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Antarctic conservation

6 Posts tagged with the tents tag
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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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Antarctic Field Training

Posted by Conservators Mar 7, 2012

Author: Gretel
Date: 14 February 2012
Temperature: -10.8 °C
Wind Speed: 23 knots
Temp with wind chill: -22.1°C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset: n/a


Now that we are in Antarctica there is a lot to learn about our new ‘home’. Antarctic Field Training teaches us how to camp out in the field as well as what to do in emergency situations where we might have to survive outdoors under unexpected circumstances.


We learn about how to make the best of our extreme weather clothing - layering up thermal underlayers, fleece pants and tops, salopettes, 3 different types of jackets, and a variety of neck gaiters, hats and gloves. Antarctic weather is explained:  the wind can be deadly in conjunction with cold climates: wind speed of 20 knots at minus 10 degrees Celsius results in wind chill temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius! We are taught about survival bags; these include items such as tents, sleeping bags, primus stoves, dehydrated food and chocolate, enabling survival in extreme conditions for at least 3 days.

AFT - polar tents.jpg

Polar Tents © AHT/Gretel


Finally we spend a night camping in the field. We use polar tents – based on a design used by Captain Scott during his Antarctic expeditions. They are quick and easy to assemble and very stable in strong winds due to their pyramidal shape; snow is shoveled over the tent flaps to secure them, and the tent accessed via a fabric tunnel which can be securely tied up in bad weather.

AFT - ice kitchen.jpg

Ice Kitchen © AHT/Gretel

 

We had the luxury of an ice kitchen within which to cook and shelter from the wind. Formed from blocks of compact snow and sunk into the ground the kitchen provided a haven within which to eat and relax in the shadow of Mount Erebus.

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Author:      John
Date:        January 2012

 

My time spent working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust team at Ross Island Antarctica on the conservation of Shackleton’s Hut and Scott’s Hut at Cape Royds and Cape Evans respectively is drawing to an end.  I am 21 and from New Zealand on a programme called the Sir Peter Blake Trust Youth Antarctic Ambassador. We were at Cape Royds for 3 weeks in November and spent the remainder of the Antarctic summer at Cape Evans. We are the New Zealand Antarctic Programme’s  longest running field camp, spanning from the beginning of November to the end of January.


Antarctica is well known as being the coldest, windiest and driest place on earth. Each of these factors makes living in Antarctica challenging and demanding but when the correct procedures and equipment are used it is generally a pleasant and workable environment.


Keeping warm is obviously key. Antarctica New Zealand provides all the clothing which is similar to what would be worn on a ski field.  Thermal under layers, microfleece and wool then a wind stopper outer. At the beginning of the season it was down to minus 20 degrees Celsius. At that temperature, all exposed skin must be covered. A balaclava and goggles are worn.


Wind is the Antarctic killer as this creates additional cold or wind-chill which draws substantially more heat from the body. In mid December, the temperature rarely got to -10 degrees Celsius  and was often above zero. With no wind, it seems as though it is much warmer than it actually is. Activity level has a great deal to do with warmth and hence keeping cool is an issue when many clothes are worn during high activity levels and are shed – sweat becomes very cold when activity level reduces. So managing clothing is a learning curve.

 

At work.jpg
At work © AHT

 

We sleep in traditional Scott Polar tents. They are a proven design and can survive winds over 120 km/h when sufficiently guy roped. The sleeping bags are very warm, a down sleeping bag within another and a cotton sheet inner and outer. Normally this is too warm so one bag acts as a duvet. Liquid human waste is excreted in a tide crack (sea ice cracks due to the tide next to the land). When in the tent, we pee in a plastic “pee” bottle. Solid human waste is collected in a bucket and transported to be incinerated in New Zealand. The 24 hour day light takes a bit to get used to. The only time cue is the position of the sun or watch. The tent is always bright orange.

 

Tents resized.jpg
Home on the Ice  © AHT

 

The environment is not dirty although there can be dust. We have no shower in the field but typically once a week I would have a flannel wash. This is more effective than you might think and uses minimal water.  Luckily we were able to go back to Scott Base for a shower mid trip.  A week per clothing set is standard during normal work. Socks are hung to air for a couple of days before being reused. Every few weeks, clothing is washed in a bucket. This level of cleanliness would be generally unacceptable elsewhere but we maintain a healthy level of cleanliness.  It is an almost sterile environment and very dry. We have no animal contact, dirt/mud or warmth so the dirtiness and bacteria encountered with camping or tramping at home is not an issue here.


Due to the creativeness of the team, we eat well. The food is dehydrated and frozen with an occasional supply of fresh food called “freshies”. We are near a penguin colony so we do not eat poultry as this could introduce disease. Because of the cold and high energy requirements, we eat substantial amounts of salami, cheese and chocolate. Fresh bread is cooked daily and the occasional cake.


Social interaction is key to healthy wellbeing. We have a lot of fun together with varied intellectual and humored conversation. Being busy working means our minds are always occupied. Sunday afternoons are a rest time which is stimulating and we would generally sit and watch a movie together. We have little opportunity to interact with family and friends at home. Calls can be made on the satellite phone although this is very expensive and difficult to fully engage in conversation with such short calls. We have daily radio communication with Scott Base Com’s to catch up on the news and pass on any messages.  I always remind myself that no news is good news. It is harder for the members of the team who have close family and are not used to this level of isolation. Personally I have enjoyed  the opportunity to be isolated from the high levels of social stimulus in my normal life. We concentrate and thrive on the fundamentals; personal social interaction, good food, shelter and warmth.

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Antarctic Field Training

Posted by Conservators Oct 12, 2011

Author: John

Date: 12th  October 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 8knots
Temp with wind chill: -29°C
Sunrise: 5.00am
Sunset 10.27pm


Image 1  Camp set up.jpg

Camp set up © AHT/John


All staff at Scott Base are required to undertake Antarctic Field Training. This includes conservators working on the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, who often are required to work on-site at the historic huts. Training includes setting up an overnight camp, cold weather survival techniques and familiarisation with the environment.


Training is scheduled in advance, and the weather is the luck of the draw.


Our set up weather was benign, with -22oC temperatures and light wind conditions, but preparations need to be made for changes. Tents were erected, guyed and snow shovelled over the tent skirt to keep the wind out. A foot trench was dug inside the tent, a tarpaulin laid out on the snow and sleeping gear set up on either side of the trench. These tents have not changed much in design over the years, and are good at withstanding strong winds.

Our comfortable night’s sleep was awoken around 4.00am by a 20Kt wind blowing snow against the tent, with very white conditions outside.

Image 2  The morning after.jpg

The morning after © AHT/ John


Breakfast was held inside the ‘kitchen’ shelter prepared the previous day, and we were grateful for the protection from the wind.
Image 3.jpg

The Kitchen © AHT/John

 

This was a very valuable experience in being prepared for, and respecting, the Antarctic environment.

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Tent Repairs

Posted by Conservators May 31, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 23/5/2011
Temperature: -27
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

 

 

Scott Base on Ross Island is very isolated for much of the year and new supplies are often impossible to get. An enormous amount of planning goes into getting all the things that Scott Base and all the scientists need in the field, many years in advance.  Additionally great care is taken to make things last and as much as possible is reused and recycled. This has not changed since man first arrived on the continent.

Troy Beaumont Repairing a polar tent resized.jpg

Troy repairing a polar tent © AHT/ Sarah


The Field Support Officer and Base Leader, Troy Beaumont, has just spent many weeks repairing polar tents for the 2011/2012 summer science season, with the industrial Singer sewing machine.

 

There is a Herbert Ponting image of P.O. Evans inside Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition Hut at Cape Evans, at a similar  but hand cranked Singer sewing machine, working with heavy canvas.


These ongoing connections with the heroic era remind us how lucky we are with all the modern facilities we have, and that we must also value and respect what we have here.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 30 November 2010
Temperature: -6C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -13C

 

 

Cricket_Campsite.jpg

Campsite at Cape Royds © AHT/Cricket

 

Our camp at Cape Royds sits over the hill and due east of Sir Ernest Shackelton’s Hut from his 1907 Nimrod Expedition.  We are nine, 6 carpenters and 3 conservators, and we each sleep in our own bright yellow polar tent, like the ones the early explorers used on their expeditions.  I am 5’6” tall and can just stand up straight at the center of the tent, which makes dressing into our bulky Carhartts and big Sorrel boots relatively easy.  The tent’s yellow fabric creates a strong warm light inside, which makes it nearly impossible to tell colours apart.  We laugh at how disorienting it is to know what a colour should be and see something entirely different.  Blues look like black, and purples are a horrible brown, etc.  The tents are remarkably comfortable, and though not as warm as the lower-to-the-ground Mountain tents, are wonderfully pleasant for longer field trips like our 4-week-long stay at Royds.

 

Cricket_Polar_Tent.JPG
Polar Tent © AHT/Cricket


We have the luxury of having a good sized mess created by two wannigans joined together at the side.  The wannigans are new this year and are retrofitted hydroponics containers from the days when vegetables and herbs were grown at Scott Base – we use many of the plant hooks and ceiling wires to hang our clothes and towels.  We have a propane stove for cooking, a small diesel stove for heat and melting snow for water, and a sink that is fed by a Coleman cooler and drains into a bucket.  It’s a relatively simple life here of work, base chores, relaxing in the evening and sleep.  It’s amazing how quickly one forgets about the clutter and noisy details of normal life like tv and telephone calls, and rediscovers how great good company and good books really are.