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Antarctic conservation

85 Posts tagged with the scott_base tag
2

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).

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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.

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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.

2

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.

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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. 

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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.

1

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.

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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.

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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.

0

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. 

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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.

working in the winter lab.jpg

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.

1

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.

0

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.

scottstatue[1].jpg

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.

 

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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. 

1

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)

0

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! 

 

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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.

1

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/

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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.

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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.

1

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.    

 

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Cracks in an iceberg © AHT/Martin

2

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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