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Antarctic conservation

82 Posts tagged with the scott_base tag
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A Stitch in Time

Posted by Conservators Jun 6, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 29/05/2013

Temperature: -27 degrees C

Windspeed: 10kts

Temp with wind chill: -39 degrees C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

It's been a particular pleasure this season to see some iconic pieces of the expeditioner's clothing pass through the conservation lab at Scott Base. It was noticeable last season that many of the gents clothing companies who had originally supplied the Terra Nova crew, were dedicating there AW2012 season to the heroic age. And a 100yrs of their own heritage.

 

Although companies such as Wolsey, Burberry, and Jaeger ran with collections that were heavily themed with clothes of the expeditions, one designer took it a step further and produced a limited edition range which celebrated individual garments attributed to shore party members. i.e. P O Evans's Jacket, and Charles Wright's Balaclava etc.

 

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Nigel Cabourn's 'Henry Bowers Deck Jacket' Credit: Nigel Cabourn

 

Nigel Cabourn (the designer wrote this about his work) "As a designer whose collections are inspired by history and real vintage clothing, my visit to the Polar Institute inspired me to base my AW12 collection on Scott and his team as a dedication to their fantastic feat. The wealth of information I found at the Institute spurred on my inspiration to create 12 individual garments that represent the achievements of Scott and his team on their last expedition"

 

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Nigel Cabourn's 'P.O. Evans Expedition Smok' Credit: Nigel Cabourn

 

Additonal item photos available here: http://14oz-berlin.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/nigel-cabourn-limited-edition-ii-scotts.html

 

The collection is a very beautiful tribute to the men, and even though single garments run into the thousands of pounds, I think I may be treating myself to a winter coat when I return home if there are any still available. Happy shopping.

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Hip Hip Hooray

Posted by Conservators Jun 5, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 4 June 2013

Temperature: -25 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -38 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

It's natural that when a small group of people live together in close quarters in a harsh environment and a remote location such as Antarctica, a strong camaraderie develops and a bit of a deal is made when there's something to celebrate … and of course birthdays are one of those things.

This week marks the anniversary of Captain Scott's birthday – he celebrated his 43rd, and what was to be his last, birthday at Terra Nova hut on 6 June 1911. He wrote: 'It is my birthday, a fact I might easily have forgotten, but my kind people did not … an immense birthday cake made its appearance and we were photographed assembled about it. Clissold had decorated its sugared top with various devices in chocolate and crystallised fruit, flags and photographs of myself'. Scott goes on to describe how, later, they all sat down to a sumptuous spread of: 'Clissold's especially excellent seal soup, roast mutton and red currant jelly, fruit salad, asparagus and chocolate—such was our menu'. 

 

Click here to see a picture of Scott's birthday celebration http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.438/ 

 

Here at Scott Base, Becky our winter base leader, recently celebrated her birthday and asked for something a little more low key, forgoing the seal (!!) in favour of some simple fish 'n' chips out of newspaper in the bar with a screening of the Australian movie The Castle. Damian our cook topped it off with a totally OTT igloo-shaped dark-chocolate rum cake covered with white-chocolate drops, and filled with layer upon layer of chocolate cream ... a creation of which I'm sure Clissold would have approved!

 

Scott's Birthday.JPG

Birthday celebrations at Scott Base

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To plunge or not to plunge

Posted by Conservators May 26, 2013

Author: Jaime

Date: 22 May 2013

Temperature: -26

Wind speed: 10-15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -37

Sunrise: Still August

Sunset: Long ago

 

 

There are a number of traditional events that take place during the long winter season at Scott Base; the midwinter dinner and, the mini-golf tournament for example. But the time has now come to consider whether to undertake one of the more challenging events, the dreaded Polar Plunge.

 

For some people in Northern Europe, the idea of voluntarily leaping into water a degree or two above freezing is not completely unusual, although to be fair, they tend to have spent some time previously in a stiflingly hot sauna. Most of us however, offered the chance of an Antarctic dip, where the seawater is about -1.5 degrees would simply say No. A brave few will, for some inexplicable reason, immediately think that it is a great idea. But that still leaves The Undecided.

A perfect swimming spot LR.jpg

A perfect swimming spot © AHT/Jaime

 

You know it’s going to be frightening, that it’s going to leave you gasping for breath and completely numb, but on the other hand you also know it’s completely feasible, others do it regularly and after all its perhaps only a few seconds discomfort in an otherwise cosy life.

One of the undecided LR.jpg

One of the undecided © AHT/Jaime

 

Why is it so difficult to decide?

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Boots and Grass

Posted by Conservators May 22, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Date: 15/05/2013

Temperature: -31 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 350/1 kts

Temperature with wind chill: -39 degrees celcius

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Sometimes we encounter the most unexpected surprises during a conservation treatment and expose a piece of history that is really quite special. Recently, two dry, stiff and distorted pieces of Reindeer fur that were labelled "mitten" and "fragment" arrived in the lab as two separate objects.

 

Before treatment of fragment.jpg

   Before Treatment of fragment   

Before treatment of Mitten.jpg                                                  

  Before Treatment of Mitten

 

The treatment of the objects involved the slow humidification of the fur and the even slower and more cautious reshaping of each object until their original shape was revealed. It slowly became apparent that first impressions (as well as labels) were misleading and the objects were neither a mitten nor a fragment, but a complete pair of fur boots. The matching fur boots present a fine example of Finnesko (a thermal boot made of tanned reindeer skin with the outside fur).

 

After Treatment of Finnesko.JPG

  After Treatment of Finnesko

 

Inside the boots sennegrass was also revealed. Sennegrass, a sedge (carex vesicaria) from Northern Europe, was used to insulate boots by carefully arranging the grass around ones feet and toes. By the time Scott and his men set about their expedition, the use of sennegrass to insulate footwear was already a long standing tradition. Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink tells us:

 

"if you get wet feet while wearing the grass in the 'komager" (Finnesko) you will be warmer than ever, as the fresh grass will, by the moisture and the heat of your feet, in a way start to burn or produce its own heat by spontaneous combustion. The great thing seems to be to arrange the grass properly in the boots..."

 

And so with what first appeared to be a fur mitten and fragment we discovered a very fine example of a pair of Finnesko with sennegrass contents.

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Author: Sue

Date: 7 May 2013

Temperature: -41 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -55 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a
Sunset: n/a

 

 

In our conservation work on the artefacts from the explorers' huts here in Antarctica we often get little surprises. As we inspect each artefact very closely in the pre-treatment process of documenting its materials, construction and condition, we come across little details that may not have been immediately obvious to those AHT conservators who, in the summer months, catalogued and packed up the artefacts in the huts and transported them here to us in the lab at Scott Base.

physics lab. - Cape Evans - Copy.JPG

Physics lab in Scott's Hut

 

I had one such delightful little surprise recently. I un-wrapped an artefact that bore the description "wood slat, approx. one metre long", which had been located under the physics bench in Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut, from the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition. As I inspected it I noted that it was, in fact, exactly one metre long, was made of oak, and was covered on one side and one edge with a heavy layer of black soot. Part of our approach to conserving the artefacts is to preserve all evidence of use, and this includes preserving those soot layers that tell of the items' long history around the blubber-and-coal fuelled stoves inside the huts. But occasionally the soot is also hiding information, so we investigate a little further and may find a good reason to remove or at least reduce it. Such was the case with the "slat" as, when I did, I revealed a very neat metric (one-metre) rule, or scale, with hand-written pencil numbers "10" through "90" at ten-centimetre intervals. Nice!

Detail, 30cm to 50cm.JPG

Detail, 30cm - 50m

And quite interesting, too, as Britain (and, for that matter, Canada, from where the Terra Nova physicist 'Silas' Wright hailed) was still using the imperial system of measurement until much much more recently... although scientists are always well ahead of their times!

 

One-metre oak rule, after treatment.jpg

One-metre oak rule, after treatment

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Mouse Rounds

Posted by Conservators May 13, 2013

When it's 10pm and warm and comfortable inside Scott Base the last thing you want to do is to struggle into layers of warm clothing and head outside. When it is also -27 with snow drifting in the gusting winds, it is even less appealing.

 

 

But every couple of weeks it is your turn again to make the nightly mouse round, a methodical safety check of the entire base. The inside bit is easy, but initially, heading out and away from the main buildings into the deep darkness to check the fuel pumps, is always a little daunting.

 

P1000885.jpg

Mike on the nightly mouse round - JW

 

In the end though, the time outside is never bad, in spite of the weather. You are warm, you have a radio and there is something quite cathartic about re-tracing your own well-trodden route around the quiet dark extremities of the base. Always wanting to find something interesting and always secretly glad in the end that you haven't.

 

P1000886.jpg

It pays to be vigilant; the infamous "leak" in the waste water plant. JW

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Here, when you mention "back country" cooking, it refers to some dehydrated chicken and peas, dehydrated soup, with a dehydrated orange tasting juice, and eventually some porridge powder. No offence to any "central land" gastronomy, it's just the easiest thing we can bring to have for dinner when we're going out. We warm it up on a white gas stove, and, mind you, lighting the stove was one of the very first things we learnt to do when we arrived.

 

Picture1.JPG

 

Dehydrated meals are not a new fashion though, and I was surprised to discover mustard powder along with milk powder in the middle of Scott's Terra Nova expedition supplies. Even so, explorers' typical 'field' meal was more often a 'hoosh', a big pot of pemmican, biscuits, cocoa, milk and grease mixed together. The expedition had Primus Stoves, made in Sweden and recently I had the chance to conserve one of them.

 

 

Picture 2.JPG

 

When I unwrapped the artefact, my first thought was 'wait a minute, I've already seen something similar…of course!  There are two Primus Stoves above the gas fireplace in our lounge. (Yes, we have a lounge, and a fake fireplace, how amazing is that?) They're Ed Hillary's  stoves! Signed and given to Scott Base by the modern age Antarctic exploration hero!

 

Picture3.JPG

It's really nice to observe such a step by step evolution of something both so simple and so essential.

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The winds of change

Posted by Conservators May 6, 2013

Author: Jaime Ward

Date: 24/04/2013

Temperature: -32 degrees

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -47 degrees

Sunrise: The sun no longer rises

Sunset:  And therefore never sets

 

With rapidly dwindling hours of daylight and the prospect of gradually worsening weather, it's best to make the most of any opportunities we get to be outside and to explore some of the less frequented sites around the bases.

 

Last week, we were able to join a routine maintenance visit to the three wind turbines erected in 2010 and situated on the upper slopes of Crater Hill between Scott Base and McMurdo. Access to the wind farm site is usually restricted, but accompanied by the base electrician we were able to get a close up look at the towers and feel the hum of the huge blades sweeping overhead.

 

Wind turbine in action.jpg

Wind turbine in action - JW.

 

Until recently, power for both bases had been provided by diesel generators, but New Zealand's wind turbines now provide up to a third of the electricity here, and are reducing greatly both the cost and the risk of transporting a tanker load of fuel each summer.

 

And as an unexpected bonus of the elevated site, we were treated to one of the final stunning sunsets over the Trans Antarctic mountains.

 

Sunset over the Trans Antarctic mountains.jpg

Sunset over the Trans Antarctic mountains - JW.

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500 done, 1000 to go

Posted by Conservators May 2, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Date: 24 April 2013

Temperature: -32.3

Windspeed: 20/ 14 kts

Temp with wind chill: -51

Sunrise: 12.16

Sunset 13.23

 

Thursday the 11th of April was a day of celebration for us as we all felt a great sense of achievement. After only a few months, we conserved our 500th object.

 

Image1.jpg

Stefan, Stefanie, Marie, Sue and Jaime in the lab at Scott Base celebrating the 500th object conserved.

 

Previous days saw the countdown to the 500th conserved object and as we counted down each object with it's after treatment photo our eagerness to see the final winning object increased. Was it going to be a cork stopper, a glass vial, a test-tube, a canvas ration bag, a wool mitten, a tin of flour, a leather horse strap or even a wooden box?

 

The 500th conserved object is the remarkable 'Wolsey unshrinkable 100% wool' thermal top bearing a hand stitched pocket to the lower chest area and the hand printed initials 'C. G.' on the upper chest area. The 'C.G' implies that the top was owned and worn by Cherry-Garrard. Interestingly, just the previous week I conserved the matching long-john's, which also bear the printed initials 'C. G.' . However, the intimacy involved in conserving a complete set of Cherry-Garrards' underwear is the topic of another blog and for the moment we look forward to conserving the remaining 1000 objects.

 

Cherry-Garrard;s Wolsey thermal top.

Image2.jpg

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Hijinks on the High Seas

Posted by Conservators Apr 29, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 23/04/2013

Temperature: -26 degrees

Windspeed: 13 knots

Temperature with Wind Chill: -39 degrees

Sunrise: 11.46am

Sunset: 1.56pm

 

Being down on the Ice is a difficult balance. All winter-over staff (AHT+AntNZ) have a massive amount of work to get through during the season. But the idea that a season can be acheived without a good slice of humour added into the mix is pretty naive.

 

The more I read of the explorers the more I'm facinated by what they got up to, and the dour accounts that follow. From journals of the long journey to Antarctica in the Discovery, comes an odd account of a "ducking pool": made from a wooden scaffold and sails, created aboard the ship, and through which (it seems) the men had to run a watery "Neptunes" gauntlet featuring razor blades and lather! In the games that followed Walker (a Dundee whaler) had his thumb "clean bitten to the bone." Scott's accounts of the soapy events were "The party was rather too lavishly regaled with whisky" and that the men "were a little rough towards the end"?

 

Click here for a picture of sails being rigged for Neptune's Gauntlet aboard the Discovery: http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p83.6.2.3.10/ photo credit Anon.

 

Needless to say there has been no thumb biting at Scott Base, although April the 1st was enjoyed by planting a fake "leak" in the water treatment plant. A series of 'emergency calls' later (out of work hours), the ever professional Graeme, attended the scene with great concern, and with a very well developed Preston-ian sense of humour, enjoyed the hijinks. He has become rather fond of the leek and it's since become a mascot of the water treatment plant.

 

IMG_7345.JPG

Graham and his new friend. Credit: Jonny5

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Winter Routines

Posted by Conservators Apr 23, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 17 April 2013

Temperature: -32 degrees

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -50 degrees

Sunrise: 10.19am

Sunset: 3.34pm

 

When the AHT winter team arrived on the ice ten weeks ago we arrived to 24-hr daylight... and next week, already, we move into 24-hr darkness. It seems to have come around quickly, giving our internal body clocks little consistency upon which to establish reliable routines. Consequently, we are reliant on the clock, especially as we now rise and begin work in the dark. Many lights around Scott Base are now on 24/7, with power being generated largely by three wind turbines on a hill behind the base.

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An April day at Scott Base, from the wind farm

 

Not unexpectedly, our winter routine of rising, working, eating and enjoying some recreational activities in the evenings is not unlike that of the early explorers. But of course we live in a modern facility so many aspects are very different. Of days' end during the 1911 winter at Terra Nova hut Captain Scott recorded: "At 11pm the acetylene lights are put out, and those who wish to remain up or to read in bed must depend on candle-light. The majority of candles are extinguished by midnight, and the night watchman alone remains awake to keep his vigil by the light of an oil lamp."

historiccandles.JPG

Historic candles from the "heroic era", Cape Royds

 

For us, each in a room of our own, "lights out" in the evenings is, of course, whenever we choose to flick the switch. And, with the ever present risk of fire, never do we light a candle... and we have 200+ smoke detectors, 200 fire extinguishers, 8 hydrants and an extensive water sprinkler system to protect the base. Further, thanks to sophisticated alarm and communication systems, there is never a need for someone to keep watch at night... unless perhaps it's in the hope of observing an aurora, and that's purely for reasons of fascination and awe!

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Author: Jaime Ward

Date: 26/03/2013

Temperature: -31 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: About 15-20 knots

Temperature with wind chill: - 49 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 8.30am-ish

Sunset: 8.00pm

 

Despite valiant efforts to comprehensively understand and manage health and safety in Antarctica, danger still lurks, a hidden menace that brings pain and misery to all that live here. It can strike unseen and without warning, leaving its victims both irate and in pain.

 

Travelling the long deserted corridors of Scott Base, the deadly combination of extremely dry air and interestingly patterned polyester carpets becomes lethal, allowing the innocent pedestrian to accumulate a massive static charge, which can only mean one thing. Approach the washing up bowl, flick a light switch or simply reach for a tempting pasty and "crack", its too late. A blinding spark the size of a small planet leaps from your fingertip and leaves you cursing and frustrated, in the certain knolwedge that before long it will happen again.

 

static hair.jpg

A scientist demonstrates the power of static electricity - Jaime Ward

 

On the positive side however, once fully charged you briefly have super hero powers, able to destroy electronic equipment with a single touch, or to become extremely unpopular by gently tapping unsuspecting people on the ear and observing their reaction.

 

penguins.jpg

Some random penguins; naturally untroubled by static discharge - Jaime Ward.

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The Frozen Few

Posted by Conservators Apr 2, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 20/03/13

Temperature: -13.5C

Wind speed: 12 knotos

Temp with wind chill: -25C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Not long ago we had a long weekend (two days), a rare treat on Scott Base, and we took the opportunity of getting out on a 'Fam trip'. Anything we do which could be considered dangerous has to be fully considered in every aspect … equipment, communications, health & safety, etc. Lex (our base mechanic) has a tremendous amount of experience with a multitude of heavy machinery and was able to organise a ski-doo trip out to "room with a view" (about 25km NW of Scott Base, up the Hut Point Peninsula).

Jam Ski doo (small).jpg

Jaime after a bumpy stint on a ski-doo © AHT/Stefan

 

Riding ski-doos is a tricky business. The flat light at this time in the season means it's difficult to see snow drifts, and as you're essentially raising your wind chill by however fast you're travelling, frost nip/bite becomes a very real threat if you're not 100% covered up. It was a brilliant day out, with great scenery and most importantly no injuries.

Photo forzen few.jpg

Lex with the McMurdo 'Frozen Few' Chapter  © Lex

 

A great aspect to life in Antarctica is that you're surrounded by people who enjoy resurrecting important parts of their life from back home and creating them anew in the inhospitable climes of this harsh continent. A biker fraternity called 'The Frozen Few' (born on McMurdo, the US base) has decided to open up a Scott Base 'chapter'. Proudly Lex, Graeme and even AHT's very own Jaime are newly ordained 'pledges'. We're all very grateful to the guys, as without these efforts to create a diverse social life, our Antarctic experience would be much the poorer.

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Stitching history

Posted by Conservators Mar 25, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Date: 20 March 2013

Temperature: -13.8

Wind speed: 50 / 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -28C

Sunrise: 05:50

Sunset: 20:00

 

 

I smiled when I saw the sewing kit that we were issued with when receiving our extreme cold weather gear in Christchurch. The kit being quite basic and wrapped in fabric reminded me of a time long past, a time when each member of Scott's team was responsible for caring for and repairing their own gear and clothing.

Mittens (Small).jpg

Mittens, from Terra Nova hut, with several historic repairs

 

Now as the last plane has left us for the winter and we must make do with whatever supplies, equipment and gear we have, that sewing kit has become a little more vital and our connection to the past habits of Scott and his men enhanced.

Mike from Field Support.jpg

Mike, from Field support, making his mark by repairing a tent

 

While conserving some items of clothing from Scott's Terra Nova Hut, I noticed the remarkable repairs made over and over again to the same areas in mittens and several socks. These repairs not only tell of how the items were used, worn and torn, but also convey how much care was taken to wonderfully patch, stitch and darn clothing. 

Trans Antarctic Expedition.jpg

Trans-Antarctic Expedition: George Marsh sewing a tent. Unknown Photographer. TAE 865:1956/1958

 

On Scott Base, we also take great care to repair, recycle and reuse as much as possible, including clothing. Field support have been repairing and maintaining the tents for years. As they continue to make these repairs they are also developing a pattern of historic stitches that is not unlike those found in the mittens most recently conserved.

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Peace at last

Posted by Conservators Mar 20, 2013

Author: Jaime

Temperature: -15C

Wind speed: 10 knots

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

With departure of the last flight last Saturday, we are finally alone here and after the frantic activity of recent weeks, a real sense of calm has overtaken both Scott Base and Mc Murdo.

jamie blog ship.jpg

Ship offload at McMurdo © AHT/Jaime

 

A year's supply of fuel has been delivered, enough for both of the bases here, and the US base at the South Pole. The container ship was here for well over a week, off-loading food and equipment 24 hours a day, and finally departing loaded with unwanted waste, materials and vehicles. There has also been a huge exodus of personnel as science events depart and the additional staff needed to keep the bases running during this time, return home.

Jamie blog SB.jpg

Spot the departing plane © AHT/Jaime

 

So now, with just 145 people over at Mc Murdo and 15 here, it is all over until the end of August, when the whole process will begin again. We all gathered outside and toasted the departing plane, as it lifted off the ice in a cloud of blown snow, turned to make a farewell pass over the base and disappeared north to the real world.

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