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Antarctic conservation

71 Posts tagged with the captain_scott tag
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Posted by Jane

 

 

Last week we decided to inspect the cross on Observation Hill before we lose the sun completely. We waited for a day with good weather. Friday was the perfect day - the sun was shining and there was barely a cloud in the sky. It was a good decision as the weather became quite stormy the following day.

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The AHT team on Ob Hill - Jane, Martin, Sarah and Julie (in Dr. Wilson style heroic stance) © AHT/Jane

The hill is quite steep in places and there was plenty of snow covering the ground so I climbed in a rather unelegant fashion up the slopes like a mountain goat about to fall off the side of a cliff.


At the top, the view was remarkable. The Transantarctic Mountains across the sound appeared as though a painting and McMurdo, which usually looks like a dirty mining town, looked slightly more attractive than usual with a light dusting of snow.

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Looking out over the Transantarctic mountains ©AHT/Jane

The cross was erected in 1913 and still looks the same even though the paint has now all but gone. It still sits on top of Observation Hill looking South toward Minna Bluff and the Pole in memory of Scott, Bowers, Oates and Evans.

 

Date: 13/04/11
Temperature: -19.2°C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26°C
Sunrise: 09.36
Sunset 16.09
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Pemmican

Posted by Conservators Apr 15, 2011

Posted by Julie

 

A can of pemmican from Captain Scott’s Cape Evans hut  © AHT

 

In “The Worst Journey In the World.” Apsley Cherry-Garrard describes a vaguely masochistic experiment undertaken during an already torturous winter expedition: “By taking individually different quantities of biscuit, pemmican and butter we were able to roughly test the proportions of proteids, fats and carbohydrates wanted by the human body under such extreme circumstances.” He reports that Bowers, eating excess pemmican “was all right (this was usual with him) but he did not eat all his extra pemmican.  Bill could not eat all his extra butter, but was satisfied.  I got hungry, certainly got more frost-bitten than the others, and wanted more fat.  I also got heartburn.”  The conclusion?  Pemmican: better than biscuits!

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Lance checks the drying beef and berries © AHT/Julie

Luckily for us, our excellent cook, Lance, decided to make us some pemmican, using a secret recipe which I promised to never divulge.  Okay, I’ll tell you.  Slice thin some lean, grass-fed shoulder roast, and salt and pepper liberally.  Dry the meat along with some wild blueberries for 15 hours in a warm oven.  Pulverize.  Render some fat.  Strain the fat.  Mix it all together, and let it firm up.  Cut into squares or roll into balls.  The recipe concludes, “Pemmican will keep almost forever.”  (Ha – we conservators will be the judge of that.) Being vegetarian, I of course can’t comment on the taste.  Okay, it was delicious.

Date: 11/4/11
Temperature: -20
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -37
Sunrise: 09:19
Sunset 16:28

Sledging rations on Scott’s 1910-1912 expedition included canned pemmican, a mixture of fat, dried meat, and dried fruit ground together.
Pemican.jpg
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Catching Plankton

Posted by Conservators Apr 12, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 6 April 2011
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: 08:39
Sunset 10:10


Science was at the forefront for Captain Scott's 1910 Terra Nova Expedition. Seven scientists made up the expedition crew, looking at every aspect of science in Antarctica.  When I opened a large package marked ‘net’, I was intrigued to find a large plankton net.

 

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Plankton Net from Cape Evans © AHT


Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the assistant Zoologist, in the ‘The Worst Journey in the world’ writes ‘The diatoms were so abundant in the Ross Sea, that the large plankton net (18 meshes to an inch) became choked in a few minutes, with them and other members of phytoplankton’. The plankton net that is currently sitting on my desk has 27 meshes to an inch! One can only imagine how choked it may have become.


There is a picture by Herbert Ponting depicting Nelson the Zoologist preparing a townet for use on the 15th March of 1911. Edward Wilson in his diary of the 24 October 1911, talks about Nelson, ‘all through the winter kept a good hole in a shelter off the end of the cape which he visited and worked at every day…. Here plankton samples were taken as short intervals with townets of various meshes.’


I think this is the only remaining complete plankton net from Cape Evans. It is in remarkably good condition, still structurally strong, the mesh I suspect is made of horse hair. I wonder how many times it was used and what secretes of the deep it revealed?

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Disappearing Sun Haikus

Posted by Conservators Apr 1, 2011

Authors: Julie, Sarah, Martin, and guest bloggers

 

Date: 30/3/11
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 18
Temp with wind chill: -38
Sunrise: 08:47
Sunset 19:06

We are impressed by the quantity of poetry written by all those scientists and explorers, the early heroes of Antarctic exploration.  Following in the footsteps of the giants of polar exploration, as the sun disappears, we too, write poetry.

 

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Sunset  © AHT/Jane

 

Disappearing Sun Haikus
Seems kind of dark out
That is one awesome sunrise
I need more coffee       -- Julie

 

I’m completely lost
Why is it so dark out there
Where the heck am I?      -- Sarah

 

Faulheit, wer weiss es
Vielleicht nur ein bisschen Ruhe
Wann kommst Du wieder?      -- Martin

 

Orange blue orange
Blue orange blue orange blue
Orange blue orange     – Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

As we spin along
The plane of the ecliptic
The earth hides the sun.      – Anonymous Scott Base resident

Talk like a penguin
Roll like a cute baby seal
Look up and it’s dark      -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Hey look, our new friends!
Venus, Canopus, Rigel,
Alpha Centauri…        -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Farewell to the Sun
Ceaseless day is gone,
Farewell to the dusk and dawn
And the warmth and light.
Welcome never-ending night,
Sky, stars and the Moon…
A farce, a plight, doom and gloom?
Or just a magic,
A new fairytale to bloom…
The tale of the SUN,
The balance of Yin and Yang…     -- Anonymous McMurdo Station Guest Poet


Sunset Sestina
That time of year again.  Our round, most constant sun
Disintegrates in atmospheric ripples, green
and blue and red and yellow, paints new shadows, pours
itself into the blazing clouds, illuminates
the smallest ridges, gives an edge of glory now
to every passing step on this, our icy world.

This moment of our day is only that.  The world's
adventure takes us farther into darkness; Sun
will vanish in mere days, a week at most.  But now
there's wonder to be found in every bit of green
that shimmers.  The projection that illuminates
our wall shows sunspots, smokes and quivers as it pours

into our lucky eyes.   Can we say it pours
into our hearts as well?  Why ever not?  The world
is like that.  We decide what sun illuminates
our hidden places; we decide to let this sun
be more than just a splotch of light, be growth and green
things, fruits and flowers, a riot of colors inside us now.

You can't assume we all are eager for this now.
“Stay, sun.  Don't go, not yet!” we say, as daylight pours
away, swirls too swiftly down the drain.  Green
flash?  That's nifty, yes, but must it mean the world
is racing into night?  Life without the sun?
A scary thought.  Yet even fear illuminates

the inner landscape.  We expect illumination
here, and grumble when it doesn't strike.  But now
we must forget all that.  The circling of the sun
reminds us that it's time to sleep.  Our efforts pour
into another day of work: building worlds
from boxes big and small, harvesting the green-

house, gathering data, cleaning floors.  Some are green
with envy, hearing of our lives.  “Illuminate
us too,” they cry.  “Tell us how it is.  Our world
is so mundane.”  A plan: next year we'll trade, not now.
Venus floats in the bright blue sky.  The light that pours
upon the plains is glowing fragments of the sun.

We think about the world, the places filled with green,
the rocks, the friends, the sun; these threads illuminate
this frozen here, this now, across which sunset pours.

-- Victoria Grace Landgraf   2006


 

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Signs in the sock

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date:           22/3/11
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise:           7:51
Sunset           20:07


What, you may ask, can a humble sock tell us about the heroic era of exploration? Well quite a lot if you know what to look for. Many of the explorers on Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition stitched name tags in their sock, while others used simple colours stitches to indicate whose they were. In fact we still do similar things today with our matching Antarctic New Zealand issue clothes, using coloured ribbons.  So these name tags give us a direct and very personal link to individual explorers such as Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

 

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Label on sock belonging to Apsley Cherry-Garrard © AHT/Sarah

 

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Detail of  embroidered ‘name tag’  © AHT/Sarah

But there is more.  Many of the socks are so well worn, they have been darned, patched and re-patched, this speaks of a make do culture, where everything was valued and repaired. These repeatedly patched socks very often indicated reuse by the subsequent Ross Sea Party from Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Not having enough of their own clothes they had to make, repair and reuse whatever they could from the previous expedition. 

 

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Sock from Cape Evans © AHT/Sarah

More evidence of use can be found in the dirt and detritus left behind on the socks. Some are covered in reindeer fur from sleeping bags - were they bed socks?  Others are thick with seal blubber and soot - who in the Ross Sea Partly wore these to gather and burn seal blubber with?
Have you any idea who the sock in the picture belonged to? Is the straw stuck to the heel from the padding inside a boot or is if pony fodder?

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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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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

 


Ernest Shackleton’s hut from the Nimrod expedition at Cape Royds sits on the coast of Ross Island beside an Adelie penguin rookery.  In contrast to the quiet and elegant beauty of Captain R.F. Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, Royds seems more intimate and personable, partly due to it being nestled in a cove amongst rolling hills, but also because of our penguin neighbors.  I think Royds might be my favorite, and this is because we’re so close to the penguins, which we can watch across Pony Lake and hear chattering all day long as we work in and around the hut.  It’s fantastic to be so close to these funny little birds which seem to be constantly busy and fidgeting.

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Shackleton’s hut with the Adelie penguins in the background © AHT/Cricket


Last night we had a special treat.  After dinner we heard a different bird call like a low trilled honk.  It was the sound of Emperor penguins.  We spotted about a dozen coming along the coast from the north, slowing making their way south across the ice.  In contrast to the quick and sometimes random Adelies, the Emperors appear calm and methodical.  They are a stately bird.  They moved in a straight line, stopping at times for twenty to thirty minutes, before continuing on their way.  We sat on the cliff for almost two hours, eager for them to get closer and willing them to hurry.   They finally made it to the edge of the Adelie rookery where they paused for a time before carrying on.

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Emperor penguins on march © AHT/Cricket

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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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It's a wrap!

Posted by Conservators Aug 11, 2010
Author:Jane
Date:04/08/10
Temperature:-20.5°C
Wind Speed:25 knots
Temp with wind chill:-47°C
Moonrise:Below the horizon.
Moonset:

Below the horizon.

 

 

I have just finished conserving a group of tins from Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans which has been quite challenging over the last few weeks. With so many objects containing paper elements it has not been possible for George, our paper conservator, to conserve them all, so I have had the opportunity to learn new paper conservation skills from her.

 

Griffith & McAlister made dried food products like tapioca, lentils and macaroni, packed in distinctive square blue tins, wrapped in coarse paper and tied with string. Removing the wrappers can be a daunting process as the corroding iron from the tins is acidic and impregnates the paper, causing the wrapper to become very brittle.

 

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Griffith & McAlister tin of Flake Tapioca before conservation. The outer label is torn and stained with iron corrosion causing it to be very brittle.

Credit: AHT

 

I washed the wrappers in water, adding an alkaline buffer to reduce the acidity. The holes in the wrappers were filled with a Japanese tissue paper toned to the same colour as the wrapper, providing strength to weaker areas. The whole wrapper was then lined with a very thin toned Japanese tissue paper. The type of adhesive we use depends on how degraded the paper is.

 

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Applying toned Japanese tissue paper to fill lost areas of the wrapper to give it stability and then applying a thin lining for extra support.

Credit: AHT/ N. Dunn

 

As the wrappers dried between layers of blotting paper, I removed the surface corrosion from the tins and applied coatings to the metal to prevent them from deteriorating in the future. The labels were treated similarly to the wrappers and then reapplied to the tin.

 

 

The paper needs to be wet when re-wrapping the tin to prevent it from cracking. The tin was aligned perfectly along the original creases in the wrapper and finally the string was replaced.

 

 

I spent at least eight hours working on each of these tins as there are many different elements to treat on each one. It is often useful to conserve a batch of similar objects at one time, carrying out the same process on a number of objects. This is never boring as each has its own unique set of problems!

 

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The Flake Tapioca tin after conservation retains its historic appearance.

Credit:  AHT/J. Hamill

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