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Antarctic conservation

1 Post tagged with the debenham tag
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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.”

AHT8326_2!_side1_BT.jpgAfter.jpg
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.