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Antarctic conservation

3 Posts tagged with the british_antarctic_expedition tag

Author: Georgina

Date: 27 June 2012

Temperature: -21C

Wind Speed: 10 Knots

Temp with wind chill: -28C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A



One of the books this season from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans is unusual amongst the ones I have worked on for having a British Antarctic Expedition bookplate. This seems to suggest that it was somehow formally acquired for the expedition, or belonged to someone in the habit of marking their books this way. Could the use of official stationary indicate that this was Scott’s own copy? It is always tempting to try and ‘place’ an artefact with a specific expedition member (and usually one of the more famous ones), but in reality comparatively few artefacts can ever be positively linked to an individual, and usually only then because it has been signed or had a name tag sewn on.


The book is ‘The Green Flag’ by Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and is a compilation of short stories about army life. Back in England, Captain Scott was a member of Sheringham Golf Club, and it just so happened that the author was a member at the same time too – so presumably they knew each other.  Interestingly, there was also a member there called Moriarty!


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Book after treatment, showing bookplate; British Antarctic Expedition, 1910 © AHT/George


And what about the initials printed in blue ink at the corner of the book plate; ‘R.J.S.’? The only luck I have had so far in finding an R.J.S. in relation to the expedition is Robert Falcon Scott’s cousin; Robert Julian Scott. Born at Plymouth, Devonshire in 1861, Julian later immigrated to New Zealand where he became professor of engineering at Canterbury College in Christchurch. It is known that Scott visited him before heading south.


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Scott's cousin, Robert Julian Scott, lived & worked in Christchurch, NZ


So, in the tradition of the great detectives, has the case of the mystery book been solved? Well, no, not really. The evidence is scant and circumstantial at best, and, for the moment at least, the investigation remains open.


Erebus – son of Chaos

Posted by Conservators Jun 13, 2012

Author: Gretel

Date: 30 May 2012

Temperature: -18C

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -40C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


Scott Base stands in the shadow of Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s southernmost active volcano.  Mount Erebus was discovered on January 27, 1841 (and observed to be in eruption) by polar explorer Sir James Clark Ross who named it after one of his ships. In Greek mythology Erebus was a primordial god of darkness and the son of Chaos – perhaps Sir Ross had this in mind when he named the volcano.


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Erebus Discovered  © State Library of South Australia.

The first ascent of Mount Erebus was made in 1908 during Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-1909. On reaching the summit, the party measured the altitude with a hypsometer - a small cylinder in which distilled water is boiled and the temperature measured (as the temperature at which water boils drops with altitude). Meteorological experiments were carried out and rock samples taken. The ascent took 5 days and on return the 6 men were said to be ‘nearly dead’. This was the first ascent of any peak on Antarctica and was made with improvised equipment such as crampons fashioned out of leather and nails.

Today, Mount Erebus is still a feature of attraction for scientists as the most active volcano in Antarctica. The summit has a permanent magma-filled lake, one of only a few in the world. The volcano produces Erebus crystals, which grow in the magma and are ejected during eruptions. So rare are these crystals they are only found in one other place in the world, a long long way away on Mount Kenya.


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Mount Erebus © AHT/Gretel


Installment 1 - Boxes

Posted by Conservators Mar 23, 2011

Author: Martin


Date: 16-03-11

Temperature: -20°C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -40°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53



In my last blog I talked about boxes in waiting and the setting up of my workbench here in the Hillary Field Centre at Scott Base. Now I will talk about where the boxes came from and what will happen to them. Ever since they were used by Sir Ernest Shackleton to build a garage and stables outside the expedition base for his 1907-1909 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition, these boxes have survived in one of the harshest climates on earth. Most of them still contain the original food. The food however has become an environmental risk as the boxes disintegrate and without intervention most of them would be lost to the environment very soon.

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Remains of the east wall of the stables © AHT


Over the summer months we have spent several weeks dismantling and excavating the structures, packing the individual boxes up and transporting them to Scott Base for conservation. This also included creating a very detailed record about the condition and location of every single item. It allows us to return the conserved boxes next year to their original location. They are now stored in their frozen state until we are ready to thaw them and look at their content for the first time in more than 100 years.

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Diana gets a box ready for travel © AHT