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Author: Paula
Date: 15 November 2011

The Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators have recently moved from the confines of their conservation lab at Scott Base, to their Antarctic field camp at Cape Royds.

 

John bid farewell to winter conservator Sarah and welcomed the incoming team of conservation carpenters who work over the summer months on the buildings left behind by the heroic-era explorers.

 

The team is currently working at Ernest Shackleton’s British Antarctic (Nimrod) expedition 1907-1909 at Cape Royds. Communication is patchy when the team is out in the field. Although there is a satellite (sat) phone, the team relies on visitors who do literally ‘just drop in’ by helicopter with supplies and mail and who in turn relay information (including blogs) to Scott Base and New Zealand.

 

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Ernest Shackleton's base at Cape Royds.  Credit:  G Rowe

 

The conservation team are completing a few tasks at Cape Royds, including relocating the Arrol Johnston wheel and Mawson’s Dredge which were conserved over winter 2011, before they move on to their main work programme this summer season conserving Captain Scott’s British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition 1910- 1913 base at Cape Evans.

 

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Each summer the team returns the artefacts that have been conserved during winter at the conservation laboratory at Scott Base back to the historic bases before packing up another 1,000 or so objects destined for conservation over the following winter. This continuous cycle of removal-conservation-return has led to over 5,400 artefacts from Cape Evans alone being conserved.

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Cape Evans in Context

Posted by Conservators Oct 20, 2011

Author: John

Date: 19 October 2011
Temperature: -27°C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -27°C
Sunrise: 3.42am
Sunset 11.47pm

 

In 1910, Captain Robert Falcon Scott led the British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition. One of the aims was to reach the Geographical South Pole. A hut at Cape Evans on the western side of Ross Island was the base for this expedition. In September 2011, as part of the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s responsibilities, Scott’s Terra Nova Hut was visited for the first time after yet another Antarctic winter, to provide a report on the building’s condition and snow buildup.

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Terra Nova Hut from the Sea Ice, 17 September 2011. © AHT/John


While overcast, this image is from the sea ice looking east to the southern flanks of Mt Erebus. Wind Vane Hill is just appearing to the right.


The second image is from the southern flanks of Mt Erebus, at a locality called ‘Room with a View’, looking west over the start of the Erebus Glacier.

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View West from the Southern Flanks of Mt Erebus, 16 October 2011. © AHT/John

 

On a beautifully clear and sunny day, this image looks over McMurdo Sound to the Antarctic Continent. Inaccessible Island is to the left, with Little Razorback Island in front. Behind the dark bluff of Turk’s Head to the right is the thin strip of Cape Evans, with a grounded iceberg just off the Cape.
The two images complement each other well and accurately depict the loneliness and isolation of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut, particularly in 1910 with no communication back home, and the beauty and vastness of the Antarctic continent.

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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


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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.

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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.
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The Kitchen © AHT/John

 

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

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Water and Fire

Posted by Conservators Oct 6, 2011

Author: John
Date: 5th October 2011
Temperature: -24°C
Wind Speed: 0knots
Temp with wind chill: -24°C
Sunrise: 6.01am
Sunset 9.28pm

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Liquid water! © AHT

Liquid water in Antarctica is an uncommon commodity in winter, unless it is sea water, and even then it is mostly under thick ice.


Today for the first time since I came to the Ice on the 20th August I saw liquid water in the outside environment, even at an air temperature of  -27 degrees C. With the lengthening daylight incident solar energy increases. This is absorbed by any surface facing the sun, enough to melt snow on the northern walls of Scott Base. The water ran down the wall and then immediately refroze into icicles.

 

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Acetylene generator (very corroded, and supported upside down for stability). © AHT


Yesterday I commenced treating an acetylene generator from Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans. This generator used water dripping onto calcium carbide to generate acetylene gas. The gas was then piped through the hut to be lit in various lamp fittings to provide illumination during the dark winter months. It was important that liquid water is available for this process to work.  So, even though the reaction generated heat, the tank needed to be insulated with Gibson quilting to prevent the water freezing. This was a layer of sea grass held between layers of hessian.

 

Liquid water was, and still is, very important to life in the Antarctic!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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Author: Jane
Date: 22nd September 2011
Temperature: -41°C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -41°C
Sunrise: 06.42am
Sunset 06.54pm


I have just finished treating two boxes of ‘Tabloid Potassium Metabisulphite’. It was used in the developing of photographs, probably by Herbert Ponting, the photographer on Scott’s Terra Nova expedition.


The staples holding the boxes together were completely corroded away with just corrosion staining remaining. One of the boxes had leaflets describing the types of chemicals available and what they were used for. There was even a ‘Special Caution’ note on the risks of buying inferior products.

 

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One of the boxes before conservation.  © Jane/AHT

The brown glass bottle inside contained tablets of the chemical. It was sealed with wax over the cork.

 

 

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A leaflet from one of the boxes.  © Jane/AHT

The surface of the cardboard and paper was blistering due to the presence of salts so I decided to wash them. I did this in a bath of water, with the paper and card supported on a piece of spun-bonded polyester. I then allowed them to dry before humidifying them and reassembling the box.


I consolidated the wax on the cork stopper as it was flaking. I also consolidated the surface of the cardboard as it was quite friable, probably as a result of the salt damage.

 

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A box after conservation.  ©  Jane/AHT

 

With the individual elements stabilized, I was then able to put the bottles and leaflets back into the boxes.

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Author: John  Date: 12 September 2011
Temperature: -19.4oC
Wind Speed: 22Kts
Temp with wind chill: -320C
Sunrise: 7.50am
Sunset 5.52pm

Sometimes when an artefact eludes description or exact function we just need the right expert at the right time. This item from Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds was initially described as an ‘Urn and Lid’. Last week, while this artefact was being treated in the Conservation Lab at Scott Base, Jane invited our Base chef, Lance, down for a look over what we were doing. He walked into the lab looked at the ‘Urn and Lid’ on the bench and immediately said ‘That’s a stockpot, they have not changed much over the years have they?” and proceeded to describe how one was used!

 

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Urn and lid aka Stockpot © AHT

 

Pieces of meat were put into the pot and boiled down to make stock for soups and such. The fat floated to the top and could be separated off as required while the juicy stock could be tapped off via the brass tap at the bottom. A woven wire filter gauze behind the tap strained out any unwanted solid pieces.  The pot could be kept simmering continually on the stove, stock drawn off as necessary, and the pot topped up with more meat pieces or bones and water as required.


There are still food particles remaining inside the pot, and soot and fat all over the outside showing that this stockpot was well used – seal or penguin meat perhaps? Heated by burning blubber, hence the soot? All this evidence was kept intact on the pot.


Lance also made the comment that the chef’s working space in the hut was very cramped. 
So, many thanks to Lance, for being ‘the right expert at the right time’!

 

 

 

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Author: John
Date: 7th September 2011
Temperature: -29.3oC
Wind Speed: 20 Kts
Temp with wind chill: -52oC
Sunrise: 8.38am
Sunset: 5.08pm

 

 

No nice before and after treatment images this time to show what we do here at Scott Base conserving the objects for Scott’s Terra Nova expedition hut at Cape Evans. Even though the wood fibres are separating from being exposed to the extremes of Antarctic weather, this one only needed the ropes tied off with thread to keep them from unravelling further.

 

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Mystery wooden object

 

It is an image of a puzzle – what is this object and what was its function way back in 1910-14?

 

Three identical, carefully shaped and chamfered pieces of wood, possibly oak, joined by two different diameters of very weathered rope. Two small remnants of dark dyed cotton thread wrapped around the thinner rope.

 

Across the centre of all three pieces is what appears to be a rough brush streak of tar, applied on one side only of two of the pieces and on both sides of the remaining piece.


An intriguing relic of the expedition.


Any suggestions?

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Earlier this month I met the lovely Graham family who live in Sydney. They paid a special visit to see our current exhibition, Scott’s Last Expedition. You see, they have a unique connection to a particular object in the exhibition – the penguin menu. The penguin menu is one of my favourite objects in the exhibition, so I was delighted to meet the family and hear how this piece of history stumbled into their lives.

 

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Graham Family with the penguin menu. From left to right: Neil, Ann Marie, Mary, and Jenny.

 

The penguin menu is a hand painted cardboard cutout of an emperor penguin, made in 1912 by Edward Nelson, a member of the Terra Nova expedition team. On the belly of the penguin, a ‘Midwinter’ menu is listed and on the back, a number of signatures of the Terra Nova expedition team can be read.

 

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Menu in the shape of an emperor penguin. Made by Edward Nelson for the Midwinter’s Day dinner in the Cape Evans Hut, 22 June 1912.


During 1988 in Glasgow, Vincent Burns, the brother of Mary Graham (see image) and an avid believer that another man’s trash, is another man’s treasure, happened upon a framed watercolour in an industrial bin. Vincent took the frame home thinking he could use it to frame his own artwork. When he dismantled the frame, he discovered a cardboard menu, in the shape of a penguin between the watercolour and the backing board. Vincent gave the menu to his brother Harry, who was quite fond of unusual objects. For ten years Harry kept the menu under his mattress and when he passed away, the menu was returned to Vincent. It was only then, that Vincent and his son Gary took a closer look. Something struck them when they read the words ‘Cape Evans 1912’ at the bottom of the menu. Gary promptly searched the internet and discovered this quirky object could have been part of Robert Falcon Scott’s famous expedition to Antarctica. As it turned out, it was! The family decided to auction the menu at Christie’s, London and later discovered it had found a home at Canterbury Museum, New Zealand.

 

The object not only represents a piece of Antarctic exploration history, it is also now a part of the Graham and Burns family history. For the family, the menu serves as a reminder of Vincent, who sadly passed away recently.


The penguin menu in the press.

 

Carli

Australian National Maritime Museum

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http://www.anmm.gov.au/scott

 

To commemorate the centenary of the Terra Nova expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international exhibition, which will be touring between 2011-2013.

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Sun, and Base Duties

Posted by Conservators Aug 30, 2011

Author: John

Date: 27 August 2011

Temperature: -11.2oC

Wind Speed: 22kts

Temp with wind chill: -19.7oC

Sunrise: 10.18am

Sunset: 3.35pm

 

 

The sun is getting closer to being visible at Scott Base.  It is actually above the horizon but still behind the hills and peaks of Ross Island.  There are some beautiful light effects and delicate colours to be seen in the sky.  Today there was a narrow, horizontal band of the palest pink in the South, across White and Black Islands, as the sun shone under the clouds in the North.

 

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The Sun Getting Closer!  John/AHT

 

While keeping a good look out for these beautiful effects, work and life at Scott Base must still go on.  Every Saturday at an All Staff Base Meeting, duties necessary for the smooth running of the Base are apportioned to all staff.

 

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Base Duties.  John/AHT

 

One such duty is the removal of snow and sea ice build up around Reverse Osmosis (RO) Intake/Outlet gantry at the ice transition.  Our team spent nearly two hours shovelling snow, cutting the sea ice with a chainsaw and removing these heavy blocks of ice.

 

The RO plant supplies all fresh water for the running of the base and provides two degrees of purity, RO1 for general use and a more pure RO2 for drinking, scientific projects, and work such as conservation of the Ross Island historic artefacts.

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Author: John
Date: 24 August 2011
Temperature: -14oC
Wind Speed: 45 Kt gusts
Temp with wind chill: -40oC
Sunrise: 10.53am
Sunset: 3.01pm

 


WinFly is the first flight in to Scott Base after the Antarctic winter season. Saturday 20th August was my day of arrival at the Pegasus Airfield on the Ross Ice Shelf as a conservator working on the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, and all was new to me. Disembarking from the C17 aircraft I was welcomed by Antarctica New Zealand and Antarctic Heritage Trust staff and immediately immersed into the incredible busyness of the arrival logistics.

 

 

 

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Busyness of Arrival

 

The following day I was taken for a walk out on the sea ice among the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base. The sheer size of Mt Erebus in the background somehow complemented the forces displayed in the jumbled detail of the pressure ridge zone of the sea ice. Although it was cold, and the wind was blowing, this scene was very peaceful and contrasted strongly with the activity of the previous day.

 

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Calm Before the Storm

 

The power and majesty of the Antarctic environment is overwhelming and certainly not to be taken for granted. I look forward to the privilege and challenges of working in the field on the historic explorer’s huts of Ross Island, Antarctica.

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Nacreous clouds

Posted by Conservators Aug 24, 2011

Author: Julie
Date: 18/8/11
Temperature: -33 C
Wind Speed: 12
Temp with wind chill: -48 C
Sunrise: 11:52
Sunset: 14:10

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Nacreous clouds at 10 am. Julie/AHT

 

Yesterday was the day of spectacular nacreous clouds.  Nacreous clouds are wispy clouds that form under certain specific conditions (very cold temperatures at very high altitudes) and that can appear iridescent when the angle of the sun is very low, as it is now at Scott Base.  If you do a web search for images of nacreous clouds, many of the images you will see were taken from locations near Scott Base on Ross Island.

 

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Nacreous clouds at 2 pm: not photoshopped, I swear. Julie/AHT

 

For the last week or so, as the sun has come closer to rising, we have been in prime nacreous cloud viewing conditions.  Nearly every day Sarah or Jane says, “go look out the window at the clouds,” and I run over to a window to see what we’re getting.  However, yesterday topped everything we have seen so far, and in fact topped everything most people at Scott Base have ever seen.  Pretty much as soon as a strip of light appeared at the horizon (at a respectable 9:13 a.m.), the Scott Base staff started making cloud announcements over the base-wide p.a. system.  I remember Jana saying at about 10 a.m., “Scott Base, Scott Base, look at the clouds above,” and Steve, at about noon, saying, “Scott Base, Scott Base, if you’re not looking at Erebus right now, you probably should be.”  At around 2 p.m., Sarah, who was supposedly in a meeting at that point, made the announcement: “Scott Base, Scott Base, the clouds are green.”  Before darkness hit at 4:39 p.m., I personally had taken 93 photographs of clouds.

 

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Nacreous clouds at 3 pm. Sarah/AHT

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Our current exhibition from the Natural History Museum, Scott’s Last Expedition, has given me the opportunity to check out our own Antarctic collection to see what we have. And we have a surprising amount of material relating to Antarctic exploration, covering some four centuries. We have maps and charts, including a wonderful map of Captain James Cook’s three Antarctic voyages which dates to 1784. We have documentation of the first French contributions to Antarctic exploration – that of the Dumont D’Urville’s 1837-1840 expedition, which included an attempt to discover the south magnetic pole and claim it for France. And something quite different is the artwork for a costume designed by Frances Rouse for the play Counting Icebergs, about the life of Captain James Cook’s wife, Elizabeth. It has a map of Antarctica and Cook’s voyages on the skirt (see image).

 

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Painting. Costume design for Elizabeth Cook, 'Cross Antarctic Circle' 1985. Maker: Frances Rouse

 

Robert Falcon Scott is of course one of the names synonymous with Antarctic exploration and we have two published volumes from his first British Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904, which included an attempt to reach the South Pole. We have also acquired a fine selection of Herbert Ponting’s more famous photographs from the Terra Nova expedition. Ponting was the first professional photographer to be taken on any Antarctic expedition. He took black and white and colour photographic stills, and recorded short clips, becoming one of the first to use a movie camera and to take colour photographs in Antarctica. But he couldn’t be everywhere, so others were given lessons in how to use the photographic equipment.

 

The museum has a collection of 35 stereoscopic cards which we are gradually identifying and adding to our eMuseum collection. Here's one taken by the Australian geologist Frank Debenham – see the string he’s using to operate the camera? This happy bunch were celebrating Christmas Day 1911 out at Granite Harbour.

 

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Stereoscope card. Second Western Party at the Cape Geology Christmas Party, 1911. Photographer: Frank Debenham

 

Read more about our Antarctic collection.

Explore our eMuseum.

 

Lindsey Shaw, Curator
Australian National Maritime Museum

 

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http://www.anmm.gov.au/scott

 

To commemorate the centenary of the Terra Nova expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international exhibition, which will be touring between 2011-2013.

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WINFLY approacheth

Posted by Conservators Aug 18, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 17th August 2011
Temperature: -33°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -48°C
Sunrise: Friday!

 

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The view from the summer lab looking out over the Ross Ice Shelf to the daylight behind Mount Terror. Jane/AHT

It is just three days until the first flight of the WINFLY season (the pre-main season flights to exchange cargo and personnel ahead of the main season that starts in October). We are expecting a few new faces at Scott Base and about 350 at McMurdo. It will disrupt the everyday routine we have all become used to and will most certainly lead to a few faces that look like an animal caught in the headlights.


It is wonderful to see daylight creep ever further into the sky behind Mount Erebus and there is a noticeable difference in the number of people who sign out at lunch time to go for walks to absorb some Vitamin D! Just the idea of daylight seems to have given people a new energy that has been lacking for some time now.


We are all looking forward to the mail and fresh fruit and vegetables that will come down. Unfortunately, it is the end of the winter season for Antarctic Heritage Trust and we are working hard to get some last minute work completed before our new conservator, John, arrives on Saturday. We celebrated the end of our winter together with a special dinner followed by a performance in the bar by the Scott Base band- sadly, their last performance together as guitarist Julie leaves next week with Sarah and Martin.

 


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The summer lab beside the hangar with this year’s new pressure ridges just visible. Jane/AHT

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Thank you to the Natural History Museum and Antarctic Heritage Trust NZ for letting us camp out on the Antarctic conservation blog. We thought we’d post a few pieces to celebrate Scott’s Last Expedition, the exhibition currently at the museum, until 16 October. Over a series of posts we’ll take you on a tour of the exhibition, delve into our own Antarctic collection and share the story of a Sydney family who have a unique connection to the exhibition.

 

Scott’s Last Expedition commemorates the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous expedition to the South Pole, where tragically he and four of his men lost their lives almost 100 years ago. We ‘re lucky enough in Australia to be the premier venue for the exhibition,  it’s due to open at the Natural History Museum, London in January 2012 and then onto Canterbury Museum, New Zealand in November 2012.


The exhibition has been extremely popular, with accompanied sellout lectures, tours and children’s programmes. The exhibition celebrates the achievements and scientific discoveries made by the expedition team, and is filled to the brim with photographs, artefacts and specimens.  Among some of the impressive objects on display you will find sea sponge (Haliciona (Gellius) rudis) collected during the expedition, still green over 100 years on; and Brittle Star (Astrotoma agassizii), a star fish that sports long flexible arms to capture prey, a species found throughout Antarctic waters.


At the centre of the exhibition is a representation of Scott’s base camp at Cape Evans. Visitors can walk inside the life-size hut and get a sense of the everyday realities for the 25 expedition members, from the cramped conditions and homeliness of the hut, to the wealth of specimens collected and experiments conducted.

 

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Inside the representation of Cape Evans Hut (detail).

 

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Inside the representation of Cape Evans Hut (detail).


See photos of the exhibition installation process.

 

Take a photographic tour of the exhibition.

 

Carli
Australian National Maritime Museum

 

Subscribe to our blog 
Become a fan on Facebook 
Talk to us on Twitter #Scott2011

http://www.anmm.gov.au/scott

 

To commemorate the centenary of the Terra Nova expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international exhibition, which will be touring between 2011-2013.

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