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Antarctic conservation

25 Posts tagged with the heritage tag
1

Freezer Ingenuity

Posted by Conservators Dec 13, 2012

Author: Kevin

Date: 28 November 2012

Temperature: -4 degrees celcius, sunny and bright

Wind speed: 5 knots

 

We have now been at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut for the last three weeks or so. Our daily work pattern is now well established. Morning meeting and radio schedule with Scott Base at 07.30am, then off to work until 11.00am when we stop for first lunch, then work again until 3.00pm when second lunch beckons. Final work period is over at 7.00pm with dinner at around 7.30pm.

 

We take it in turns to cook, so as there are only four of us on site, it comes around pretty quickly, with some people looking forward to it more than others, as spending your day digging out one hundred year old marrow fat lard from tins has been known to dampen the appetite!

 

Over the last week or so we have been lucky to have good weather with temperatures above -5 and lots of sunshine, giving us beautiful views of Mount Erebus and the Barne Glacier. Whilst this may seem good to those far away, it leaves us with a dilemma. We rely on snow banks for our fresh water and keeping our fresh food frozen. The fine weather sees the banks literally melting away in front of our very eyes and we still have two more months on site.

 

This morning our "freezer" was looking decidedly worse for wear so it was time for improvements. More snow was packed on top and around the sides and a better door was fitted. All courtesy of the carpenters used timber stack.

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Freezer looking a bit sorry for itself

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Freezer on its way to a new look (Barne Glacier in the background)

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The Little Joys

Posted by Conservators Dec 3, 2012

Author: Martin Wenzel

Date: 20/11/2012

Temperature: -6 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 14 knots

Wind Chill : -20 degrees celcius

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

About a week ago I started  working on fuel storage boxes found  around Robert Falcon Scott's expedition hut at Cape Evans. They were used to transport fuel tanks for the motor sledges that turned out to be not very  successful in Antarctic conditions. Conserving large numbers of these and other historic boxes which are in all states of disrepair, and come in a variety of styles and conditions, requires a lot of patience. And yet it is still fascinating when boxes have little surprises in store, provide a new structural challenge or show a particular nice piece  of wind sculpted timber.

 

Missing part of a board yesterday, and contemplating how to secure what was left over, I started looking through some debris found around the box. And there it was - clearly the missing piece but looking quite different. The piece attached to the box was weather worn and had lost up to 2mm of thickness through abrasion while the found piece had been protected for a hundred years and looked almost new. Joining them again looked a bit unusual but provided  the structural integrity needed. It is only a matter of time until the found piece will adjust its appearance.

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Same board, but a different look

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One board again.

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Dig, dig, dig!

Posted by Conservators Nov 28, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 12 November 2012

Temperature: -12 °C

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -38 °C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

One of the first tasks that we usually tackle when we arrive at the historic huts is to remove some of the massive amount of snow that has accumulated around the buildings during the  winter.  At both Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, drifting snow piles up each year in the lee of the buildings, burying artefacts and pushing up against the walls of the structures themselves.  If this snow is left in place, it can turn into a thick layer of ice that becomes nearly impossible to remove, or it melts slowly in the summer sun, which can cause water damage to the walls of the buildings and to the objects sitting outside.  That’s why we make sure to dig it out while it is still in a perfectly snowy, shovel-able state! 

It usually takes several days of dedicated digging to remove all of the snow in question: we take turns hacking away at the deeper parts of the drifts or gingerly brushing where we know the artefacts are buried, and then we haul all of the loose snow by wheelbarrow or sled away from the building so it can melt where it won’t cause any damage.  As anyone who has shovelled out their driveway after a snowstorm knows, it is hard work wielding a shovel all day long, and we definitely feel like we’ve earned our lunches on digging days!photo 1.JPG

Snow on the north side of Scott's hut upon our arrival

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A day's worth of digging got us this far!

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Cape Royds

Posted by Conservators Nov 23, 2012

Author: Lizzie
Date: 1 Nov 2012
Temperature: -18.2C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -18.2°C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a
Photo Description & Credit 1: Mt Erebus in light and shadow c . Lizzie, AHT
Photo Description & Credit 2: Lizzie back inside the hut at Cape Royds

We’re back at Cape Royds after a year, this time just a short visit for 5 days to complete the annual maintenance and inspection programme. This year’s summer Antarctic Heritage Trust team consists of Jana (objects conservator, Canada), Martin (timber conservation carpenter, NZ), Kevin (timber conservation carpenter, UK) and myself (Programme Manager-Artefacts, AHT): a mix of skills, ages, nationalities and experience in both the Arctic and Antarctic.


There’s a list for me of things to do as soon as I get to Cape Royds:
1. Check the hut is OK after winter and spring storms…it is, bar a couple of things. We find a Colman’s flour box and a pony fodder box blown loose from their usual positions. In the case of the flour box it has been picked up by the wind from the south side of the building, rolled around the east side, and then blown a further 80m north of the building, where I spy it in its own lonesome wee drift of snow. Remarkably the box is completely undamaged despite its travels. Martin fixes it back more firmly in position on the south wall.


2. Say hello to the penguins…. It’s early in the season. Over at the rookery only a couple of hundred Adelie penguins are in and beginning the business of stone gathering – trotting back and forth with one stone at a time in their beaks.


3. Say hello to Mt Erebus – sometimes we see it, sometimes we don’t. Tthe day after we arrive, Erebus is playing hide and seek, high wind clouds shifting and stacking up in sharp curves, in and out of light.
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4. Haul the gear up and over the hill ready for several days of snow digging, photography, minor repairs and treatments.


5. And last but not least, walk inside the hut, check all the artefacts are OK, drink in the smell, the light, the distinctive small sounds, and the incomparable atmosphere of this 1908 expedition base.
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Of What Lies Within

Posted by Conservators Apr 13, 2012

Author: Stefan
Date: 10th April 2012
Temperature: -22C
Wind Speed: 15kts
Temp with wind chill: -41C
Sunrise: 9.17am
Sunset: 4.30pm

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Stefan delving into a tin of 100 year old custard. AHT Stefan

“The constant draw of the fume cabinet whirred steadily like the idling  of a contented bees nest. Nitrile gloves had enveloped my hands without a snag or curse, and the rare sense of ease filled me with anything but. The air was dense with a dull smell, which only rumoured to the true overwhelming nature of what stench could lie within the heart of the looming rusty monolith before me.  Armed only with a spoon, I approached the vessel in a familiar routine of dining, but dear lord this mass could not be stomached. With the lid tentatively removed, the greenish yellow contents emerged like a bad moon rising…custard.”

 

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Tin samples (left to right) custard, salt, anchovy paste, polishing compound. AHT Stefan

 

Emptying  tins is a daily occurrence working with AHT. Depending upon how badly the object is corroded/stained, you get a varying clarity of what you may have to empty and dispose of. The contents are only removed when objects are found to be leaking, and could place other parts of the collection at risk. The majority of the contents are placed in biohazard bags and flown back to New Zealand to be incinerated, yet we always take a small sample to be placed in science freezers, in order that we can research or investigate this material whenever we choose. Anchovy paste (suspected) has been the smelliest sample I’ve taken so far, but my team mates assure me that, chocolate and butter are far worse.

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Author: Stefan Strittmatter
Date: 06/02/2012
Temperature: -11C
Wind Speed: 9kn
Temp with wind chill: -19C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


Life in Antarctica is a very human endeavor. For Captain Scott and the men of the 1910-13 expedition, and (to a much more flimsy degree) we four conservators, food (and its preparation) becomes of upmost importance very quickly.


Scott and his team were well placed at both Cape Evans and Discovery Hut to take advantage of the abundance of Weddell seals and their blubbery bounty. Al Fastier and his summer team of conservators have done a wonderful job of conserving an epic slab of this oozing mass of fat, (still present in the Cape Evans hut stables). Indeed a slight lean of the trough means there’s a filtered cup of oil slumped to the edge, making it effortless to visualize a frost bitten face swinging round the corner to scoop up and replenish a gasping stove.

 

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Seal blubber trough outside Cape Evans Stables © AHT/Stefan


Nowhere near as hardy, Susanne, Gretel, George and I were happy to ditch the heroic approach, and cook with soot free faces on the nifty ‘Primus’ stoves,  Scott Base has kindly supplied us with for AFT (Antarctic Field Training). A bit of a fiddle at first, but once the white gas starts to roar and the first brew is at the boil, you can’t help but feel a certain bond and romance, about the hardship and fun this wonderful place can offer.

 

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Cooking during winter AFT (Antarctic Field Training) © AHT/Stefan

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Author: John
Date: 24 August 2011
Temperature: -14oC
Wind Speed: 45 Kt gusts
Temp with wind chill: -40oC
Sunrise: 10.53am
Sunset: 3.01pm

 


WinFly is the first flight in to Scott Base after the Antarctic winter season. Saturday 20th August was my day of arrival at the Pegasus Airfield on the Ross Ice Shelf as a conservator working on the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, and all was new to me. Disembarking from the C17 aircraft I was welcomed by Antarctica New Zealand and Antarctic Heritage Trust staff and immediately immersed into the incredible busyness of the arrival logistics.

 

 

 

Busyness of Arrival small.jpg

Busyness of Arrival

 

The following day I was taken for a walk out on the sea ice among the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base. The sheer size of Mt Erebus in the background somehow complemented the forces displayed in the jumbled detail of the pressure ridge zone of the sea ice. Although it was cold, and the wind was blowing, this scene was very peaceful and contrasted strongly with the activity of the previous day.

 

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Calm Before the Storm

 

The power and majesty of the Antarctic environment is overwhelming and certainly not to be taken for granted. I look forward to the privilege and challenges of working in the field on the historic explorer’s huts of Ross Island, Antarctica.

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WINFLY approacheth

Posted by Conservators Aug 18, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 17th August 2011
Temperature: -33°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48°C
Sunrise: Friday!

 

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The view from the summer lab looking out over the Ross Ice Shelf to the daylight behind Mount Terror. Jane/AHT

It is just three days until the first flight of the WINFLY season (the pre-main season flights to exchange cargo and personnel ahead of the main season that starts in October). We are expecting a few new faces at Scott Base and about 350 at McMurdo. It will disrupt the everyday routine we have all become used to and will most certainly lead to a few faces that look like an animal caught in the headlights.


It is wonderful to see daylight creep ever further into the sky behind Mount Erebus and there is a noticeable difference in the number of people who sign out at lunch time to go for walks to absorb some Vitamin D! Just the idea of daylight seems to have given people a new energy that has been lacking for some time now.


We are all looking forward to the mail and fresh fruit and vegetables that will come down. Unfortunately, it is the end of the winter season for Antarctic Heritage Trust and we are working hard to get some last minute work completed before our new conservator, John, arrives on Saturday. We celebrated the end of our winter together with a special dinner followed by a performance in the bar by the Scott Base band- sadly, their last performance together as guitarist Julie leaves next week with Sarah and Martin.

 


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The summer lab beside the hangar with this year’s new pressure ridges just visible. Jane/AHT

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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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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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