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Antarctic conservation

82 Posts tagged with the scott_base tag
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Author: Stefanie

Date: 6 March 2013

Temperature: -24C

Wind Speed: 30 / 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: 04:54

Sunset: 21:10

 

 

In preparation for the winter's extreme cold and darkness, we have moved the conservation laboratory from the summer container into the science preparation areas in the Hillary Field Center (HFC) which is inside Scott Base. This space, which is usually occupied by scientists carrying our research during the summer, is an ideal space for any conservation laboratory. It is very spacious and well equipped with good lighting, benches, chemical storage cupboards, sink and computer. This, in addition to our documentation and conservation equipment, materials and chemicals makes up our new work space. 

Marie and Stefan in winter lab.jpg

Marie and Stefan in the recenetly installed winter lab

 

As the summer-winter lab transformation occurs every year at winter and back again at summer, all of the conservation lab equipment, materials and chemicals are stored in a very orderly fashion in labeled white crates. Therefore our move from the Antarctic Heritage Trust container to the science preparation area in the HFC was very swift.

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Stefan, Sue, Jaime and Marie working in the winter lab

 

As Sue and Marie packed and moved white crates from the summer container into the HFC, Stefan and I cleaned and prepared our new winter lab. Benches were layered with absorbent tissue and polyethylene sheets, the microscope was mounted, crates were allocated new homes under the benches, a photographic and documentation area was set up and chemicals stored in their designated chemical cupboards. And then in came the fume cabinet, which was kindly installed by the engineers. We are now set for the winter.

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Sun setting, or rising

Posted by Conservators Mar 7, 2013

Author: Marie-Amande

Date: 6 March 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35C

Sunrise: Everlasting

Sunset: Everlasting

 

 

Antoine de Saint Exupery was a French pioneer aviator and writer who travelled worldwide and disappeared at sea in a plane crash in 1944. Due to the discovery of his identity bracelet ('gourmette') nearby in 1998, his aircraft has been located and excavated. The recovery and exhibition of these artefacts are not without connection to the work we are doing at Scott Base on artefacts from Antarctica's first explorers.

 

But the real connection for me is Saint Ex' famous novel The Little Prince. The Little Prince comes from a very very small planet, so small that he only needs to move his chair to see the sun set or rise.

 

sunset.jpg

Sun setting, or rising

 

We are actually living on a similar tiny planet named Scott Base. The sun, which started setting on 20 February, is currently curving so low in the sky that it seems to be everlasting sunset or sunrise. We just have to change windows to see orange and gold colours floating around Black and White Islands in the morning, surrounding Mount Erebus' summit at lunch, lying on the Dry Valley Mountains after dinner, and finally hiding for a few minutes at midnight.

 

Sun rise, Becky.jpg

Sun setting, or rising

 

Should I say that The Little Prince is about exploration and explorers, about leaving and missing home, about experience and knowledge? There are many more connections to make.  To understand why we should consider snow drifts behind the doors as baobabs, I invite you to read the novel or to attend my French class every Friday evening at Scott Base.

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Author: Marie-Amande

Date: 11 February 2013

Temperature: -12C

Wind speed: 12 knots

 

 

Regular readers may already know that Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators have two 'labs' (or laboratories) at Scott Base, a summer one and a winter one. The summer one is small and in a container outside the main building. Luckily, in winter, the base gets pretty empty and Scott Base staff let us enjoy a very spacious lab inside the base. We will move into the lab once all ship fuel and cargo offloads for the winter season, as they use the space as a temporary staging post. But we were all so excited to start working that we set up a temporary lab inside while two of us began work in the 'summer' lab.

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Stefanie starts work in the conservator's cage's dust cabinet

 

Adjacent to the winter lab is a storage area divided into compartments, by wire fences (each about 8sqm). Jaime, our carpenter conservator, had already planned to have his workshop in one of these 'cages', and we just followed his idea. As the summer scientists left the base, we requested the cages: one for the photography area, one to work in … and so on. We transformed the shelves into benches and, to be really clean in an area that wasn't already ours, we built up a very basic dust cabinet. With several kinds of plastic sheet we made an enclosed area with a window and access holes for our hands and the Dremel, a drill-like tool we use to mechanically remove corrosion from metal artefacts. So, here we are, hands in the cage's cage!

marie 2.jpg

Jaime has set up his workshop for the season

 

The cages are actually really convenient to isolate the different task areas. When the two people still working in the summer lab join us in the freshly installed winter lab, I'm pretty sure we'll try to keep some of our lovely cages as they are. But we'll let you know …

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Scott Base remembers ....

Posted by Conservators Feb 28, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 24 February 2013

Temperature: -5 Degrees C

Wind Speed: None

Sunrise: 23:51

Sunset: 04:10

 

 

Last week marked the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch, claiming 185 lives and leaving much of the city in ruins. Since then more than 11,000 aftershocks have shaken the city and its people, and much of the CBD has been cleared.

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Marble statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott following the earthquake (source: http://twitpic.com/458e6g)


Among the many monuments and buildings damaged in the 6.3-magnitude quake was the heritage-listed marble statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott in Worcester Boulevard (a replica of Kathleen Scott's 1915 bronze statue of Scott in London's Waterloo Place). The marble statue, also sculpted by Scott's widow, Kathleen, and unveiled in 1917, toppled from its plinth and was broken in several places. It is currently on display in its broken state in Christchurch's Canterbury Museum  as part of  the major international touring exhibition Scott's Last Expedition, which tells the epic and tragic story of Scott's Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole.

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Members of the outgoing summer team pay tribute to Christchurch with a road cone & flowers*


Christchurch, as New Zealand's gateway to Antarctica, is close to the hearts of all and home to many currently at Scott Base. On 22 February the base paid tribute to those who lost their lives and to the strength, fortitude and resilience of those who survived and are rebuilding their lives, homes and businesses. KIA KAHA Christchurch!

 

 

*Photo note: Due to their prevalence on Christchurch's street, the road cone has become an informal symbol for the earthquakes and the city's rebuild.

1

Author: Sue

Date: 03 February 2013

Temperature: -8C

Wind Speed: 8 knots

Temp with wind chill: -18C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

 

The Antarctic Heritage Trust’s winter conservation Team 2013 has arrived on the ice with much excitement and is busy with inductions: handovers, field training and getting accustomed to the uniqueness of our new environment, including 24hr daylight (for a while, at least). Work on the artefacts brought in to Scott Base from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans by the outgoing summer team will soon begin in earnest.

 

As I prepared for my own first-time Antarctic experience as Lead Conservator, a previous Antarctic connection came to mind.  It relates to Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17, on which the photographer was the renowned Frank Hurley.

 

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Hurley's Endurance photos, 1915

 

My Sydney-born paternal grandmother had an association with the Hurley family and was governess for a time to Frank and Antoinette’s identical twin daughters, (Sidney) Adelie and Toni, who were born in 1919. As a result of this connection, we have ‘family photos’ that include a collection of outstanding large-format B&W photographic prints by Frank himself. Gifts to my grandmother, the images include a couple from the Shackleton expedition showing Endurance being crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea. Although well-known and much-published images, we are privileged to have original Hurley prints on our walls and I can only begin to imagine the wonderful tales that would have accompanied them … including, I’m sure, Frank’s tales of recovering his glass-plate negatives from beneath the icy waters before the sinking Endurance was finally lost and of later having to destroy and discard most of those plates during the long and arduous trek across the sea ice.

 

Scott Base 2013.jpg

Outlook from Scott Base, 2013

 

And so with the utmost respect for all who have gone before, including Frank and others of the heroic era, we now begin our very own Antarctic winter-over experience with much anticipation.

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Leaving Cape Evans

Posted by Conservators Jan 8, 2013

Author: Karen

Date: 11 December 2012

Temperature: -1.5C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

 

The hagglund arrived at 10.15am to pick us up and take us back to Scott Base.  But first Martin and Kevin had to identify two safe routes down to the sea ice, in order for us to stage (put all the items in one place) our cargo.  This would make it much easier when loading the Hagglund.  One route was identified from the carpentry workshop/field laboratory area and another from Scott’s hut.  Kevin made a temporary wooden bridge across one of the tide cracks as it was just a little too big to step across safely.

bridged crack.jpg

The temporary bridge across one of the tide cracks © AHT/Karen

 

The ice had just started to break up around our camp and there were many tide cracks, which you could easily fall down and twist an ankle, so great care was required, especially when carrying artefacts.  We had our first lunch of soup and bread and proceeded to load the hagglund.  It took around 2½ hours.  We were taking artefacts from Scott’s hut back to Scott Base for our winter conservation team to conserve during the Antarctic winter season (Feb - Aug 2013).

Jana loading artefacts.jpg

Jana loading artefacts © AHT/Karen

 

It was a very sad time, my final visit to Scott's hut, it truely is an amazing place, Scott's hut is very powerful and I found it extremely difficult to walk down to the sea ice and climb into the Hagglund.  The journey back to Scott Base was slow and took approximately 3 hours; this was because we had to travel at 10km per hour, due to having artefacts on board.  On arrival at Scott Base, we unloaded the artefacts and headed for the showers.  After showering, we met in the dining room for dinner. It had been a long, exhausting but very rewarding day and we all slept extremely well that night. 

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Freezer Ingenuity

Posted by Conservators Dec 13, 2012

Author: Kevin

Date: 28 November 2012

Temperature: -4 degrees celcius, sunny and bright

Wind speed: 5 knots

 

We have now been at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut for the last three weeks or so. Our daily work pattern is now well established. Morning meeting and radio schedule with Scott Base at 07.30am, then off to work until 11.00am when we stop for first lunch, then work again until 3.00pm when second lunch beckons. Final work period is over at 7.00pm with dinner at around 7.30pm.

 

We take it in turns to cook, so as there are only four of us on site, it comes around pretty quickly, with some people looking forward to it more than others, as spending your day digging out one hundred year old marrow fat lard from tins has been known to dampen the appetite!

 

Over the last week or so we have been lucky to have good weather with temperatures above -5 and lots of sunshine, giving us beautiful views of Mount Erebus and the Barne Glacier. Whilst this may seem good to those far away, it leaves us with a dilemma. We rely on snow banks for our fresh water and keeping our fresh food frozen. The fine weather sees the banks literally melting away in front of our very eyes and we still have two more months on site.

 

This morning our "freezer" was looking decidedly worse for wear so it was time for improvements. More snow was packed on top and around the sides and a better door was fitted. All courtesy of the carpenters used timber stack.

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Freezer looking a bit sorry for itself

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Freezer on its way to a new look (Barne Glacier in the background)

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7 more sleeps!

Posted by Conservators Nov 1, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 24 October 2012

Temperature: -18

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -32

Sunrise: None!

Sunset: None!

 

 

Well, the time has come for us to wrap up our conservation work here at Scott Base and pour all of our energy into preparing for our imminent deployment out to our field camps at the historic huts. 

 

As you might imagine, this is slightly more involved than preparing for a weekend camping trip:  it will take several days for the four of us to inventory, sort, test and pack the hundreds of pounds of food, tents, stoves, safety equipment, sleep kits, sleds, shovels, toilet supplies, fuel and timber, not to mention all of the specialized conservation and carpentry tools and material that we will require during the three months we spend out in the field.  

 

We also have to pack up the hundreds of artefacts that were conserved here over the winter season, and then there is our personal gear as well; the handful of clothes, boots, tools and books that will see us each through the season are definitely an important part of the equation! 

 

wading through gear.jpg

Wading through a small portion of our field gear © AHT/Jana

 

We’re excited enough to be counting down the days until we move out to the field though, so we find the work quite enjoyable, especially since it gives us a chance to make sure we don’t overlook anything important.  We also like to think about the fact that explorers of the heroic age would relate to our current flurry of activity; they too spent a good portion of their winters sorting, repairing and packing the vast amounts of food and gear needed for the sledging trips they undertook in the summer seasons.

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Bad Weather

Posted by Conservators Oct 29, 2012

Author: Kevin

Date: 24 October 2012

 

 

I was up at 4am all bags packed and just about to get dressed up in my warm gear for the 5 hour flight to Scott Base. My excitement to be finally on the way to the “ice” was turned to disappointment on receiving the news that bad weather on Ross Island had delayed our departure by at least 24 hours.

 

My mind turned to the weather and how much we take it for granted these days.  Today we simply have to log on to the internet, google “Antarctic weather” and we are given a choice of sites to look at.  Sites such as http://www.yr.no/place/Antarctica/Other/Scott_Base/   This Norwegian weather organization gives us hour by hour predictions and information as well as links to web cams that show us what it is actually like now.  Antarctica New Zealand also hosts webcams on their website http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/

C Evans Stevenson screen.jpg

Cape Evans Stevenson's screen © AHT/Falcon

 

So different from the explorers of just over a 100 years ago, at the forefront of the science of meteorology as we know it today. For them, looking at satellite images from a warm office was not an option. They were required to go out to the weather station whatever the weather, getting dressed up in all of their warm clothing, often struggling against the conditions to find the weather station, physically handling the instruments, recording the information on paper before resetting the instruments, and then struggling back to the sanctuary of their huts, frozen to the core.  It is easy to forget that whilst others were out performing deeds of derring-do, the seemingly endless scientific tasks such as recording the weather continued to be carried out by those whose names have not become household.

 

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Reinstalling the conserved Stevenson's screen © AHT/Gord

 

Last season the weather station at Cape Evans was skillfully conserved by fellow team member Martin, and placed back in its original position as testament to those who visited it many times a day month after month. Personally I am itching to get on site and continue the skilled work carried out by those before me.

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Staff around the flagpole

Posted by Conservators Oct 17, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 10 October 2012

Temperature: -15C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -21C

Sunrise: 05:11am

Sunset: 10:16pm

 

 

The transition from winter to summer season here at Scott Base brings about a number of significant changes. Winter staff start to leave after 13 months of living and working together, a new crew is introduced to the base, science groups start arriving and helicopters buzz around again.  For Simon, our winter manager, it is also the time to officially hand over the base to the incoming team.

Flag pole Image 1.jpg

Staff around the flagpole.

 

Last Saturday, to mark this point and follow a long held tradition, everybody gathered around the flagpole in front of the base to watch the youngest  person on base lower the small winter pennant and raise  the larger summer flag.  It is a little ceremony which has been kept alive ever since Scott Base was officially opened on 20 January 1957.

Flag pole Image 2.jpg

Summer flag is raised.

 

The historic flagpole, found around Scott’s Discovery Hut, had been presented to Sir Edmund Hillary (who helped found Scott Base) by Admiral Dufek that year and Able Seaman R.Tito, the youngest person on base, raised the NZ flag for the first time.  Ever since then the flagpole has been a focal point in front of the base.

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Cracks in the ice

Posted by Conservators Sep 28, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 25 September 2012

Temperature: -28C

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -45C

Sunrise: 6:06am

Sunset: 7:27pm

 

 

After many days of storms, blowing snow and very little visibility we were finally ready to leave Scott Base and to go out again on a stunningly beautiful day. No wind, clear sky, sun and spectacular views of the Trans Antarctic Mountains – we couldn’t ask for more and were keen to get to the historic hut at Cape Evans. 

 

Travelling to Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, which he built as an expedition base for his British Antarctic Expedition (1910–1913), involves driving  over sea ice for approx. 20 km. 

Jana ice.jpg

Jana helping to drill holes into the ice sheet © AHT/Martin

 

Even though the ice thickness is sufficient by now, there are still some cracks which need to be profiled. It means drilling several holes in to the ice right through to the water and measuring the thickness of the ice sheet. A tape measure and string attached to a weight which hooks itself to the underside of the ice sheet is very simple but works well. With a little tug on the string the weight is released again. By measuring several holes across the crack, the shape and therefore the stability of the ice around it, can be determined. It is a time consuming task, especially if you have to do it several times on a trip, but the alternative of breaking through the ice with your vehicle is a lot less attractive.    

 

crack.jpg

Cracks in an iceberg © AHT/Martin

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Do you take milk in that?

Posted by Conservators Sep 5, 2012

Author: Jana

Date: 5 September 2012

Temperature: -16C

Wind Speed: 25 knots

Temp with wind chill: -28C

Sunrise: 08:56

Sunset: 16:51

 

 

Now that the short burst of springtime flights bringing fresh staff and supplies to Scott Base is over, we are once again in “isolation” mode.  With no more flights due to arrive until October, the sudden influx of fresh fruit and vegetables, worth their weight in gold to most of the winter-over staff who have done without for so many months, has sadly come to an end.  

 

Careful planning ensures that our supply stretches as far as possible, but some of the fresh goods, including milk, will only last for so long.  It seems a small thing, but for most of the year, it is powdered milk that staff at Scott Base add to their coffee and tea and use to pour over their cereal, and as any dairy-phile will attest, it is just not quite up to snuff!  And so while we have the real stuff, we make the most of it.

 

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Tin of milk powder during conservation © AHT/Jana

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Detail, Trumilk label © AHT/Jana

 

Funnily enough, our current glut of fresh milk comes at a time when I am treating (what else!?) historic tins of milk powder.  It seems that our enforced use of powdered milk is no different than that of the early explorers, with tins of Trumilk milk powder having been found in both Scott’s and Shackleton’s huts.  I am sure the early explorers would relate to our appreciation of fresh dairy, though it’s hard to tell what they would make of our espresso machine!

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Boomerang

Posted by Conservators Aug 22, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 21.8.2012

Temperature:  12 degree C

Wind Speed: n/a

Wind chill: n/a

Sunrise: About 6am

Sunset About 7pm

 

It might sound exciting, but it really is not much fun to be on a boomerang flight. Yesterday we were all set to fly to Antarctica to replace the current team of international conservators working on  artefacts from the historic huts from the heroic era.

 

Five hours in a cargo plane to Antarctica, ¾ of an hour circling and unsuccessfully  trying to land and 5 hours flying back to arrive where we started from in Christchurch. Boomerang flight is indeed a very appropriate name.

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Exciting views of a continent under ice – Credit: AHT/Falcon

 

It is also a timely reminder that it is the weather which so often dictates what we can or can't do in this remote place. Patience, flexibility and the ability to accept it are useful qualities to have when working in Antarctica.

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Flying back – Credit: AHT/Falcon

 

Compared, however, with what the early explorers had to endure, a boomerang flight which delivers us safely back to Christchurch hardly deserves a mention. Scott and Shackleton and their men had to cope with conditions on their journeys which are incomprehensible to us today. They literally put their lives on the line in order to go where nobody had been before and they could never be sure whether they would come back at all.  

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Crevasse Training

Posted by Conservators Jun 7, 2012

Author:  Susanne Grieve

Date: 29/05/12

Temperature: -16c

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -43c

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A  

 

Last week, I finished reading the journals of Dr. Edward Wilson and Lt. Birdie Bowers (members of Captain Scott's 1911 expedition). These primary resources can be important for conservators as they describe how certain objects were used and the importance they had to the men. One of the most striking descriptions is when the men fell down crevasses. In one example during the Worst Journey in the World sledging trip, Birdie fell through the ice into a crevasse below and Wilson calmly threw down a rope.

 

Nowadays, we use numerous safety precautions to ensure that when we are travelling across icy terrain or exploring the landscape that we don’t fall or get injured. Part of training for this environment is to learn how to abseil and climb safely in or out of a crevasse. Among our Scott Base team are several members of the Search and Rescue team, one of which, Jeff, taught us the basics of abseiling.

 

The Hilary Field Center at Scott Base is the main building that houses field support services and provides a great platform in which to train. After getting safely rigged up, I was ready to make an attempt.

                      

Image 1.JPG

   Jeff rigging me up safely. © AHT/Susanne

 

After gently stepping up to the edge (and making sure that Jeff had a good grip on the belay), I turned and leaned back. This is a very strange experience if you have never tried it! Eventually I was able to find a rhythm and the confidence to lower myself down into the open space below.

 

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Making my way into the void below! © AHT/Susanne

 

With no where to place my feet, my heart beat was racing! Once I reached the bottom I was thankful that I didn’t have to have my first abseiling experience in a real crevasse like Birdie!

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Author: Susanne
Date: May 16, 2012
Temperature: -13.4°C
Wind Speed: 9knots
Temp with wind chill: -36°C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset N/A


Some of the best moments in the lab are when we discover a hidden message or drawing on an object. This week, on what I thought may have been just another tobacco tin, was an advertisement for Albany Cigarettes printed on the back of a cigarette case.

Albany Cigarette Company Advertisement.jpg

Albany cigarette advertisement on the back of a tin. Credit: AHT/Susanne

 

I was curious to know the history of the cigarette company and the details behind the design of the advertisement. The “Albany Cigarette” was made by F.L. Smith Ltd. in London at No. 5 Burlington Gardens. According to this New Zealand cigarette pack below, the Albany Cigarette was first made by hand in the building that is shown above, perhaps by the very dapper gentlemen pictured in front.

 

 

AlbanyKings Pack A.jpgAlbanyKings Pack B.jpg

 

Packaging from the predecessor company to F.L. Smith in New Zealand with the Albany storefront shown. Credit: http://www.zigsam.at/C_NewZealand.htm

 

A brief search also revealed this letter written by British Captain Edward Hulse in World War I to his mother asking her to obtain the handmade cigarettes: “Please ask F. L. Smith, 12 Burlington Gardens (Albany Cigarette people) to send me twice a week a box of 25 of the cigarettes which they supply me with generally.” Source: http://www.archive.org/stream/letterswrittenfr00hulsrich/letterswrittenfr00hulsrich_djvu.txt


It is often these small connections that are provided by material culture that reflect the greater stories of heroism from the exploration of Antarctica to the battlefields of World War I.


  

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