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Antarctic conservation

22 Posts tagged with the ice tag
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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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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.
 

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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.”

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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.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 6 October 2010
Temperature: -15C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 5:30am
Sunset 9:50pm

 

Sundays are our day off at New Zealand’s Scott Base, and, when the weather permits, these are the best days to set off on longer hikes.  There are a series of marked trails throughout the southern tip of Ross Island, one being a hike up to Observation Hill that Diana featured in previous blog, and another is called the Cape Armitage Loop.  Last Sunday, a friend and I walked the 8k trail that took us out in front of Scott Base, along a flagged route over the sea ice to the U.S. McMurdo Base.  It is an open and flat route that affords views of the distant Trans-Antarctic mountain range, and White and Black Islands, and follows along the back side of Observation Hill.

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Trail System on the Southern Tip of Ross Island © AHT/Cricket


The trail is named after Albert Borlase Armitage, who joined R.F. Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition from the merchant service and served as Scott’s navigator and second-in-command.  Among other accomplishments, Armitage successfully led the Western Journey, becoming the first to ascend the Ferrar Glacier and reach the summit of Antarctica.  This was quite a feat considering that his party consisted of seaman who had little cold weather and no climbing experience.  One author said that before this journey, the highest any man from that party had ever climbed was up the mast of a ship.  Though likely an exaggeration, it serves as a helpful reminder that most of Scott’s men had never before experienced anything like the Antarctic terrain and climate.

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View of McMurdo from Cape Armitage Loop © AHT/Cricket

 

Armitage’s Western Journey was quite difficult and the party suffered fierce blizzards, altitude sickness, and one even a heart attack.  Surprisingly, all survived and returned safely to the Discovery base camp.  Knowing a little of the history, I smile at the irony of the Cape Armitage Loop name, for the trek is a tranquil and relatively easy route that, as advertised, offers solitude and escape.  And, it conveniently ends near the coffee shop at McMurdo where you can sit back and have an easy rest of the day with a big mug of hot chocolate.
 

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Posted by Cricket


Date: 16 September 2010
Temperature: -20C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -20C
Sunrise: 7:26am
Sunset: 6:15pm

 

Last night after work we took a walk following a flagged route around the pressure ridges.  Pressure ridges are ice formations, common to sea ice in the winter.  In essence, they form when two floes are forced together causing large sections to break off and uplift.  The ridge in front of Scott Base forms when the Ross Sea Ice Shelf pushes up against the stationary sea ice, which is locked in place against the shore.

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Pressure ridges © AHT/Cricket


Visually, pressure ridges are dramatic and sculptural.  In the evening light they are particularly stunning, reflecting pinks and oranges while showing off their different shades of blue.  Before coming down to the ice, an artist who worked here alerted me that one rarely sees pure white in Antarctica. And now, seeing the landscape for myself, it’s amazingly true.

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Seal with Mt. Erebus © AHT/Cricket


The route we followed took us out across the sea ice and up and over the ridge to the Ross Sea Ice Shelf.  Along the back side of the ridge, as we were about to head back over, we sighted a huge grey-brown ball in the near distance. “A seal!” Diana yelled.  We stood silent, watching it lounge about for a while, and trying to find a crack where it might have come up from.  We were later told that seals litter the ice during the summer, and a sighting means they are just now returning for the season.

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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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The Antarctic Curling Club

Posted by Conservators Aug 12, 2010

 

Author:                   Mindy

Date:                      August 11, 2010
Temperature:           -23°C
Wind Speed:           5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -30°C
Moonrise:               10:25
Moonset:                17:52

 

At nearby McMurdo Station, the American Antarctic base, an industrious group of individuals fancied trying their hand at curling this winter.  After doing their homework they set about manufacturing curling stones from metal, concrete and plastic buckets.  They flooded a small section of ground, complete with the bulls-eyes (“house”) at each end of the curling sheet, and scavenged around for brooms.  The result – a pretty funky little curling set-up.

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First practice session at McMurdo Station ©  A. Batdorff /United States Antarctic Program

 

    

 

Being Canadian, I’ve definitely watched my fair share of curling matches.  I’ve even played a handful of times.  Apparently this qualified me as the most experienced curler on Ross Island, so I was recruited to coach a few practice ends for players to pick up the basics of the game.  In the dark and cold we curled and swept our little hearts out.  Experts on television make it look easy, but it’s just as tough as I remember!

 

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Ben, from the McMurdo team, throws a curling rock in our inter-base match

© S. Sun/Antarctica New Zealand

    

With a little playing experience under their belts, the American squad of curlers held a mini-playoff.  The winner of that match faced off against our Scott Base (New Zealand’s Antarctic research station) four-some this past weekend.  It was a hard fought match, and while we didn’t win we definitely had a great time.  Huge kudos to the gang that made it all happen – no small achievement by any means.  Curling enthusiasts around the world would be proud…

 

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The Scott Base curling squad – Tom, Steven, Mindy and Bobbie

©  S. McSweeney/Antarctic New Zealand

 

 

 

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