All around me is the sound of a very busy camp - we’ve gone from four to nine! This week Diana, Cricket, JT and I have been joined by Randy (Canada), Jamie W (Scotland), Martin, Jamie C and Al (NZ).


Productivity has shot through the roof, offset by the time it takes to do all the dishes….

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From L-R: Jamie C, JT, Martin, Jamie W, Al, Randy © AHT

 

The last three days have seen the whole team moving artefacts, equipment and supplies from Scott Base to Cape Evans to Cape Royds and vice versa. It’s a big job involving several tracked vehicles, many sleds and the support of Antarctica New Zealand staff, who put in some long days to get us into the field and all set up.


We’ve had some fantastic weather – here’s a shot of the artefacts in transit with Mt Erebus in the background, and not a breath of wind!
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The artefacts on the move © Diana / AHT

 

Similarly to last year, the sea ice edge and open water are visible from the cliffs next to Cape Royds. The Adelie penguin pairs are looking plump, and are busy keeping their eggs warm, and taking turns to head out on fishing expeditions. Meanwhile the humans are waddling industriously about like giant orange and black penguins, returning artefacts to the hut…..

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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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