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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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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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Change,  What Change?

Posted by Conservators Aug 10, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 9/8/2011
Temperature: -27 degree C
Wind Speed: 7 knots
Temp with wind chill: -47 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


Earlier today Troy, our Base Manager and field support person here at Scott Base in Antarctica, did a stock take and de-cluttered a space nobody seems to have looked at for quite a while.  Out came a box full of extreme weather gloves accumulated probably since the early days of Scott Base in the late1950s.  A glove history reaching back a few decades.  Looking at them in detail, I was struck by the fact that what we are currently wearing has hardly changed over the years.

 

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Gloves through the decades © AHT/Martin

 

Colour and style may have adapted to fashion sense, but the principle of inner and outer shells, long sleeves with two tie strings and the all important nose wiper(the fluffy bit),  has not changed at all.

 

Going back further it is obvious that the gloves of the early explorers are a bit more rugged, but I am sure that there is at least one feature that has not changed at all even since then: the impossibility to do any meaningful task with them apart from just holding on to something.

 

To view historic gloves click here.


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Filming in Antarctica

Posted by Conservators Aug 4, 2011

Author: Jane
Date: 3rd August 2011
Temperature: -11°C
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -25°C

We are continuing our work on objects from the dark room at Cape Evans. I have just finished conserving a film processing board from this area of the hut. Herbert Ponting was the photographer with Scott’s Terra Nova expedition and he was one of the first people to film in Antarctica. The films were to be used to document and fund the expedition retrospectively.

 

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Film processing board after conservation © AHT/Jane


The film processing board is metal with rows of pins arranged in such a way that the film could be mounted and then immersed in chemicals to develop the images. Holes in the base of the board allowed the developing solution to drain away and the film to dry before it was ready to be viewed.

 

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Film changing bag after conservation © AHT/Sarah


Ponting also used photographs to document the expedition. Sarah has recently been working on a film changing bag, also from the dark room at Cape Evans. Ponting would have used this to change the photographic film in the plate holder. Two red-coloured eye lenses mounted in leather allowed him to see into the bag without exposing the negative.

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Drawing Penguins

Posted by Conservators Jul 28, 2011

Author: Sarah
Date: 27 July 2011
Temperature: -25
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -30
Sunrise: Na
Sunset Na



The drawing of penguins has been done by many explorers. These quirky and amusing birds are a pleasure to draw. Edward Wilson, of Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition, was a master of drawing both Adelie and Emperor penguins. Wilson did both serious scientific drawing and comical pictures of the penguins.


Many of Wilson’s scientific drawings can be seen at the Scott Polar Institute website, one of my favourites is:

 

http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/catalogue/article/n1493/


In this fine tradition, I began to draw penguins and in particular the Adelie penguins, whose antics and facial expression are so easy to caricature. I have been drawing cartoons of all the members of Scott Base and the picture shows us all together.

 

 

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Winter Overs’ Cartoon of the Scott Base crew as penguins © Sarah Clayton

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Transitions  A Sequel

Posted by Conservators Jul 27, 2011

Author: Martin
Date: 26.7.2011
Temperature: -27 degree C
Wind Speed: 25 knots
Temp with wind chill: -55  degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


It was more than six months ago that I wrote about the transition from summer to winter life here at Scott Base in Antarctica. How it felt to see a very busy high energy summer season turn into a long, dark and more inward looking winter.

 

Now after six months of having the base to ourselves and getting very used to it, our winter over team of 14 has somewhat mixed feelings about shifting into another gear again. Even though the arrival of the first plane is still almost a month away, the change ahead is clearly on everybody’s minds. Making plans for the near future, trying to finish off outstanding work, getting the base in order is mixed up with the growing excitement about more and more light appearing during the day and some special fresh food soon to come off the plane. But there is also sadness in realising that the close knit, family-like life of the past six  months comes to an end the moment the plane touches down. Our small team of conservators leaves, some new people come in and the staff at Scott Base will turn into the home stretch before the main season kicks off early October.

 

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First Light - Credit AHT/ Julie

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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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Wool the Wonder Fibre

Posted by Conservators Jul 21, 2011

Author: Sarah

Date: 20 July 2011
Temperature: -14
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -36
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA

 

 

The use of wool as a textile and clothing fibre dates back many millennia. So it is not surprising to find wool being the predominant fibre of choice for the Antarctic explorer during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s and Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expeditions in the Heroic period (1895-1915).

 
Many of the thermal clothing items that the explorers wore were commercially made and supplied by brands such as Wolsey and Jaeger.  The Wolsey thermal top (pictured) is from Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, and is grubby from use and patched, most probably by  a member of the Ross Sea Party.

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Wolsey brand wool thermal top © AHT/ Sarah

 

When I was growing up in the 1970s seventies synthetic fibres were seen as the new miracle fibre for all manner of applications.  In the 1980s synthetic fibres such as Polypro were used extensively for thermal underwear, despite the horrid smell they often attained after wearing when exercising and their slightly harsh nature.


I  was greatly relieved, when I first started coming to Antarctica, when a friend told me to invest in a set of ‘new’ woollen thermals that were starting to appear in the New Zealand market in the late 1990s.   Ahhh, the joys of a natural soft fibre that can be worn for many days when camping without getting smelly.

 
Now, in 2011, you can’t enter an outdoor gear supplier without finding merino wool thermal underwear adorning the shelves.  It goes to prove that animals have adapted very well to their environments and natural fibres are still far superior to their synthetic counterparts when it comes to thermal insulation. The Heroic explorers were probably as comfortable as we are today in their thermal underwear.

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Red Delights

Posted by Conservators Jul 20, 2011

Author: Martin

Date: 12/07/11
Temperature: - 24 degree C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -38 degree C
Sunrise: n/a
Sunset n/a


Most people would have experienced that the increase in craving for a particular type of food is directly proportional to the degree of difficulty in obtaining it. Since it is impossible to get fresh food to Scott Base during the 5.5 months of winter, our team’s preoccupation with it is quite understandable. Luckily our chef  Lance anticipated it and initiated and installed a small hydroponic unit in our dining hall at Scott Base. The effect is quite amazing.

 

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The Garden - Martin

 

Firstly it is a nice feature and people love to see something growing. (Some have also been seen with their head inside trying to catch a bit of UV light). Secondly it is an entertaining game amongst us, because each plant is named after a team member. So it is a constant contest of “who is growing faster, stronger, tastier etc.” However being the fastest growing is also the quickest way to finding your name on the menu. Thirdly, but most importantly - eating what we have seen growing. Tomatoes are a good example. Everybody wants to eat 10 at a time but is likely to be too polite to even eat their fair share. So it did not take long before the tomato chart was up and running and recording people’s tomato consumption.  This put everybody’s mind at ease.

 

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The Chart - Martin

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