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Antarctic conservation

61 Posts tagged with the scott-base tag
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Mysterious white powder

Posted by Conservators May 4, 2011

Posted by  Julie


Date: 26/4/11
Temperature: -20
Wind Speed: 22
Temp with wind chill: -40
Sunrise: August
Sunset


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Americans invade the conservation lab and Sarah keeps them enthralled with fun facts about old textiles.  © AHT/Julie

There is a good deal of interest in our conservation work from the Americans working four kilometers away at McMurdo Station.  In response, one night after dinner the AHT conservators ran tours through the conservation lab for a total of about 30 visiting Americans.

 

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Tin of mysterious white powder. © AHT/Julie

One of the objects we showed on our tour was a tin from Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds.  Full of white powder with a little handmade scoop (made from the lid of a ‘round fifties’ carton of cigarettes), the tin has a handwritten label that is only partially legible.  We asked the Americans: can you read this label?  It was a genuine question as we hadn’t completely deciphered it ourselves. - We had done some chemical tests on the powder and it was not reacting as it should have based on our guesswork.

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Detail of label. © AHT/Julie

The Americans came through!  A couple of people on the tour read the label as, ‘French chalk’.  (French chalk is another name for talcum powder.)  Mystery solved!  Talcum powder could have had a number of uses: not only was it used as a skin and foot powder, it could have been used as a lubricant for machinery (it is helpful in the repair of tyres) and can also be used to remove grease.

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Boxes 3. Installment

Posted by Conservators Apr 20, 2011

Posted by Martin

 

Date: 20.4.2011
Temperature: -23degree C
Wind Speed: 5knots
Temp with wind chill: -30 degree C
Sunrise: 10:49
Sunset 14:54


Photo Description & Credit 1: Snow drift in front of container line ©
Photo Description & Credit 2: Snowed in box

Well, rather than another box installment, this could more fittingly be called ‘Boxes Stalling’. About a week ago we had a storm that really earned its name. Gusts up to 65 knots and enormous amounts of snow blown around the base and dumped in various places.

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Snow drift in front of container line © AHT/Martin

Eager to get to my next historic box, once it was over, I found myself shoveling snow for the next hour. In order to get to our outside storage container door, I had to cut a trench into a big snow drift right in front of the container line. I got my box in the end, worked on it, but then had to store it over night.

 

 

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Snowed in box © AHT/Martin

Being sure that all the wild weather was gone I put it into an open crate just outside our back door, only to find it in the morning completely buried under another lot of snow. Rescuing it yet again, I reminded myself that you never, ever trust the weather in Antarctica. Luckily these historic storage boxes have been in this climate outside Shackleton's Nimrod Hut for about 100 years and have become quite used to it.         

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Flying Kites

Posted by Conservators Apr 20, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 20 April 2011
Temperature: -23 Deg C
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -45 Deg C
Sunrise: 10:49
Sunset 14:54



At the weekend four of us took a day trip to Room with a View to see the sunset. It was an amazing day as the colours in the sky were constantly changing from the moment we left Scott Base until we drove into mist on the way home. The photos don’t really do the place justice as it is hard to capture the 360 degree views, starting in the north with Mt Erebus, Cape Evans and the Dellbridge Islands to the north west, west down the Erebus Ice Tongue and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, Hut Point Peninsula and Black and White Island to the south and Mt Terror and Mt Terra Nova to the north east.

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Kites at Room with a View © AHT/Sarah

The weather, with just a slight breeze, made it perfect for flying kites. Troy had taken his large kite and skis for some kite skiing.  Victoria had brought her small stunt kite. Skiing was not possible due to the sheer depth of soft snow but both kites were in the air and made a spectacular sight, with the Dellbridge Islands and Cape Evans in the background.

 

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Troy kite skiing © AHT/Sarah

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Room With a View

Posted by Conservators Apr 1, 2011

Posted by Jane


Date: 30th March 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 18 knots
Temp with wind chill: -30°C
Sunrise: 08.47
Sunset 19.06

 

A small group of us went on a camping trip last weekend to a place called Room With a View. It is an area on the side of Mount Erebus, the southern-most volcano in the world and the dominant feature on Ross Island.

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Our polar tents with Mount Discovery in the background  © AHT/Jane

 

 

The trip up in the Hagglund was slow because of the deep soft snow and it felt like a rollercoaster ride in some places. We arrived just in time to see the sun set over McMurdo Sound. The weather was perfect, only about -15-20°C and not a breath of wind.

 

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The rough terrain we had to drive over and flags nearly completely submerged by snow. A sun-dog is just visible to the left of the flags. © AHT/Jane

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Disappearing Sun Haikus

Posted by Conservators Apr 1, 2011

Authors: Julie, Sarah, Martin, and guest bloggers

 

Date: 30/3/11
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 18
Temp with wind chill: -38
Sunrise: 08:47
Sunset 19:06

We are impressed by the quantity of poetry written by all those scientists and explorers, the early heroes of Antarctic exploration.  Following in the footsteps of the giants of polar exploration, as the sun disappears, we too, write poetry.

 

Sunset.jpg
Sunset  © AHT/Jane

 

Disappearing Sun Haikus
Seems kind of dark out
That is one awesome sunrise
I need more coffee       -- Julie

 

I’m completely lost
Why is it so dark out there
Where the heck am I?      -- Sarah

 

Faulheit, wer weiss es
Vielleicht nur ein bisschen Ruhe
Wann kommst Du wieder?      -- Martin

 

Orange blue orange
Blue orange blue orange blue
Orange blue orange     – Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

As we spin along
The plane of the ecliptic
The earth hides the sun.      – Anonymous Scott Base resident

Talk like a penguin
Roll like a cute baby seal
Look up and it’s dark      -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Hey look, our new friends!
Venus, Canopus, Rigel,
Alpha Centauri…        -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Farewell to the Sun
Ceaseless day is gone,
Farewell to the dusk and dawn
And the warmth and light.
Welcome never-ending night,
Sky, stars and the Moon…
A farce, a plight, doom and gloom?
Or just a magic,
A new fairytale to bloom…
The tale of the SUN,
The balance of Yin and Yang…     -- Anonymous McMurdo Station Guest Poet


Sunset Sestina
That time of year again.  Our round, most constant sun
Disintegrates in atmospheric ripples, green
and blue and red and yellow, paints new shadows, pours
itself into the blazing clouds, illuminates
the smallest ridges, gives an edge of glory now
to every passing step on this, our icy world.

This moment of our day is only that.  The world's
adventure takes us farther into darkness; Sun
will vanish in mere days, a week at most.  But now
there's wonder to be found in every bit of green
that shimmers.  The projection that illuminates
our wall shows sunspots, smokes and quivers as it pours

into our lucky eyes.   Can we say it pours
into our hearts as well?  Why ever not?  The world
is like that.  We decide what sun illuminates
our hidden places; we decide to let this sun
be more than just a splotch of light, be growth and green
things, fruits and flowers, a riot of colors inside us now.

You can't assume we all are eager for this now.
“Stay, sun.  Don't go, not yet!” we say, as daylight pours
away, swirls too swiftly down the drain.  Green
flash?  That's nifty, yes, but must it mean the world
is racing into night?  Life without the sun?
A scary thought.  Yet even fear illuminates

the inner landscape.  We expect illumination
here, and grumble when it doesn't strike.  But now
we must forget all that.  The circling of the sun
reminds us that it's time to sleep.  Our efforts pour
into another day of work: building worlds
from boxes big and small, harvesting the green-

house, gathering data, cleaning floors.  Some are green
with envy, hearing of our lives.  “Illuminate
us too,” they cry.  “Tell us how it is.  Our world
is so mundane.”  A plan: next year we'll trade, not now.
Venus floats in the bright blue sky.  The light that pours
upon the plains is glowing fragments of the sun.

We think about the world, the places filled with green,
the rocks, the friends, the sun; these threads illuminate
this frozen here, this now, across which sunset pours.

-- Victoria Grace Landgraf   2006


 

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Date with a Penguin or Two.

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 28-02-2011
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -32 degree C
Sunrise: 23:01
Sunset 05:13

 

With the open water, there comes wild life. Jana and I went for a walk earlier in the week to see some the emperor penguins gathering near the base. As we approached them they seemed to be heading back over the sea ice away from us, so we got as close as we safely could and sat down. Within a few minutes a group of about 50 emperors had surrounded us!

 

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Jana surrounded by penguins.  © AHT/ Sarah

 

I was somewhat concerned, as when kneeling I just about see these great bird eye to eye, and I had heard stories about people being flipper bashed by them. But the great bird just eyed us up and down and sang to us! What an amazing treat, Jana and I have been on a high ever since.  And yes, you are not suppose to go closer than 10 meters, but if the animals come to you it’s a different matter.

 

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Emperor Penguins close up and personal. .  © AHT/ Sarah

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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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Christchurch earthquake

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Authors: Julie and Sarah
Date: 25/2/2011
Temperature: -10
Wind Speed: 30
Temp with wind chill: -42
Sunrise: 03:48
Sunset 00:28

An earthquake hit Christchuch on February 21 that was strong enough to register on the instruments at Scott Base.  It has become apparent that the earthquake is one of the worst disasters that New Zealand has ever experienced.  Everyone at Scott Base has some connection to Christchurch, and some have had difficult news.  Like the rest of the world, we are horrified by the destruction, and deeply saddened by the deaths.  At times like this the reality of being isolated and far away is brought home to us.

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Scott Base flag Credit AHT Julie

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Erebus Crash Memorial

Posted by Conservators Mar 1, 2011

Posted by  Jane


Date: 23rd February 2011
Temperature: -11.5°C
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -15°C
Sunrise: 00.28
Sunset 03.48

 

Last  week Scott Base hosted an emotional memorial for the victims of the Mount Erebus crash that occurred in November 1979. The sightseeing plane crashed into the side of Mount Erebus killing all 257 people on board.

 

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The memorial service, overlooking the Ross Ice Shelf and pressure ridges.credit Troy Beaumont

 

The 115 family members of the victims were flown down on a New Zealand Defence Forces Boeing 757 to Pegasus airfield. They were then bussed to Scott Base for a memorial service at a Koru which looks out at Mount Erebus. There is an identical Koru at the crash site, but it would have been impossible to take everyone there for logistical reasons.

 

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Blessing the Koru. credit Troy Beaumont.

 

The Koru at Scott Base is a memorial for people at Scott Base and McMurdo, dedicated to all those who have died in Antarctica. Unfortunately, the weather began to deteriorate following the memorial, so we were not able to provide the full guided tour of the base before our guests had to leave but we did take them down to the base for a quick afternoon tea before being bussed back to the plane.
 

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Due to the devastating earthquake in Christchurch the blog below, prepared by Sarah at Scott Base, was not posted when it was received on the 22 February 2011.  Staff of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and their families have not been injured but they are involved in cleaning up homes, etc.

 

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 21-02-2011
Temperature: -9
Wind Speed: 30 knots, gusting to 35 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: 2:31
Sunset: 23:27

Being an Australian I am always excited when I find an object that is directly connected to an Australian in one of the Heroic Era Expeditions. Andrew Keith Jack was a member of the Ross Sea Party, a part of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17. Andrew Jack was a physicist on the expedition, in his diary of the time he writes 'In the midst of eternal snows in a waste and barren land'. So I was rapped to be able to conserve A.K.Jack’s sou’wester , which was very stiff, flattened and misshapen when it arrived in the laboratory. It was swabbed with water to remove a salt bloom on the surface and then gently heated with a hair drier to allow it to be reshaped. It was padded and weighted until cool to ensure it held its shape.

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A.K. Jacks Sou’wester hat before treatment © AHT/Sarah

 

Sou'wester after treatment small.jpg

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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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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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Scott Base weather

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 2, 2010

Posted by Diana


Date: November 3, 2010
Temperature: -15.4
Wind Speed: 12 knots with gust to 30 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up all the time
Sunset


Here in Antarctica the weather is very important, as it was when Captain RF Scott and his men were at Cape Evans. Back in 1912 the readings were all taken using manual instruments, as can be seen in this image of Dr. Simpson taking the weather at Wind Vane Hill.

 

Today we have an electronic system which monitors actual wind speed and temperature as well as recording it on a chart. This is in the weather area of the Hatherton laboratory at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

 

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Hatherton Laboratory ©   AHT/Diana


During a big storm the needle on the wind speed meter can jump up 50 knots, or sometimes more. There is also a graph which continually records data. Some mornings, if it was windy through the night, I go up to the Hatherton Lab to see how strong the wind was. Last night we had gusts over 50 knots. There was a white out when I happened to wake up and look out at 3 am. Thankfully the wind died down as today was the day we packed to head out to Cape Evans.  More on that to come.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 20 October 2010
Temperature: -23C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)

 

Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began.  When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work.  The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public.  It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.

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TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT

 

The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting.  The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica.  Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea.  Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.


The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings.  It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom.  Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY).  At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.

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Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT

 

One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch.  The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch.  After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?

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