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Antarctic conservation

61 Posts tagged with the scott-base tag
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Author: John
Date: 13 December 2011
Temperature: -7.2°C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: °C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset: N/A
Part of the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation programmme is to conserve artefacts from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut over the winter. Artefacts are carefully packed and transported back to Scott Base where a team of four conservators will work on the artefacts in a specially provided conservation laboratory for return the following summer. Where the early explorers transported their supplies man hauling sledges, we use plastic cubers on sledges towed behind Hagglunds (tracked vehicles). The trip from Cape Evans back to Scott Base  is 25 km, travelling at 10 kph to ensure safe travelling for sometimes fragile artefacts.
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Loading artefacts in cubers on sledge © AHT/John
Transporting artefacts to Scott Base.jpg
Approaching Scott Base over the Sea Ice © AHT/John
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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Drawing Penguins

Posted by Conservators Jul 28, 2011

Author: Sarah
Date: 27 July 2011
Temperature: -25
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -30
Sunrise: Na
Sunset Na



The drawing of penguins has been done by many explorers. These quirky and amusing birds are a pleasure to draw. Edward Wilson, of Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition, was a master of drawing both Adelie and Emperor penguins. Wilson did both serious scientific drawing and comical pictures of the penguins.


Many of Wilson’s scientific drawings can be seen at the Scott Polar Institute website, one of my favourites is:

 

http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/catalogue/article/n1493/


In this fine tradition, I began to draw penguins and in particular the Adelie penguins, whose antics and facial expression are so easy to caricature. I have been drawing cartoons of all the members of Scott Base and the picture shows us all together.

 

 

2011 penguin crew.jpg

 

Winter Overs’ Cartoon of the Scott Base crew as penguins © Sarah Clayton

6

Author: Julie
Date: 20/7/11
Temperature: -13.1
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -21 C
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Last weekend we went into “Condition 1”.  Condition 1 means life-threatening high winds, whiteout conditions, and/or low temperatures. We didn’t get the low temperatures – in fact, the opposite: temperature rose to a balmy - 6.4 degrees C at one point, as frequently happens during a storm – but we had winds that reached a maximum of 74 knots shortly after midnight Sunday morning, along with some snowfall, resulting in metres-high drifts.  We weren’t allowed to leave the base during the storm, but I did go out on a semi-protected porch and stick my head into the wind to see what it was like.  Yes, it was windy.  You can get a sense of condition 1 from this video:



 

By chance, the day the storm abated it was my day to be the “mouse.”  Being the mouse is a duty inflicted on all winter-over base staff by turns.  During the day, it involves monitoring the radio traffic, answering the phone, keeping track of who is off base, where they are, and when they’re supposed to be back.  Sometime around 10 – 11 pm, the mouse does “mouse rounds,” meaning the mouse checks laboratories, workshops, machine rooms, hazardous materials storerooms, and other spaces -- both inside and outside -- to make sure nothing is leaking or making strange noises, that appliances are turned off, that snow is shoveled away from emergency exits, that vehicles outside are plugged into engine heaters, and that things are generally in order.

 

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Nice snowdrift.  Somebody, probably me, is going to have to dig out that door.  © AHT/Julie

 

As mouse, I was one of the first people to go walk around in all of the newly deposited giant snowdrifts.  Snow was still falling (wet snow – weird), and it was quiet and beautiful.  I did the rounds, jumped into some drifts, made a couple of snow angels, did a little sketch of pressure ridges (it was warm enough to take my gloves off), and listened to the “whoosh” of the wind farm turbines in the dark, clearly audible a kilometre away.

 

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All these vehicles are plugged in.  I checked. © AHT/Julie

0

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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Fire Alarm

Posted by Conservators Jul 5, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 29.6.2011
Temperature: -30 degree C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -55 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a



The siren is ear piercing and the continuous voice coming out of the PA system calm but firm: Evacuate the building. Go to the nearest fire exit. Evacuate the … And I am, as Murphy’s law dictates, in the middle of a particular tricky gluing process on historic food boxes. Frustrated at first, but a little pulse of adrenalin helps me drop everything and get on the way to the assembly point. You never know.

 

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Fire fighting gear — ready to go © AHT/Martin

Fire is by far the biggest risk to Scott Base and the people living here. Main reasons are the extremely dry atmosphere inside and outside, as well as a number of workshops, power generators, boiler rooms etc. all close together under one roof. Sophisticated systems are installed to protect the buildings, raise alarms and fight, if necessary, fires anywhere on the base.


In addition to that, all Scott Base staff have gone through a very intensive fire fighting training. Our group of 14 is divided into two fire crews, each of them on duty every second week. If the alarm goes off the duty group locates the source and attends to the fire. Within the group allocated roles include crew chief, auxiliary, hose runner and BA (Breathing Apparatus) carriers.


Luckily it was yet another drill and since I was not on duty I was soon back rescuing the unfinished gluing process.        

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Taking the plunge

Posted by Conservators Jun 27, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 22nd June 2011
Temperature: -24°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C

 

It’s a tradition here at Scott Base to take a plunge into the ice cold water at Mid-Winter. As with everything else in Antarctica, it takes a huge amount of effort to set up. First, there is the hole. This can take days to dig and often needs to be cleared again the morning before the plunge as ice builds up overnight.


Despite this year’s sea ice break out at the start of Winter, the ice in front of the base was still 1.2m in depth. The snow had to be cleared from the top of the ice and then a chain saw was used to cut a hole big enough for a person to jump in.


The water tends to be warmer than the air temperature so being in the water is quite pleasant; well for about thirty seconds. It was approx -2°C in the water and the air was around -20°C.

Image 1.jpg

Russell climbing out of the polar plunge hole with Troy manning the safety harness.
Credit: Petal Cottle

 

The most difficult part is psyching yourself up to jump into a hole in the ice that is filled with slushy water followed by climbing up the ladder into the cold air as the water freezes on you. Once you get back into the heated wannigan (an insulated container), you then have to wait for the water in your shoes to defrost enough to be able to remove them.


I suppose it doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable experience, but it is exhilarating and the closest thing we will get to a long soak in a bath down here.

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A total lunar eclipse

Posted by Conservators Jun 24, 2011

Author: Julie

Date: 24 June 2011

Temperature: -33

Wind Speed: 2 knots

Sunrise: August 2011

Sunset: August 2011

 

 

 

 

Early morning on 16 June, a full lunar eclipse was visible from Scott Base.   The eclipse started at 6:22 a.m., so a few of us planned to get up early that morning and hike to the top of Observation Hill,  one of the highest peaks within easy hiking distance, from which we would have had a great view.   However, the night before, we went into a “condition 1” storm (condition 1 means extremely high winds and whiteout conditions), and when we got up early the next day, we were still at “condition 2.”  At condition 2, there is better visibility, but it’s not good weather for a hike.

 

However, we got lucky.  Although the snow was blowing around furiously on the ground, amazingly, the sky was clear and the moon was fully visible from the Scott Base lounge.  Four of us sat in the lounge that morning and watched the moon go to full eclipse at 7:22.  Only minutes after the eclipse went total, a heavy cloud cover moved in.  We completely lost the glowing red, shadowed moon during most of the total eclipse and could not see the edge of the moon reappear at 9:02; however, for just a few minutes right before the eclipse finished at 10:02, the moon was spotted again, and some of us rushed back to the windows to watch the shadow move away and the moon come back to full.

 

Lunar eclipse at almost total.jpg

     Lunar eclispe at almost total © AHT

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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

 

 

 

C Michael Morrison.jpg

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Photo 1 Box AHT9043 1.jpg

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.

 

Photo 3 Repairs to box AHT9251 1.jpg
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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Ice and Snow Formations

Posted by Conservators Jun 3, 2011

Date: 02/06/2011

 

Posted by Julie

 

Temperature: -22

Wind Speed: Gusting between 20 – 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: - 36  to  -41
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Ever since the spectacular ice breakout in February, the ice forming over the water in front of Scott Base has steadily been growing thicker.  Last week the ice was judged thick enough to walk on. Troy, our base leader, Jane, and I set out to mark a safe route for walking through some nearby pressure ridges.

 

Troy is an experienced glacier guide, and so we got the bonus of getting Troy to talk about the snow and ice.  In a crack in the ice we discovered some spectacular, large, faceted ice crystals.  This is sometimes known as crevasse hoar. Troy explained that these ice crystals form and grow in glacial crevasses and in other cavities where a large cooled space is formed and in which water vapor can accumulate under calm, still conditions with a large temperature gradient. The vapour then attaches itself straight to the ice crystal forming a hollow hexagonal shape.

 

faceted ice crystal.jpg

Faceted ice crystal. © AHT/Julie

We also found impressively large icicles.  Icicles require liquid water and so they are notable: the temperature rarely goes above freezing, and certainly has not been above 0 degrees for many months now.

 

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Jane impersonating a radioactive rhinoceros by shining her headlamp through an icicle. © AHT/Julie


Most spectacular are the pressure ridges themselves.  Pressure ridges form because even very thick sheets of sea ice are mobile. As the sea underneath moves, or when the temperatures fluctuate, the ice shrinks and expands, cracks and shifts.  At Scott Base, the sea ice is bordered by Ross Island on one side and the permanent, immobile ice shelf (80 km thick) on the other.  The relatively thin sea ice between has nowhere to move except upwards, and so plates of ice are very slowly pushed up vertically along cracks, eventually developing into spectacular ice formations. These pressure ridges survived the recent sea ice breakout in February, meaning they are at least 14 years old, the date of the last ice breakout.

 

Pressure ridges.jpg
Pressure ridges.  The formation in the foreground is approximately 5 meters high. © AHT/Julie

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Emergency Conservation

Posted by Conservators Jun 3, 2011

Posted by Martin

 

Date: 01.06.2011
Temperature: -17 degree C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a

 

Sarah mentioned earlier that the explorers in the Heroic Area were very skilled in fixing things and being creative with the limited supplies they had. See this image of Mears making dog harnesses.


Not wanting to be outdone, Julie responded promptly to an urgent conservation task of a slightly different kind. I had been outside for a while in about minus 30degree C and was very happy to get back into the warm base. Pulling off headlight, hat and frozen neck gaiter, I threw off my glasses as well and heard them landing with a sickening noise on the concrete floor. A resin frame at that temperature becomes very brittle which means I could see the fuzzy contours of my glasses separated from the lens. Julie however, in true Antarctic spirit wasn’t fazed and after 24 hours in her care, my glasses almost looked like new.


Photo 2  Martin's glasses under repair.JPG

Martin’s glasses under repair © AHT/Martin


P.S. I just heard that Julie has moved on to fixing the mouthpiece of a saxophone for Victoria, our multi talented base musician.     

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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


Jane 19 May Sun dogs.jpg

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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