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Antarctic conservation

33 Posts tagged with the ross_island tag
5

Author: John
Date: 7th September 2011
Temperature: -29.3oC
Wind Speed: 20 Kts
Temp with wind chill: -52oC
Sunrise: 8.38am
Sunset: 5.08pm

 

 

No nice before and after treatment images this time to show what we do here at Scott Base conserving the objects for Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans. Even though the wood fibres are separating from being exposed to the extremes of Antarctic weather, this one only needed the ropes tied off with thread to keep them from unravelling further.

 

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Mystery wooden object

 

It is an image of a puzzle – what is this object and what was its function way back in 1910-14?

 

Three identical, carefully shaped and chamfered pieces of wood, possibly oak, joined by two different diameters of very weathered rope. Two small remnants of dark dyed cotton thread wrapped around the thinner rope.

 

Across the centre of all three pieces is what appears to be a rough brush streak of tar, applied on one side only of two of the pieces and on both sides of the remaining piece.


An intriguing relic of the expedition.


Any suggestions?

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Sun, and Base Duties

Posted by Conservators Aug 30, 2011

Author: John

Date: 27 August 2011

Temperature: -11.2oC

Wind Speed: 22kts

Temp with wind chill: -19.7oC

Sunrise: 10.18am

Sunset: 3.35pm

 

 

The sun is getting closer to being visible at Scott Base.  It is actually above the horizon but still behind the hills and peaks of Ross Island.  There are some beautiful light effects and delicate colours to be seen in the sky.  Today there was a narrow, horizontal band of the palest pink in the South, across White and Black Islands, as the sun shone under the clouds in the North.

 

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The Sun Getting Closer!  John/AHT

 

While keeping a good look out for these beautiful effects, work and life at Scott Base must still go on.  Every Saturday at an All Staff Base Meeting, duties necessary for the smooth running of the Base are apportioned to all staff.

 

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Base Duties.  John/AHT

 

One such duty is the removal of snow and sea ice build up around Reverse Osmosis (RO) Intake/Outlet gantry at the ice transition.  Our team spent nearly two hours shovelling snow, cutting the sea ice with a chainsaw and removing these heavy blocks of ice.

 

The RO plant supplies all fresh water for the running of the base and provides two degrees of purity, RO1 for general use and a more pure RO2 for drinking, scientific projects, and work such as conservation of the Ross Island historic artefacts.

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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.

 

 

 

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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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Wool the Wonder Fibre

Posted by Conservators Jul 21, 2011

Author: Sarah

Date: 20 July 2011
Temperature: -14
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -36
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

 

 

The use of wool as a textile and clothing fibre dates back many millennia. So it is not surprising to find wool being the predominant fibre of choice for the Antarctic explorer during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s and Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expeditions in the Heroic period (1895-1915).

 
Many of the thermal clothing items that the explorers wore were commercially made and supplied by brands such as Wolsey and Jaeger.  The Wolsey thermal top (pictured) is from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, and is grubby from use and patched, most probably by  a member of the Ross Sea Party.

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Wolsey brand wool thermal top © AHT/ Sarah

 

When I was growing up in the 1970s seventies synthetic fibres were seen as the new miracle fibre for all manner of applications.  In the 1980s synthetic fibres such as Polypro were used extensively for thermal underwear, despite the horrid smell they often attained after wearing when exercising and their slightly harsh nature.


I  was greatly relieved, when I first started coming to Antarctica, when a friend told me to invest in a set of ‘new’ woollen thermals that were starting to appear in the New Zealand market in the late 1990s.   Ahhh, the joys of a natural soft fibre that can be worn for many days when camping without getting smelly.

 
Now, in 2011, you can’t enter an outdoor gear supplier without finding merino wool thermal underwear adorning the shelves.  It goes to prove that animals have adapted very well to their environments and natural fibres are still far superior to their synthetic counterparts when it comes to thermal insulation. The Heroic explorers were probably as comfortable as we are today in their thermal underwear.

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Author: Jane
Date: 07/06/11
Temperature: -32°C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -42°C
Sunrise:
Sunset

 


We have a radio station at Scott Base. 97FM keeps us entertained at work and in the bar in the evenings. We do not really have any TV stations, which is quite nice, although we do get the TVNZ news every evening so we can keep in touch with what is happening around the world.

 

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Johnny 5 giving us the run down of daily events on 97FM Scott Base radio.© Aht/Jane

Our communication engineer, Anthony, also known as Johnny 5, is our resident DJ. We all create playlists, which he changes regularly, but not often enough sometimes. Every now and then we will ring him with requests to play, or stop playing a particular song.


We even have promos on the radio which have been recorded by past residents of the Base, including one by Sir Ed Hillary.


Every morning, Johnny 5 gives us the weather and a run down of the daily events on Ross Island in his usual witty way. This often involves a prelude to what Lance has prepared for morning tea and every now and then a secret recording of someone having a rant about world politics and the proliferation of zombies in the area.


97FM may have an audience of only 14, but we think it has broken some world record for more plays of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ than any other radio station in the world.

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Author: Sarah

Date: 6 July 2011
Temperature: -25
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -25
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


Last week a very fragile, well worn and sooty jacket arrived on my desk for treatment, from Cape Evans.  The only indication as to who could have worn the jacket was a makers tag in the back of the neck, which reads ‘Morsheads, Gents and Ladies Tailors, Ballarat’.

 

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Jacket once worn by Richard Walter Richards, GC © AHT/Sarah

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Ballarat is a city in the centre of the State of Victoria, Australia. Knowing Ballarat, this piqued my interest, so I read through the explorers biographies and discovered that Richard Walter Richards, GC, often referred to as Dick Richards, was born in Bendigo, Victoria in 1893. Bendigo is not far from Ballarat and Dick Richards had started his science teaching career in Ballarat not long before heading South with Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in December 1914.


My interest was further sparked as I read on. Dick Richards was awarded the Albert Medal, which was later upgraded to the George Cross, for gallant conduct in saving the lives of Mackintosh and Hayward. The George Cross is the civilian equivalent to the Victoria Cross, the highest award possible.
Yet again this simple object reminds me of the suffering of the Ross Sea Party. But also to put it in Richard Walter Richards’ own words ‘it was not futile, but was a demonstration of what the human spirit could accomplish in adversity.’

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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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Sea Anchor

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Sarah, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 18 April 2011
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28

Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


Two items arrived on my desk at Scott Base a few weeks ago. The catalogue record described them as wind socks, but as soon as I opened up the box I realised that what I had were not wind socks.


The items are cone shaped canvas devices with a wooden loop at the large end. Three ropes are tied around the wooden loop and extend to a central point above the cone of fabric.  The material is far too heavy and there is no swivel point to allow the cones to catch the wind direction.


I had no idea what they could be used for. I wondered if they would have been used to dredge water or other items from the ocean, as they showed signs of being in salt water, and having just treated the plankton net, I was thinking they could be related to science.


The week I was treating these unknown items, we had a tour of the lab for staff from the American Base, McMurdo Station. It was then that a number of Americans on the tour suggested they could be small sea anchors or drogues.
Drogues used in the ocean, attached to a small boat to slow or help steady it and have been used since antiquity.


The shape, construction and size is certainly correct for a small boat.

 

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Sea Anchors from Cape Evans © AHT

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Sun Dogs

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2011

Posted by Jane, conservator with the Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

Date: 19th May 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C
Sunrise:
Sunset


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Sun Dog between Mount Erebus and Mount Terror © AHT/Jane


We were treated to a rare sight just before the sun left us a few weeks ago. A really spectacular sun dog was visible when the sun was low beside Mount Erebus. Sun dogs are seen as a ring of light or halo around the sun with bright spots on either side. They are often seen in Antarctica when small ice crystals are blown up into the air. As they fall towards the ground, they align vertically and act as prisms which defract the light creating the effect. It is a really spectacular sight which we will unfortunately not see again for some time!

 

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Bright spot from the side of the sundog in front of Mount Erebus © AHT/Jane

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Breakout

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Author: Julie
Date: 28/2/2011
Temperature: 21.5
Wind Speed: 14
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: 05:30
Sunset 23:01

 

 

On February 24th the ice in front of Scott base began creaking and heaving up and down as if it were breathing.  By evening, pieces of the ice shelf were steadily breaking off and drifting out towards open water in the distance.  As the sun hit the horizon at 11 pm, a network of cracks in front of Scott Base were appearing and disappearing as bright white lines which opened and shut as the ice bobbed up and down.  By midnight, pressure ridges that have been standing in front of Scott Base for over a decade had floated out to sea.  A beautiful pink fog sat on top of the sea: fog requires water, and we are not used to seeing fog.

 

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The evening of 24th February. Photo: Steve Williams


Sometime between about 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning of the 25th , the ice broke away from the shore in front of Scott Base for the first time in 14 years.  Most of us don’t expect to ever see open water in front of Scott Base again.
That morning, mini-icebergs floated in front of Scott Base in brilliant indigo blue water.   We could see yellow starfish on the ocean floor.


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The morning of February 25th. Photo: Steve Williams

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Transitions

Posted by Conservators Feb 16, 2011

Posted by Martin


Date: 15.2.2011
Temperature: -9degree
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -14 degree
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A



Transitions are usually accompanied by a whole range of emotions. It is no difference here at Scott Base during what is one of the most significant transition periods in the Base calendar. The group of 30 staff members, who run Scott Base, NZ's Science station in Antarctica, have worked and lived together for almost 5 month and seeing two thirds of them leave while the rest stay here to winter over has quite a numbing effect. Excitement to go home is mixed with sadness to leave close friends and reflections of what the long, dark and cold winter might bring.

 

Our small group of conservators has come into this atmosphere and we are all making our own little transitions while at the same time starting to connect with the winter crew. Personally, I am still getting used to living in a warm, comfortable Base after having camped out on the ice close to Captain Scott's Terra Nova Hut for the past 6 weeks. There I have been part of the AHT summer conservation team working on site with artefacts and the fabric of the building. Running water, a proper bed, indoor workshop however are all luxuries I am quickly getting used to again.  

 

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Base staff on their way to the ice runway  © AHT /Martin

Last Saturday all the changes around the base were signified by the lowering of the summer flag from the flagpole in front of the base. Then the base was officially handed over to the winter manager and the much smaller winter flag raised. The late Sir Edmund Hillary started this tradition when he established the base in 1957 and it certainly helps to shift the focus of our winter crew to the time ahead.

 

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  Summer flag being lowered © AHT / Jane

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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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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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Blubber Pile

Posted by Cricket and Diana Jan 20, 2011

Author:          Diana

 

Date:             January 13, 2011
Temperature: -1 to -2 degrees celcius
Wind Speed: 15 knots (20-30 knott gusts)
Temp with wind chill: -roughly -8c
Sunrise: Sun is up all the time

 

There are no naturally occurring sources of fuel for heating or cooking available in Antarctica. It has therefore always been necessary to bring some source of fuel. Today we use LPG (propane) and furnace oil for heating and cooking. They come to Antarctica with the container ship in February every year.


During the Heroic Era of Antarctic discovery, coal and coal Bricketts as well as paraffin were brought down, but they also used something more local – seal blubber (fat). It was not as effective a heat source and left a sooty layer from its smoke but worked just the same.  See this image of Meares and Oates at the blubber stove, cooking food for the dogs, May 26th 1911.

 

The Ross Sea Party, stranded from their ship the Aurora when she broke free of her anchors in 1914-15, used primarily blubber for heating and cooking. There remains a pile of seal blubber at Cape Evans from this group. With the restoration work going on it was best to cover the pile but this week the table-like cover was removed. The surface was cleaned by picking the bits of scoria gravel, feathers and dust off.  A retaining dam was constructed around the pile of blubber to keep it intact. It is an amazing site and the aroma is quite distinctive.

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Posted by Cricket


Date: 11 December 2010
Temperature: -3C
Wind Speed: 11 knots

 


The storm Lizzie talked of lasted five days, beginning Wednesday evening and ending the following Monday morning.  High winds and blowing snow reduced visibility and made working, getting around camp and in and out of our tents a true effort.  Though exciting to have a good storm – there are several of us who enjoy such and secretly hoped for one down here – it was a relief for it all to be over and to finally get a chance to dry out our clothes and tents.

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Carpenters working in the snow © AHT/Cricket

We are starting to wind down our time here at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut Cape Royds and this week we’ll be finishing up various conservation projects.  For the last several days we have been steadily working in the stables area, sewing down a cover over a stack of fodder bales to help preserve what remains and prevent further erosion from the wind and snow.

 

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Covering fodder bales © AHT/Cricket


Over the next couple days we’ll pack up camp and move to Captain RF Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  We have almost a week at Cape Evans before returning to Scott Base for two weeks and Christmas.  I know I’ve said it before, but it is fantastic here at Cape Royds and I’m keenly aware of the time quickly ticking by.

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