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Antarctic conservation

3 Posts tagged with the bowers_annex tag

Hidden gems

Posted by Conservators Jul 30, 2013

Author: Jaime

Date: 30 July 2013

Temperature: -31

Wind speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -49

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A



Having completed the restoration of the solid timber boxes from Bowers Annex, our attention is now focused on the fifty odd Venesta (VENeer from ESTtoniA) boxes, most of which were recovered from the same area.


These boxes formed part of a makeshift wall at the back of Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, but whereas the timber boxes were fairly sturdy, containing metal liners, densely packed with Colmans flour tins, the Venesta boxes are far more delicate objects, fabricated from 4mm plywood panels, riveted to each other through a light, steel, angled edging and filled with a huge variety of tinned and bottled food.

Unopened but full Venesta case LR.jpg

Unopened but full Venesta case


One hundred years of weather and corrosion have reduced the metal edging and canned contents to crumbling rust and the boxes to a mass of delaminated plies. It is only because they were excavated from densely packed snow and ice that both the panels and contents of some of the Venesta boxes have at least remained together.


Luckily though, the odd Venesta box fared better, opened but forgotten in a quiet corner of the hut and crucially, remaining relatively dry, and  undisturbed until this week. Within, nestled in straw, perfectly preserved bottles, wrapped in delicate tissue paper, as immaculate as the day they were packed. 

100 year old Venesta contents LR.jpg

100 year old Venesta contents


Deja Vu

Posted by Conservators Sep 12, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 12 September 2012

Temperature: -24C

Wind Speed:  30 knots

Temp with wind chill: -55C

Sunrise: 8:00am

Sunset: 5:45pm



It is only a bit more than a year ago, during last winter, that I conserved over a hundred food storage boxes from Shackleton’s Nimrod Base. So it certainly comes with a sense of déjà vu to start on very similar boxes excavated from Bowers Annex at Scott’s Terra Nova Base.

1 Before treatment.jpg

Before treatment © AHT/Martin


For the next two months I am sharing a workshop with Jody, the carpenter in residence here at Scott Base. With stunning views of Mt. Erebus and across the Ross Ice shelf, I am sure it will be a great place to work.   While Jana, the objects conservator, is treating the contents of the boxes, my aim is to make them structurally sound. It involves gluing split boards, re-nailing corner joints and at times adding new boards where boards have been lost. 

2 During treatment.jpg

During treatment © AHT/Martin


All these interventions are kept to a minimum but are necessary to allow the conserved content to go back into the box and for the boxes eventually to be placed back to their original locations. Detailed records are kept documenting the work, which will make it possible for future generations of conservators to distinguish between historic and added material. 

3 After treatment.jpg

After treatment © AHT/Jana


Bowers' Annex Beckons

Posted by Conservators Aug 29, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 28 August 2012

Temperature: -29.9C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -45C

Sunrise: 09:59

Sunset: 15.32



Happy to have settled on the ice at last, Martin and I have wasted no time sinking our teeth into the first project of this summer’s work programme:  for the two months that we will be working from the relative comfort of Scott Base, we will be treating artefacts from one specific location at Scott’s Terra Nova hut, Bowers’ Annex.


boxes being excavated.jpg

Boxes being excavated from Bowers' Annex.  © AHT/Jana


Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, whose distinctive nose earned him his distinctive nickname, was in charge of organising all the stores and supplies for Scott’s second Antarctic expedition.  The majority of these stores were tinned foods packaged inside wooden boxes, and by using dozens of these boxes as improvised building blocks, Bowers created a sort of lean-to addition to the south side of the hut – what we now call Bower’s Annex.  From inside this relatively protected structure he was able to sort, count and repackage the huge volume of supplies and rations needed by the sledging teams headed towards the South Pole. 


boxes waiting for treatment (2).jpg

Boxes waiting for treatment in Scott Base Carpentry shop. © AHT/Jana


While most of the supplies stored inside the annex were used up long ago, the boxes forming the walls of the annex remained in place until several years ago.  Because of their position on the south side of the hut, they were particularly vulnerable to wind and snow build-up, and it has been a priority for the Trust to excavate and treat them in order to prevent further damage.  The boxes were excavated from the annex several seasons ago and have gradually been staged to Scott Base, where they now lie in wait for Martin and I.  Martin will be treating the boxes themselves while I deal with the contents, and we look forward to showing you our progress!