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Antarctic conservation

13 Posts tagged with the transport tag
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Lord of the Flies/Ski's

Posted by Conservators May 16, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 08/05/2013

Temperature: -40 degrees C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -51 degrees C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

One of the most fascinating personnel choices for the Cape Evans shore party was one Tryggve "Trigger" Gran. In reading Gran's diary and that of the other members of the expedition, it became very obgious that a great frustration is held between him, and a number of the officers: "I have offered my assistance, but tey merely look at each other and laugh." - Gran on Oates and Dr Wilson. 

 

"A lazy posing fellow." R F Scott on Gran.

 

To some degree it is a palpable feeling when arriving in Antarctica today. You arrive and rub shoulders with many impressive specialists/characters, and there is often a very natural and interesting social jostling to work out where you will find yourself in this strata. Gran was often painted by others in diary accounts to be a lazy, somewhat adolescent figure. Gran was recommended to Scott by Fridtjof Nansen during the testing of the much-ill fated motor tractors, to teach the party to ski, something he was doubtlessly a master of.

 

http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.583/ Please click here for an image of Lieut. Gran skiing on broken ice, October 1911. Credit - Herbert Ponting.

 

It is easy to see why there may have been a natural tendency to try and discredit Gran. He was a living, breathing representation of Norwegian skill, and Amundsen, the black cloud that hung on Scott's shoulder. Much like the use of dogs, using skis in combination with hauling was weighed up in pros and cons over and over again by the expedition and comments would swing full circle.

 

Gran's allegiances were complex. He wished in his diary that Amundsen would be victorious against Scott, but also in a very touching tribute (taking part in the search party for Scott's tent) wore Scott's skis, adamant that they would finish the distance back to Cape Evans.

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A pair of ski's I conserved last year. Credit: AHT Stefan

 

Gran went on to play football for Norway! He was the first pilot to cross the North Sea, and if that wasn't enough, was attibuted with shooting down flying ace Hermann Göring in WW1.  In an odd turn of fate Gran later headed a search party to find polar explorer Roald Amundsen, lost flying while trying to discover the fate of Umberto Nobile's North Pole expedition in 1928.

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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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Going again

Posted by Conservators Aug 22, 2012

Author: Martin

Date: 19.8.2012

Temperature:  12 degree C

Wind Speed: n/a

Wind chill: n/a

Sunrise: About 6am

Sunset About 7pm

 

 

I am about to go 'to the ice' with the Antarctic Heritage Trust for the fifth summer in a row. The main focus will be conserving artefacts in and around the historic hut of Robert Falcon Scott at Cape Evans. While a lot of the pre-deployment briefings and preparations here in Christchurch have become a pleasant routine, the sense of privilege and excitement about being able to live and work for a while in this indescribable part of the world never changes.

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Enjoying Antarctica in Christchurch – Credit: AHT/Lizzie

 

Often people ask what it is that makes me want to go again. The answer is threefold and usually the same every time. I get to work with a small international team of wonderful people on  a project with world heritage status and all of that in an environment which never ceases to overwhelm me. So as long as I answer like that I am happy to be involved, look forward to going again and don't mind encountering -25 degrees C  tomorrow.  

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US Airforce plane ready to go – Credit:  AHT/Falcon

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The last trip

Posted by Conservators Aug 20, 2012

Author: Gretel Evans

Date: 17 August

Temperature:  -35 °C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -50°C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset n/a

 

Yesterday the Winter 2012 Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation team took a trip to Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans. We went to check the condition of the hut after the Antarctic winter. It was a great contrast to our visit at the beginning of the season. Back in February we flew there by helicopter – a trip of only 20 minutes; marvelled at the wildlife (penguins and seals) enjoying the open water; and basked in the 24 hour sunshine. This time we travelled by Hagglund over the sea ice, the return journey took 12 hours with not much more than an hour spent at the hut.

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Hagglund on the sea ice   Credit: Gretel /AHT

 

Travelling on the sea ice is not without risk and much of the journey is spent looking out for cracks in the ice and assessing whether they can be safely crossed or not. There is no wildlife to see at this time of year and the sea, which is their home, is frozen solid in to a vast white wasteland. We were lucky with the weather as despite the bitter cold it was not too windy. T`he lack of cloud meant we could enjoy what light is filtering over the horizon in advance of the first sunrise which will come in a few days. It was a fantastic trip, made all the more memorable as it will be our last as before we leave the ice in a few days time. The base hut and all its artefacts will be in good hands with the summer season conservators, Jana and Martin, who replace us to carry on the conservation work and spread the word via the blog.

 

 

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Captain Scott’s snow covered hut at Cape Evans   Credit:  Gretel/AHT

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Hoofbeats on Ice

Posted by Conservators Aug 15, 2012

Author: Susanne

Date: Wednesday 8thst August 2012

Temperature: -34 deg C

Wind Speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -75 deg C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset n/a

 

Since the age of three, I grew up riding horses and quickly gained an appreciation for the gentle yet strong traits that these animals possess. Looking at images of the Manchurian ponies that were hand selected for the early Antarctic expeditions, reminded me of my own pony Goldie that has long passed on.

 

The first expedition to take ponies to the Ross Sea region was Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition. After choosing 10 Manchurian ponies, Shackleton and his crew set sail for New Zealand and then Antarctica, concluding a several month long journey in their stalls in stormy seas.  Scott’s Ponies on Board the Terra Nova

 

Upon arrival, the ponies were unloaded using a specially constructed box. They quickly adapted to their new home and stables were built to house them at Cape Royds. Scott also built stables at Cape Evans. Shackleton describes their diet in the “Heart of the Antarctic” as fodder, corn, and a specially purchased pemmican called Maujee rations.

 

While the ponies were an important part of the South Pole exploration stories, they weren’t as successful as Shackleton and Scott had hoped in reaching the South Pole. I am fortunate enough to be retelling their story through the conservation of several artefacts that were used to care for the ponies.

 

During the conservation treatment of several small iron horseshoes, I came across a rather large horseshoe that was different in shape and size to the others. I started to imagine why it was there and what it was used for. Perhaps they brought a variety of shoe sizes for the horses?

 

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Small and Large Horseshoes from Cape Evans. Credit: AHT/Susanne

 

Another really interesting object is this curry comb. There are several steps to grooming a horse or pony and the curry comb helped to reach dirt and debris that was trapped further down in their coat. This comb still has the pony hair and dirt trapped in the teeth. One of the challenges we face as conservators is how to retain that evidence while still preserving the artefact underneath.

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Curry Comb from Cape Evans. Credit: AHT/Susanne

 

What do you consider to be important to keep?

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R/V Nathaniel B Palmer

Posted by Conservators Mar 11, 2012

Author: Gretel
Date: 29 February 2012
Temperature: -11 deg C

We had some interesting visitors dock at McMurdo Station recently. The Research Vessel Nathaniel B Palmer landed at Hut Point, as did The Nimrod during Shackelton’s 1907-1909 Expedition. Both ships witnessed Discovery Hut as they berthed, still standing from Captain Scott’s 1902 Expedition. However, there the similarities end.

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Nathaniel B Palmer with icebreaker and Mount Discovery in the distance © AHT/Gretel

 

Nathaniel B Palmer R/V is a 94 metre Antarctic research icebreaker in the service of the US National Science Foundation. Named after the first American to sight Antarctica, she is capable of carrying 37 scientists with a crew of 22, on missions of up to 75-days. Equipped with an array of biological, oceanographic, geological and geophysical components to study global change there is still room for a helipad. One example of her scientific prowess is the multi-sonar which constantly maps the sea-bed as she sails, slowly piecing together the jigsaw of what lies below the stormy seas.

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The Nimrod, under sail and steam, forcing her way through the pack ice towards Cape Royds 1907-09 © Royal Geographical Society


By contrast The Nimrod was a 41 year old sealing boat before purchase by Shackleton and being refitted for his Antarctic Expedition. Despite being a sail and steam boat, she needed to be towed from New Zealand. Her heavy cargo, which included a motor car, live sheep and ponies prevented her from carrying enough coal to get her from Antarctica and back. Towing her as far as the Antarctic pack-ice would help her to conserve coal and ensure the return of the ship.


I wonder what the early historic Antarctic explorers would have made of the fantastic research capabilities of the Nathaniel B Palmer and her ability to weather the Antarctic stormy seas with such relative ease.

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Author: John
Date: 13 December 2011
Temperature: -7.2°C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: °C
Sunrise: N/A
Sunset: N/A
Part of the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation programmme is to conserve artefacts from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut over the winter. Artefacts are carefully packed and transported back to Scott Base where a team of four conservators will work on the artefacts in a specially provided conservation laboratory for return the following summer. Where the early explorers transported their supplies man hauling sledges, we use plastic cubers on sledges towed behind Hagglunds (tracked vehicles). The trip from Cape Evans back to Scott Base  is 25 km, travelling at 10 kph to ensure safe travelling for sometimes fragile artefacts.
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Loading artefacts in cubers on sledge © AHT/John
Transporting artefacts to Scott Base.jpg
Approaching Scott Base over the Sea Ice © AHT/John
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Finding The Way

Posted by Conservators Jun 16, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 15.6.2011
Temperature: -10 degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 60 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40 degree Celsius
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


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Flags ready to go © AHT/ Martin 


Many people who have been to Scott Base, NZ's science base on Ross Island, Antarctica, have had experience with flag making. It means feeding a piece of fabric on to a bamboo stick and fixing it with one screw –  then repeating it about a hundred times.  (The screw by the way ensures that the flags and therefore the route is showing up on the radar when travelling in a white out) Literally hundreds of these flags are used to mark all the routes across the ice and they have become a feature of this part of Antarctica of almost iconic proportions. Yesterday I had the chance to go out with Troy, our field support person and base manager, to replace a number of flags in preparation for the next summer season. Equipped with a battery drill, 25mm extra long drill bit and bundles of flags in a sled we drive or walk along the route. As we go along, we look for missing or half buried flags, drill a 400mm deep  hole and insert a new flag. In -15 degree C with little wind and a full moon, it was a very pleasant way to spend a few hours out and about away from the workbench.      

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Out on the ice in the afternoon  © Troy Beaumont

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Freezing Antifreeze

Posted by Conservators May 10, 2011

Posted by Jane

 

Date: 4th May 2011
Temperature: -32°C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -45°C


I have been working on a can of what we believe is antifreeze from Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. It was probably brought for use on the Arrol Johnson car, the first vehicle in Antarctica.


I wanted to find out what I could about the liquid in case it had any health and safety implications in the lab or in the hut. I also wanted to add as much information to the records as possible for future reference. We are limited in how much we can find out here as we do not have the equipment to do sophisticated analysis. I was able to carry out a few simple tests, but these have not provided us with any conclusive answers.

 

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The can of anti-freeze from Cape Royds, after conservation © AHT


I ruled out alcohols and salt solutions straight away as these would have evaporated off. The liquid is oily brown and I initially thought it was ethylene glycol, a substance still used as antifreeze today. It has a sweet smell which is characteristic of ethylene glycol.


I put our local environment to use in my efforts and tried to freeze the liquid. Outside it was -35°C but the liquid did not freeze, although it did become quite syrupy. Our base mechanic gave me a refractometer which he uses to test the antifreeze in our  vehicles. We found that if it is ethylene glycol, it is at least 70% pure and will prevent freezing down to at least -50°C.
Impressive for antifreeze that is over 100 years old!

 

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The handwritten label from the can which reads ‘a little of this amongst the water helps prevent freezing’ © AHT


If anyone out there has any ideas about what our antifreeze might be, please send us a comment.

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100 year old oil

Posted by Cricket and Diana Dec 16, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: December 4, 2010
Temperature: -6.8 degrees Celcius
Wind Speed: 16 knots with gusts of 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -16 degrees Celcius


We are working at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut built at Cape Royds for his Nimrod expedition 1907-09. This Expedition brought an Arrol-Johnston Automobile to Antarctica in the hopes of using it to reach the South Pole.

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Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island, Antarctica, showing the stables and garage, photographed 1907-1909 by an unknown photographer. The expedition's Arroll-Johnston motor car may be seen inside the garage. © Alexander Turnbull Library


The oil was a special blend created for the harsh Antarctic climate by the Price Patent Candle Company. The Automobile did not prove to be as useful as they had hoped so they did not use all the motor oil brought down. However, the crates of oil were very useful and created the walls for the garage that housed the automobile. These crates are still in place today but it was suspected that some of the cans may have started to leak as there was evidence of oil on the boxes. We did not want this oil to leak into the Antarctic environment so the crates were opened and discreet holes were made in the cans to drain the contents out. The cans have been placed back into the crates with the nest of straw they originally were packed in and once again create the walls of the garage.

 

fuel cans.jpg
Prices fuel tins in the crate. © AHT/Diana

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Popcorn

Posted by Cricket and Diana Dec 6, 2010

Posted by Martin


Date: 29.11.2010
Temperature: -6.3
Wind Speed: 8.8 SE
Temp with wind chill: -14
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a

 

We would have loved to have finished off dinner tonight with some hot steaming popcorn in our field camp at Shackleton’s hut, Cape Royds.  Unfortunately it was not to be. The corn we had rather caused a bit of an environmental headache as it was 100 years old and poured out of an old provision box we were excavating.

 

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These boxes, typically about 320x320x400mm, were used by the expedition to transport everything from engine oil to candles and all sorts of food items.  They also made useful building blocks to build the first garage ever built in Antarctica. Since Sir Ernest Shackleton had decided to take an Arrol-Johnston Motorcar on his British Antarctic Expedition(1907-1909), a garage was needed adjacent to the expedition hut at Cape Royds.

 

Cape Royds.jpg

 

Excavating the remains of this garage led us to some unopened corn boxes which had been preserved in the permafrost for over 100 years.  Antarctic environmental regulations are very strict. It meant picking up every single kernel and disposing it in what is called food contaminated waste.  This waste gets shipped back, checked and disposed of in NZ. Most of the corn looked amazingly fresh and even though it was tempting, we followed protocol and enjoyed a chocolate desert instead.

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Posted by Lizzie

 

I’m writing this from sunny Cape Royds, looking out onto Mt Erebus, just a small vapor trail visible today from Ross Island’s active volcano. All around me is the sound of a very busy camp - we’ve gone from four to nine! This week Diana, Cricket, JT and I have been joined by Randy (Canada), Jamie W (Scotland), Martin, Jamie C and Al (NZ).


Productivity has shot through the roof, offset by the time it takes to do all the dishes….

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From L-R: Jamie C, JT, Martin, Jamie W, Al, Randy © AHT

 

The last three days have seen the whole team moving artefacts, equipment and supplies from Scott Base to Cape Evans to Cape Royds and vice versa. It’s a big job involving several tracked vehicles, many sleds and the support of Antarctica New Zealand staff, who put in some long days to get us into the field and all set up.


We’ve had some fantastic weather – here’s a shot of the artefacts in transit with Mt Erebus in the background, and not a breath of wind!
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The artefacts on the move © Diana / AHT

 

Similarly to last year, the sea ice edge and open water are visible from the cliffs next to Cape Royds. The Adelie penguin pairs are looking plump, and are busy keeping their eggs warm, and taking turns to head out on fishing expeditions. Meanwhile the humans are waddling industriously about like giant orange and black penguins, returning artefacts to the hut…..

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Scott Base to Cape Evans

Posted by Conservators Nov 10, 2010

Diana and Cricket have left the relative comfort of New Zealand’s Scott Base and travelled by Haggalund to Captain RF Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  As they have no internet access at present and are unable to send blogs out, we thought followers of their blog might appreciate an update on their movements.

Carefully wrapped artefacts had been transported from Cape Evans to Scott Base for conservators to work on over the winter months and these objects must now be returned to Captain RF Scott’s hut. The trip to Cape Evans last week would have been slow as they cannot travel over 10 kilometers per hour when transporting artefacts. 

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Travelling by haggalund on frozen sea ice © AHT

On arrival at Cape Evans they would have been busy setting up camp, unpacking artefacts and adjusting to living in a more remote location.

They will probably be able to write a blog from Cape Evans next week and send it by Haggalund to Scott Base, for transmission by email to Christchurch, for placement on the NHM website.