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Antarctic conservation

70 Posts tagged with the conservators tag
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Midwinter dinner

Posted by Conservators Jun 24, 2011

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     Scott Base team at midwinter. Photo: Jane

 

Midwinter is an important turning point in the life of all Antarctic winter-overs. Greetings and invitations to midwinter dinners are sent out by all the Antarctic stations. It is a time to reflect on the achievement of past explorers, the scientific work that is being done around the continent and to look forward to the coming light and reunions with friends and family.


Last night, on the 100th anniversary of Robert Falcon Scott’s last midwinter dinner, the team at Scott Base commemorated the occasion with a magnificent meal prepared by our chef Lance, and then a great party afterwards. Julie prepared a menu in the style of Edward Wilson’s original watercolour menu. The dining room was festooned with the flags of the Antarctic treaty nations and smaller route flags of red and black.  15 invited guests from McMurdo Station joined us for the festivities.


It was a wonderful evening, shared with great friends, in a very special part of the world.

 

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     Midwinter dinner menu. Photo: Julie

 

Posted by: Sarah

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Finding The Way

Posted by Conservators Jun 16, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 15.6.2011
Temperature: -10 degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 60 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40 degree Celsius
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


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Flags ready to go © AHT/ Martin 


Many people who have been to Scott Base, NZ's science base on Ross Island, Antarctica, have had experience with flag making. It means feeding a piece of fabric on to a bamboo stick and fixing it with one screw –  then repeating it about a hundred times.  (The screw by the way ensures that the flags and therefore the route is showing up on the radar when travelling in a white out) Literally hundreds of these flags are used to mark all the routes across the ice and they have become a feature of this part of Antarctica of almost iconic proportions. Yesterday I had the chance to go out with Troy, our field support person and base manager, to replace a number of flags in preparation for the next summer season. Equipped with a battery drill, 25mm extra long drill bit and bundles of flags in a sled we drive or walk along the route. As we go along, we look for missing or half buried flags, drill a 400mm deep  hole and insert a new flag. In -15 degree C with little wind and a full moon, it was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours out and about away from the workbench.      

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Out on the ice in the afternoon  © Troy Beaumont

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Boxes repaired by Martin

Posted by Conservators Jun 12, 2011

Author: Julie

 

Date: 8/6/11
Temperature: -17.8
Wind Speed: 42 kts
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

 

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Repaired historic boxes in situ at Cape Royds © Michael Morrison

 

As Martin has written in previous blogs, his job is to repair deteriorated historic wooden food crates so that they are structurally stable.  If sections of the timber boards are missing, Martin remakes the missing sections and inserts them back into the box like puzzle pieces.  The fills make the boxes more weathertight, and, together with other structural repairs to the box interiors, allow the boxes to carry the necessary weight and to withstand extreme wind and temperature differentials.  As is considered ethical in the field of conservation, the fills amalgamate visually with the original box, but remain distinguishable as new material (they are marked on their interior faces).  In that way there is no confusion about what is original to 1911 and what AHT has added in 2011.

 

 

 

 

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Missing section of timber replicated on box AHT9043.1. © AHT

Martin is using Scott’s Pine (Pinus sylvestris) for the box repairs.  The growth rings of that timber are very close together, making it particularly stable.  Additionally, Scott’s Pine is compatible with the species identified as having been used for the historic boxes, including spruce, pine, and fir. What Martin hasn’t talked about is how aesthetically striking some of his repairs are.  Over time, the new wood will weather to match the old, and the repairs will not stand out visually.  However, when Martin first repairs the boxes, the new and old wood contrast, and the effect can be quite beautiful, like elegantly crafted pieces of sculpture.

 

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Repairs to box AHT9251.1: from an aesthetic standpoint, my favorite box so far.  © AHT

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Party at Scott Base

Posted by Conservators Jun 10, 2011

Author: Jane

 

Wind Speed: 15 knits
Temp with wind chill: -27°C

We often socialise with our fellow Antarcticans from McMurdo Station, one of the United States Antarctic Program bases. We have film nights, bingo, trivia and of course parties, among other things.


This past weekend we threw a dress up party with live music in our mechanics workshop. There were four bands playing, one of which was from Scott Base. Most of the bands have only been together for a few months, but they all still sounded great.


At the beginning of the season I told Julie she would be up playing guitar on stage before the Winter was out but she flatly denied it. I was right!  The band practiced regularly in preparation for the party and did not disappoint, nor did any of the McMurdo bands.


The organisation and set up took quite a bit of time, but everyone enjoyed the night so it was well worth all the effort.

 

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The Scott Base band playing. From left: Anthony, Julie, Lance, Victoria. ©  AHT/Jane

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An Outsider's View

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Author: Troy Beaumont, Scott Base Winter Manager


Date: 23/05/2011
Temperature: -21.3
Wind Speed: O knots
Temp with wind chill: -21.3
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


When I found out about the blog that the AHT team here writes, my curious/nosey nature got the best of me. It’s an excellent read but I did notice that there is not too much about the people behind the blog.


They work all hours, and their unabashed enthusiasm and passion for conserving Antarctica’s unique human heritage is amazing.  Watching them relate an article of clothing to a photograph, an historic object to a passage of a book, is something the staff and I really enjoy.


It’s great to have them as part of the Scott Base team here for winter 2011.   In addition to their work with the AHT, they all contribute to base life in other ways.  Sarah is an excellent cook, and has made several dinners for the entire base on the chef’s day off.  She is also a fine watercolorist.  Jane is a social butterfly and has taken on party planning for the entire base. In her spare time, she has written a song about conservation.  Julie plays guitar and sings backing vocals in the Scott Base band, and has two groupies and a roadie.  She occasionally lurks around with a sketchbook, scaring people.  Martin is the only person on the AHT team who can get into a truck gracefully.  He is also a ping-pong champion, a cult figure, and builds igloo walls in strange places.

 

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Sarah repairing ice axe holes in a hat © Troy Beaumont

 

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Julie cataloging artefacts © Troy Beaumont

 

 

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Jane conserving historic food tins  ©  Steven Sun

 

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Martin repairing boxes © Troy Beaumont

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Corn and flour

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Julie

 

Date: 23/3/11
Temperature: -13.5
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise: 7:58
Sunset 19:59


Martin has blogged about how food crates were used as architectural building blocks at both Cape Royds and Cape Evans (see last week’s blog).  Stacked into walls, crates of dry goods – predominately corn and flour – remained frozen until needed and also provided additional shelter, a practical system.


As Martin writes, many of those boxes will be conserved over the winter, but then we will return the food boxes to their original locations – i.e., outside, where they will remain exposed to harsh conditions.  This situation presents us with a conservation dilemma.  We are all aware that if the boxes disintegrate in spite of our conservation treatments, one-hundred-year-old corn and flour will leak into the environment. To make things worse, some of the corn and flour is already significantly mouldy.  Mould samples have been tested in previous seasons, and we are confident that the existing mould does not pose a current health hazard (though we continue to take health and safety precautions as we work).  However, we do not know what will develop in the future.

 

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Corn and flour drying, before reinsertion into conserved wooden boxes.   © AHT / Julie

We are charged with preserving the original configuration of the artefacts, but also with preventing the introduction of materials that could be hazardous to the Antarctic environment or wildlife.  In the end, we have settled on a compromise.  As Martin repairs the wooden boxes, we are drying the food in large trays, removing any mouldy contents, and then repacking the food into the conserved boxes in sealed, doubled plastic bags.  The introduction of the plastic bags alters the original contents of the boxes, but the bags should prevent hazardous leakage into the environment.

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Posted by Julie


Date: 14 February 2011
Temperature: -9.6
Wind Speed: 12
Temp with wind chill: -15


In the winter, the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation lab gets moved.  Summer AHT conservators work in a lab constructed from three shipping containers located away from the main building at Scott Base, Antarctica.  This allows the team to work out of the way of the scientific research activity on base in the summer.


In the winter, base activity goes to a minimum, so the AHT team can move into the main building. Not only does this make for more comfortable working conditions – conservators have stories about things freezing to the floor of the lab in the winter -- this means the outlying buildings do not need to be heated, saving on electricity usage.  (100% of the electricity at Scott Base is now wind-generated: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/ross-island-wind-energy).

 

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The forklift brings the fume extraction unit into the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie


Everything in the lab is moved, including the fume extraction unit, solvent storage cabinets, bookshelves, and all tools, equipment, and supplies. This year’s move was accomplished in virtually one day with the help of several people on base, a forklift, numerous runs back and forth in a truck, and a “quad bike” (a four-wheel cycle) fitted with a trailer. The objects/textile conservators moved into a room normally used for research event logistics, and Martin, the conservation carpenter, has set up a workshop in a “cage,” or fenced-off area normally used for supplies storage.  (We promise to bring him food in the cage, and to let him out sometimes.)

 

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Jane and Sarah begin unpacking in the winter lab space.  © AHT / Julie

 

We are now up and running in our winter space. We have lost our views of Mt. Erebus and lounging seals, but we have gained running water and closer proximity to both coffee and the toilets.

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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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Posted by Cricket

 

Date:             25 August 2010
Temperature:  -23 C (-9 F)
Wind Speed:  15 knots, NE
Temp with wind chill: -45 C (-49 F)
Sunrise:        10:37
Sunset:         15:16

 

 

Our first week at Scott Base quickly disappeared, faster than a kid with a cupcake.  This week working with the winter conservation team, seeing Antarctica for the first time, and meeting everyone here at Scott Base has been an absolute treat.  We had a five-day overlap with the winter conservators and began taking over and gaining speed on the Trust’s project to conserve objects associated with R.F. Scott’s (1910-13)  expedition.  During this time, the winter conservators helped us move into the summer conservation lab, which is situated a short outdoors walk from the main facility, and guided us through our environs, showing us what various offsite storage containers hold, which artefacts need conservation and discussing methodologies for conservation treatments.

 

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Winter Conservators leaving Scott Base, Antarctica, bound for Christchurch, New Zealand © AHT/D.Komejan

The winter conservation team left on Sunday.  Though we’ve only known them a short while, it was difficult to see Nicola, Mindy, Jane and Georgina go.  They are a fantastic group of women and wonderful conservators.  Diana and I laughed, a bit nervously, that maybe they set the bar a little too high?  The quality and volume of their work is certainly impressive. 

 

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Cricket in front of storage containers, Scott Base © AHT/D.Komejan

And now, starting into our second week with our training wheels off, we feel more and more settled, and eager to move ahead.  The first two crates of objects that we unpacked from Scott’s Cape Evans expedition (1910-1913) are enchanting – iron tools, tins of mustard, ration bags and a bottle of pickled onions.  But, more on these later.  For now, thank you, winter team, and happy travels!

 

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Antarctic Heritage Trust Artefact Conservation Lab at Scott Base, Antarctica ©  AHT/D.Komejan

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