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Antarctic conservation

13 Posts tagged with the vehicles 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.

Set of Skis.jpg

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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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.

 

 

Captains Scott's snow-covered hut at Cape Evans.jpg

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

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Author: Gretel

Date: 21/03/12
Temperature: -29.1 deg C
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48.9 deg C
Sunrise: 7.49am
Sunset 8.08pm

 

While in Antarctica, Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators lodge at New Zealand’s Scott Base, Ross Island. Once described as ‘the best hostel in the world’, Scott Base plays host to some of the top scientists in the world as well as dignitaries such as the King of Malaysia. Many talented people are employed by Antarctica New Zealand to keep Scott Base running and to support the science events that come here to stay while they collect data, carry out observations and experiments. In summer there can be over 100 residents. During  winter the Scott Base personnel consists of only 14 hardy souls. You may be familiar with us 4 AHT conservators so now we’d like to introduce you to the rest of the family.

 

Andrew at the helm.jpg

Andrew (aka The Sheriff) is one of the engineers who keeps the base running, maintaining and repairing the boilers, air handling units, generators and fuel lines on a daily basis. Ever since as a small boy, when he heard the ‘sounds of Antarctica’ on a 45 record (now you’re revealing your age Andrew!) he has relished the opportunity to experience this continent. Andrew loves the challenge of working in isolated environments – previously he crewed super yachts, sailing half-way round the world – and he certainly makes the grade as an extreme engineer.

Jodie preaching.jpg
Jodie (JC, his second name is Curtis) is on a quest for knowledge – both of himself and the wider world. As the base carpenter his mission is to improve the base infrastructure for greater sustainability. He enjoys supporting the scientists who utilise  Antarctica as their ‘experimental playground’, and in the process learning more about this continent, and consequently the world, from them. Back in New Zealand Jodie runs his own architectural-building business, and organises festivals – enjoying the gathering of the flock and spreading the good word.

Jeff with his beloved bulldozer.jpg
Jeff (or Capt Jack the Pirate as we call him) is here for the adventure, fulfilling a dream he held as a young boy. His task is to service, repair and maintain our very durable fleet – which ranges from a chainsaw to a D6 Bulldozer – taking pride in taking care of the fleet. In the past he has honed his mechanical skills in snowfields and on super-sized sheep stations. Jeff’s Antarctic voyage is sustained by his love of the outdoor environment and the natural world, marvelling at the harsh yet beautiful continent and the vastness of this place.

Tom relaxes after a hard day at the poo plant.jpg
Tom (the Tank, see the photo) believes world peace can be achieved through water (or more precisely reverse osmosis). As the water engineer he manages the waste water treatment (aka the P.O.O. plant) and the reverse osmosis plant – where he makes and creates fresh water from seawater. Tom enjoys the changes in Antarctica weather and the challenges it presents.  A lover of wildlife and the natural environment he’s looking forward to getting back to hunting, shooting and fishing in the mountains and the bush of New Zealand.

 

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Steve (colloquially known as Wilbur but I’m not sure why) is a veteran. He’s seen 2 full seasons and this tour of duty is his third winter. As the resident electrician he’s a bright spark and his work keeps many of our vital systems, such as heating, water and energy production on the go. Having worked and travelled all over the world he realised Antarctica was the last continent for him to conquer. He enjoys the variety offered by the job, working with, and meeting good people.


Well that’s the men of engineering at Scott Base. Our next blog will introduce you to the rest of the family.

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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.
Image 2.jpg
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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Sea Ice Formation

Posted by Conservators Oct 4, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 30 September 2011
Temperature: -26°C
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40°C

 


This has been an unusual year for the sea ice around Scott Base. In March it broke out in front of the base for the first time since 1997. The sea ice began to form again soon after the ice floes were washed out of McMurdo Sound. It is now around 1.8m thick in front of the base.

 

Image 1.jpg

The ‘Big John’ crack extending out from Hut Point into McMurdo sound. This crack is now impassable. Mount Discovery to the right and Black Island to the left, with a mirage visible along the bottom.  Photo AHT/ Jane

 

 

Further North the sea ice is still moving, causing the formation of large cracks. We managed to get to Cape Evans to do our Winter Hut Inspection on September 17th, but we had to park the Hagglund a few hundred metres out from the shore due to cracks in the sea ice which were not safe to cross in a vehicle. A few days later it was impossible to get to this area, as cracks along the flagged route had opened up substantially. One of the cracks we crossed is now about 2.5m wide.

 

Image 2.jpg

Looking down on Terra Nova hut from Windvane Hill with the Barne Glacier in the background and the Hagglund parked out on the Sea Ice.
Photo AHT/ Jane

The edge of the sea ice is now close to Cape Royds which is much further South than it has been in recent years. It has been very warm this winter, with temperatures often in the range of  -10°C to -20°C.  This combined with the frequent stormy conditions has hindered the sea ice formation. The cut-off date for sea ice growth is usually mid-October so it is unlikely to improve enough to allow for vehicle travel in the area over the summer season. This will have an impact on our work.


To see out what our weather looks like on Ross Island you can check out the webcams at Scott Base, Arrival Heights and the windfarm by clicking on this link: http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/scott-base/webcams

6

Author: Julie
Date: 20/7/11
Temperature: -13.1
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -21 C
Sunrise: August
Sunset August

 

 

Last weekend we went into “Condition 1”.  Condition 1 means life-threatening high winds, whiteout conditions, and/or low temperatures. We didn’t get the low temperatures – in fact, the opposite: temperature rose to a balmy - 6.4 degrees C at one point, as frequently happens during a storm – but we had winds that reached a maximum of 74 knots shortly after midnight Sunday morning, along with some snowfall, resulting in metres-high drifts.  We weren’t allowed to leave the base during the storm, but I did go out on a semi-protected porch and stick my head into the wind to see what it was like.  Yes, it was windy.  You can get a sense of condition 1 from this video:



 

By chance, the day the storm abated it was my day to be the “mouse.”  Being the mouse is a duty inflicted on all winter-over base staff by turns.  During the day, it involves monitoring the radio traffic, answering the phone, keeping track of who is off base, where they are, and when they’re supposed to be back.  Sometime around 10 – 11 pm, the mouse does “mouse rounds,” meaning the mouse checks laboratories, workshops, machine rooms, hazardous materials storerooms, and other spaces -- both inside and outside -- to make sure nothing is leaking or making strange noises, that appliances are turned off, that snow is shoveled away from emergency exits, that vehicles outside are plugged into engine heaters, and that things are generally in order.

 

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Nice snowdrift.  Somebody, probably me, is going to have to dig out that door.  © AHT/Julie

 

As mouse, I was one of the first people to go walk around in all of the newly deposited giant snowdrifts.  Snow was still falling (wet snow – weird), and it was quiet and beautiful.  I did the rounds, jumped into some drifts, made a couple of snow angels, did a little sketch of pressure ridges (it was warm enough to take my gloves off), and listened to the “whoosh” of the wind farm turbines in the dark, clearly audible a kilometre away.

 

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All these vehicles are plugged in.  I checked. © AHT/Julie

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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

3

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.

 

Image 1 resized.jpg

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!

 

Image 2 resized.jpg

 

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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Room With a View

Posted by Conservators Apr 1, 2011

Posted by Jane


Date: 30th March 2011
Temperature: -19°C
Wind Speed: 18 knots
Temp with wind chill: -30°C
Sunrise: 08.47
Sunset 19.06

 

A small group of us went on a camping trip last weekend to a place called Room With a View. It is an area on the side of Mount Erebus, the southern-most volcano in the world and the dominant feature on Ross Island.

Image 2.jpg

Our polar tents with Mount Discovery in the background  © AHT/Jane

 

 

The trip up in the Hagglund was slow because of the deep soft snow and it felt like a rollercoaster ride in some places. We arrived just in time to see the sun set over McMurdo Sound. The weather was perfect, only about -15-20°C and not a breath of wind.

 

Image 3.jpg
The rough terrain we had to drive over and flags nearly completely submerged by snow. A sun-dog is just visible to the left of the flags. © AHT/Jane

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Celebrating Christmas

Posted by Cricket and Diana Jan 25, 2011
Posted by Cricket
Date: 2 January 2011
Temperature: 1 C
Wind Speed: 10 knots

 

In taking a contract like working for the Antarctic Heritage Trust in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica, I felt so lucky being chosen that I didn’t really think what it’d be like being away from home for 6 months.  Feeling a bit homesick, this Christmas I jumped at the chance to take a mini holiday and join six others from Scott Base on an overnight to Black Island.  Our goal was to climb 1000+m to the top of Mt. Aurora.  In two Hagglunds, it was a slow 5 hours ride, bumping around over the melting ice shelf, and navigating our way around large melt pools.  We arrived at Black Island in the evening, pitched camp, had a great meal of Christmas Eve leftovers and quickly went to bed.  We awoke at 4am to get ready and started climbing just after 5.

 

Hagglund to Black Island.jpg


Hagglund negotiating the melt pools © AHT / Cricket


The whole daylong was gorgeous and sunny with mild winds.  This was a treat since the weather here can change so quickly.  The climb up took just over 5 hours, and we climbed most of the way with crampons and pick axes towards a peak that remained elusive until the very end.  Minna Bluffs was our view from behind with Mt. Discovery on our left – it was fantastic seeing a different part of Antarctica and our home on Ross Island from a new perspective.  The windy summit forced a quick lunch and a few cameo photos, and then we quickly made our way down in just under 3 hours.  A quick base clean up and slow return home in the Hagglunds got us back to Scott Base in the evening.   For me, this trip was a recharge, and reminded me how lucky I am for being here.

Climbing Mt  Aurora.jpg
Climbing up Mt. Aurora © AHT / Cricket

1

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

1

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.

 

Martin_Excavated_Corn_Box.JPG

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.

0

Posted by Diana

 

Date:                August 31, 2010
Sunrise:           9:36am
Sunset:           4:15pm
Temperature: -31.1 degrees C
Wind Speed: 0
Temp with wind chill: -31.1 degrees C

 

Cricket and I had our driving test this week, our introduction to the conditions and hazards associated with driving at Scott Base, Antarctica.

Transportation has changed a lot since the days of the early explorers. Until the late ’80s dogs were used for travel, however, snow machines and vehicles have taken over. Our instructor was Lex, the mechanic at Scott Base this year. Lex is an amazing mechanic as he can repair and modify diesel, petrol (gasoline) and two-stroke engines and hydraulics, all of which are in the fleet. He is a very busy man.

Lex beside Piston Bully by Diana.jpg

Lex beside Piston Bully, with snow mobiles © AHT/Diana

 

 

For the most part, when travelling between the American Base McMurdo and the Pegasus air strip, we use trucks modified for travel down here. The larger tyres are used because the standard snow tyre would wear out the road too quickly. The vehicles are all four wheel drive. The fuel used is also modified to withstand the low temperatures: the diesel vehicles use AN8, an aviation fuel containing Kerosene; the petrol (gas) equivalent is Mogas, it has reduced octane.

 

Land Cruiser by Diana (2).jpg

Land Cruiser © AHT/Diana

 

The vehicles all have block heaters to keep the oil and lubricants flowing when not running and in-cab heaters, these are activated when the vehicle is plugged in. At McMurdo there are several dedicated plug-in places just for Kiwi’s. We also have a “hitching rail” here at Scott Base for plugging in.


To be continued