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Antarctic conservation

2 Posts tagged with the boots tag
1

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 11 June 2014

Temperature: -22.4C

Wind Speed: 7.7 knots 40 NE

Temp with wind chill: -31.7C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

My grandmother, my mother and even my best friend have been heard announcing the old view that 'you can tell a man by his shoes' implying that shoes can portray a man's moral character. Today that view may be mostly obsolete, especially in the Antarctic.

 

In the Antarctic, where there is little room for fashionable and aesthetic footwear, our shoes and boots are practical. Designed for Extreme Cold Weather, they are big, sometimes knee high, and insulated with high soles and thick layers of fleece. With wear and tear, we repair them and with decreasing temperature and new demands, we alter them.

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Meg, Sue, Stefanie and Aline with their Extreme Cold Weather boots

 

This was also the case for Scott and his men. They patched, re-stitched and altered their boots often adding hobnails to increase grip for walking on ice and stuffing insulating sennegrass inside to help overcome freezing temperatures.

 

One may interpret that these men stayed true to their old boots, maintaining and caring for them. These men were professional and practical yet display chaotic domestic habits in the scruff and buildup of dirt on the boot soles. Perhaps, pronate distortions in the boots tell that they were sometimes stressed and exhausted with sore and cold feet.

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Above and below: Historic boots from Cape Evans with additional Sennegrass inside and hobnails in sole

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It was sometimes the case that the historic explorers wore less practical and fancier shoes. Uncovered from under Wilson's bed, in Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, a black patent leather pomp, with a decorative grosgrain bow, was found. This rather fancy shoe is completely unsuitable for the harsh Antarctic conditions and may perhaps lend a tale about a man's more sensitive character. The owner of this shoe was a man with grounded feet; a man with a sense of vanity, style and perhaps even artistic humour.

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Black patent pump or court shoe with decorative ribbon

 

Overall, we can be sure of one thing: Practical and durable boots are a necessity for surviving the harsh Antarctic conditions and equally as important is  the superficial and impractical accessory that can sometimes lift a man's moral and make him feel at home.

2

Author: Gretel Evans

Date: Wednesday 1st August 2012

Temperature: -26 deg C

Wind Speed: 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -45 deg C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset n/a

 

Among the utilitarian objects that we conserve there are also many weird and wonderful items. Objects from the expeditions have often been adapted or re-used in another form during their lifetime.  I have come across a pair of boot liners with a strange addition. The liners are made of cotton but have pieces of caribou fur sewn on to the heel. This gives them a particularly warm and comfortable look, but I’m not sure about the effectiveness or even purpose of this addition.

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Boot liners before conservation  Credit: AHT

 

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Boot liners after conservation Credit: AHT

 

I can only think this would have made them uncomfortable to wear inside a boot - although as a colleague pointed out, they may have prevented rubbing and blisters forming on the heel. The boot liners prompted a story about Thomas Griffith Taylor, Senior Geologist with Scott’s Terra Nova expedition who apparently sewed canvas heel tips to his socks and called them Taylor’s Patent Heel Tips. I wonder what the purpose of the fur heels was and what they may have been called at the time. Answers on a postcard to Antarctica.