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Antarctic conservation

83 Posts tagged with the conservation tag
1

Storms

Posted by Cricket and Diana Jan 31, 2011

 

Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 15 January 2011
Temperature: -2
Wind Speed: 7 knots
Temp with wind chill:

 

 

Weather is one thing you can never rely on down here.  In December, at Sir Ernest Shackleton's base at Cape Royds in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica, we had a 5-day storm of biting winds, cold temperatures and snow.  It was exciting at first, but then the daily buildup of snow in my tent and constant winds just lost their magic.  For some reason, I believed that that storm was our first and last.  I guess I thought that we’re in summer now and the weather should be sunny and even balmy during our last couple weeks here.  And, for the most part it has been, but just this week the winds shifted to the south, the temperature rose and we all realized we were in for another one.  This storm was a small one, mostly of blowy snow, and lasted just 2 days. Now that it’s over, it’s amazing to think how such a thing like a small storm affects your psyche.


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Tentsite in the storm © AHT /Cricket


It’s only after a storm that you realize how tiring living through one is.  Working outside is a bother and even the short commute between your tent, the kitchen wannigan, the conservation lab and the hut takes its toll.  It’s a quiet struggle, with your back hunched over and face scrunched up against the wind.  Your clothes get wet from all the snow, you wear your big issue boots, which weigh over 3kg, and everything seems a wee bit more of an effort.  And, when the storm finally leaves, there is a big relief.  The first sight of blue sky and sunlight seems like a marvelous gift that makes you smile.  It’s like seeing things for the first time, and suddenly everyone is just that much happier.  It’s been interesting living and working outside for just that reason – your life is not about news and events but more about what is going on in your immediate world and how vulnerable you are to it all.

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Barne Glacier just after the storm © AHT /Cricket
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Just in case!

Posted by Cricket and Diana Dec 23, 2010

Posted by Lizzie

 

Date: 23 December 2010
Temperature: -2.5C
Wind Speed: 4 Knots, North-East
Temp with wind chill: -3.3C
Sunrise: 24 hour daylight
Sunset
 
This season at Cape Royds, much of our work has revolved around the historic wood and ply cases of food used on Shackleton’s 1907-08 expedition. With the Nimrod moored at the foot of the cliffs, the heavy wooden boxes, sacks of coal and bales of fodder were hoisted up to the cliff-top plateau using a derrick, and the vast majority of the some 2000 boxes were moved down to the hut.

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Shackleton’s team man-hauling food stores © Canterbuy Museum 1981_110_30


Previous posts have mentioned the high risk of fire in Antarctica, with conditions being so dry, and water not being widely available. Shackleton and his team were well aware of the risk and took the extra precaution of staging a cache of food supplies up on the plateau above the hut. Over the last hundred years, the cache of boxes and tins has gradually corroded, eroded, become buried by scoria, tins have been blown hundreds of metres down the coast by the wind and at times been carried off by skua for lunch.


This season, to remove temptation from the skua, and to prevent contamination of the local environment, the food cache was excavated, documented, and then re-housed in boxes at the cache site.

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Cricket excavating food tins © AHT 2010

0

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.

Ben for Blog.jpg

 

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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Scott Base to Cape Evans

Posted by Conservators Nov 10, 2010

Diana and Cricket have left the relative comfort of New Zealand’s Scott Base and travelled by Haggalund to Captain RF Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  As they have no internet access at present and are unable to send blogs out, we thought followers of their blog might appreciate an update on their movements.

Carefully wrapped artefacts had been transported from Cape Evans to Scott Base for conservators to work on over the winter months and these objects must now be returned to Captain RF Scott’s hut. The trip to Cape Evans last week would have been slow as they cannot travel over 10 kilometers per hour when transporting artefacts. 

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Travelling by haggalund on frozen sea ice © AHT

On arrival at Cape Evans they would have been busy setting up camp, unpacking artefacts and adjusting to living in a more remote location.

They will probably be able to write a blog from Cape Evans next week and send it by Haggalund to Scott Base, for transmission by email to Christchurch, for placement on the NHM website.

0

Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 20 October 2010
Temperature: -23C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)

 

Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began.  When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work.  The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public.  It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.

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TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT

 

The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting.  The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica.  Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea.  Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.


The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings.  It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom.  Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY).  At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.

Interior.jpg

Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT

 

One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch.  The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch.  After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?

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Flag raising ceremony

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 20, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 20, 2010
Temperature: -22 degrees C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26degrees C
Sunrise: 3:24 am
Sunset 12:07 am

 

The conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust come to Scott Base at Winfly (early August) and stay until almost the end of “Mainbody” ( the summer work term) when the “Winter over” conservators come in. This means that the AHT conservators get to know two seasons of Scott Base employees.
We recently took part in the Flag raising ceremony which is held to celebrate the work of the outgoing 2009/10 team by the incoming 2010/11 team. It is in commemoration of the first flag raising ceremony held at Scott Base.

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Winter flag © AHT/Diana

 

In 1957 a short but impressive ceremony took place, attended by Sir Edmond Hillary, Captain Harold Ruegg, Administrator of the Ross Dependency, Captain Kirkwood from the Endeavour, Admiral Dufek (US Navy), Captain Weiss from the USNS, Pte. John R. Towle, the press and workers associated with the establishment of Scott Base. The youngest member of the party, 20 year old Able Seaman Ramon Tito RNZN, hoisted the first flag. The flag pole used was an historic one recovered from Hut Point where it had been placed by R.F. Scott in 1902-04.

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Joel attaching the flag  © AHT/Diana

 

Our 2010 ceremony had 20 year old Joel lower the flag which flew all winter and raise the new flag. The top of the flag pole is still the original from Scott’s era.

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New flag up © AHT/Diana

 

The ceremony had a turning of the page feel about it with the excitement of the new crew at being in Antarctica and for the departing crew the prospect of seeing their families again after 13 months on the ice.
 

0

Date: 13 October 2010
Temperature: -26C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -39C
Sunrise: 4:48am
Sunset 10:39pm



I recently conserved a single leather slipper from the hut of R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova 1910-1913 expedition.  The slipper looked old, well worn and was crushed almost flat.  An intimate detail was the owner’s addition of straw padding on the bottom, presumably for added cushioning and warmth.  My treatment goal was to clean off the heavy layer of dirt and reshape the slipper in order to restore its original shape.  During the initial cleaning, while carefully unfolding the crumpled tongue, I found, to my surprise, the punched initials, “FD.”

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Slipper,  Before Treatment © AHT/CricketDetail of Tongue, After Treatment © AHT/Cricket


I read that the men from these early polar expeditions often carved, wrote or stamped their initials onto their belongings and was excited to actually find such a mark.  “FD” most likely is Frank Debenham, a young Australian who was one of three of Scott’s geologists.  In early 1911, Debenham joined the four-man team and completed the Western Journey, which mapped the western mountains of Victoria Land, making geological observations and other scientific studies. This image shows Debenham grinding Geological specimans in July, 1911.

 

 

In his career, Debenham was prolific.  During his time in Antarctica, he had the idea of creating a learning center and repository for Arctic and Antarctic research.  In 1920 he, along with Raymond Priestley, a fellow geologist from Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic Nimrod 1907-1909 expedition, opened the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University.  The Institute is famous for its comprehensive polar library and archives, and to this day, remains Britain’s leader in polar research and glaciology.

1

Flying to the Ice

Posted by Cricket and Diana Aug 18, 2010

Posted by Cricket & Diana

 

Date:             18 August 2010
Sunrise:          Below horizon
Sunset:
Temperature:  -32C
Wind Speed:  30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -65C

 

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Boarding the C-17  © AHT/C Harbeck

 

We boarded the U.S. Air Force’s C-17 plane just after lunch along with almost 120 other people and left Christchurch, New Zealand, for Antarctica, where we will be spending the next 6 months working on the artefact collection of Scott’s 1910–13 Antarctic expedition.  We were in awe of the plane.  Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III is the preferred plane for these types of transport because it has a large carrying capacity and can fly to the ice and back all in one day and on one tank of gas.  It’s a huge plane, which, having watched the previous day’s flight take off, appears a heavy and pokey beast when leaving the ground.  However, in the plane, it felt much different. We were surprised by the speed and force, which jerked us back into our seats.

 

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Inside the C-17 © AHT/D Komejan

We were 2 of 3 “Kiwis” (slang term for New Zealanders) on the flight with the remaining passengers heading for the U.S. base, McMurdo.  Our departure time was unusual since most flights during late winter leave Christchurch in the early morning in order to land on the ice during a small window of daylight.  Our afternoon flight was scheduled so that the pilots could practice landing during the Antarctica nighttime with their new night vision goggles - a daunting initiation to the ice!  Our flight covered 4000km in only 5 hours, and we deplaned in time to see the last glow of sun.  Stunning.

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