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Flying Kites

Posted by Conservators Apr 20, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 20 April 2011
Temperature: -23 Deg C
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -45 Deg C
Sunrise: 10:49
Sunset 14:54



At the weekend four of us took a day trip to Room with a View to see the sunset. It was an amazing day as the colours in the sky were constantly changing from the moment we left Scott Base until we drove into mist on the way home. The photos don’t really do the place justice as it is hard to capture the 360 degree views, starting in the north with Mt Erebus, Cape Evans and the Dellbridge Islands to the north west, west down the Erebus Ice Tongue and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, Hut Point Peninsula and Black and White Island to the south and Mt Terror and Mt Terra Nova to the north east.

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Kites at Room with a View © AHT/Sarah

The weather, with just a slight breeze, made it perfect for flying kites. Troy had taken his large kite and skis for some kite skiing.  Victoria had brought her small stunt kite. Skiing was not possible due to the sheer depth of soft snow but both kites were in the air and made a spectacular sight, with the Dellbridge Islands and Cape Evans in the background.

 

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Troy kite skiing © AHT/Sarah

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Posted by Jane

 

 

Last week we decided to inspect the cross on Observation Hill before we lose the sun completely. We waited for a day with good weather. Friday was the perfect day - the sun was shining and there was barely a cloud in the sky. It was a good decision as the weather became quite stormy the following day.

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The AHT team on Ob Hill - Jane, Martin, Sarah and Julie (in Dr. Wilson style heroic stance) © AHT/Jane

The hill is quite steep in places and there was plenty of snow covering the ground so I climbed in a rather unelegant fashion up the slopes like a mountain goat about to fall off the side of a cliff.


At the top, the view was remarkable. The Transantarctic Mountains across the sound appeared as though a painting and McMurdo, which usually looks like a dirty mining town, looked slightly more attractive than usual with a light dusting of snow.

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Looking out over the Transantarctic mountains ©AHT/Jane

The cross was erected in 1913 and still looks the same even though the paint has now all but gone. It still sits on top of Observation Hill looking South toward Minna Bluff and the Pole in memory of Scott, Bowers, Oates and Evans.

 

Date: 13/04/11
Temperature: -19.2°C
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26°C
Sunrise: 09.36
Sunset 16.09
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Pemmican

Posted by Conservators Apr 15, 2011

Posted by Julie

 

A can of pemmican from Captain Scott’s Cape Evans hut  © AHT

 

In “The Worst Journey In the World.” Apsley Cherry-Garrard describes a vaguely masochistic experiment undertaken during an already torturous winter expedition: “By taking individually different quantities of biscuit, pemmican and butter we were able to roughly test the proportions of proteids, fats and carbohydrates wanted by the human body under such extreme circumstances.” He reports that Bowers, eating excess pemmican “was all right (this was usual with him) but he did not eat all his extra pemmican.  Bill could not eat all his extra butter, but was satisfied.  I got hungry, certainly got more frost-bitten than the others, and wanted more fat.  I also got heartburn.”  The conclusion?  Pemmican: better than biscuits!

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Lance checks the drying beef and berries © AHT/Julie

Luckily for us, our excellent cook, Lance, decided to make us some pemmican, using a secret recipe which I promised to never divulge.  Okay, I’ll tell you.  Slice thin some lean, grass-fed shoulder roast, and salt and pepper liberally.  Dry the meat along with some wild blueberries for 15 hours in a warm oven.  Pulverize.  Render some fat.  Strain the fat.  Mix it all together, and let it firm up.  Cut into squares or roll into balls.  The recipe concludes, “Pemmican will keep almost forever.”  (Ha – we conservators will be the judge of that.) Being vegetarian, I of course can’t comment on the taste.  Okay, it was delicious.

Date: 11/4/11
Temperature: -20
Wind Speed: 30 knots
Temp with wind chill: -37
Sunrise: 09:19
Sunset 16:28

Sledging rations on Scott’s 1910-1912 expedition included canned pemmican, a mixture of fat, dried meat, and dried fruit ground together.
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Posted by Martin Wenzel


Date: 6.4.2011
Temperature: -23 Degree C
Wind Speed: 5 to 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35 Degree C
Sunrise: O8:39
Sunset 17:10

 

As they say: “You can never have enough clamps”. It is certainly true while I am conserving hundreds of wooden food storage boxes here at Scott Base in Antarctica. After transporting them from the expedition bases of R.F.Scott and E. Shackleton to Scott Base, we have temporarily stored them in unheated containers outside the base.

 

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Box before treatment © AHT / Martin

 

From there I take them one by one into our heated lab space and work on them as quickly as possible. In order to avoid splitting, distorting and delaminating, it is important to reduce to a minimum the time they are exposed to the warm and dry atmosphere inside.  It almost becomes a game to try to do simultaneously as many gluing steps as possible.

 

 

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Clamping © AHT / Martin

Once the clamps are off after about 2 to 3 hours, parts get reassembled, nailed joints strengthened and contents returned. Depending on the condition, a box will be out of the lab the same day, stored again at -20 to -30 degree C and waiting to be transported back to its original location.  

 

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Treated box © AHT/ Martin

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Catching Plankton

Posted by Conservators Apr 12, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 6 April 2011
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Temp with wind chill: -35
Sunrise: 08:39
Sunset 10:10


Science was at the forefront for Captain Scott's 1910 Terra Nova Expedition. Seven scientists made up the expedition crew, looking at every aspect of science in Antarctica.  When I opened a large package marked ‘net’, I was intrigued to find a large plankton net.

 

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Plankton Net from Cape Evans © AHT


Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the assistant Zoologist, in the ‘The Worst Journey in the world’ writes ‘The diatoms were so abundant in the Ross Sea, that the large plankton net (18 meshes to an inch) became choked in a few minutes, with them and other members of phytoplankton’. The plankton net that is currently sitting on my desk has 27 meshes to an inch! One can only imagine how choked it may have become.


There is a picture by Herbert Ponting depicting Nelson the Zoologist preparing a townet for use on the 15th March of 1911. Edward Wilson in his diary of the 24 October 1911, talks about Nelson, ‘all through the winter kept a good hole in a shelter off the end of the cape which he visited and worked at every day…. Here plankton samples were taken as short intervals with townets of various meshes.’


I think this is the only remaining complete plankton net from Cape Evans. It is in remarkably good condition, still structurally strong, the mesh I suspect is made of horse hair. I wonder how many times it was used and what secretes of the deep it revealed?

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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.

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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.

 

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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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Disappearing Sun Haikus

Posted by Conservators Apr 1, 2011

Authors: Julie, Sarah, Martin, and guest bloggers

 

Date: 30/3/11
Temperature: -22
Wind Speed: 18
Temp with wind chill: -38
Sunrise: 08:47
Sunset 19:06

We are impressed by the quantity of poetry written by all those scientists and explorers, the early heroes of Antarctic exploration.  Following in the footsteps of the giants of polar exploration, as the sun disappears, we too, write poetry.

 

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Sunset  © AHT/Jane

 

Disappearing Sun Haikus
Seems kind of dark out
That is one awesome sunrise
I need more coffee       -- Julie

 

I’m completely lost
Why is it so dark out there
Where the heck am I?      -- Sarah

 

Faulheit, wer weiss es
Vielleicht nur ein bisschen Ruhe
Wann kommst Du wieder?      -- Martin

 

Orange blue orange
Blue orange blue orange blue
Orange blue orange     – Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

As we spin along
The plane of the ecliptic
The earth hides the sun.      – Anonymous Scott Base resident

Talk like a penguin
Roll like a cute baby seal
Look up and it’s dark      -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Hey look, our new friends!
Venus, Canopus, Rigel,
Alpha Centauri…        -- Anonymous Scott Base resident

 

Farewell to the Sun
Ceaseless day is gone,
Farewell to the dusk and dawn
And the warmth and light.
Welcome never-ending night,
Sky, stars and the Moon…
A farce, a plight, doom and gloom?
Or just a magic,
A new fairytale to bloom…
The tale of the SUN,
The balance of Yin and Yang…     -- Anonymous McMurdo Station Guest Poet


Sunset Sestina
That time of year again.  Our round, most constant sun
Disintegrates in atmospheric ripples, green
and blue and red and yellow, paints new shadows, pours
itself into the blazing clouds, illuminates
the smallest ridges, gives an edge of glory now
to every passing step on this, our icy world.

This moment of our day is only that.  The world's
adventure takes us farther into darkness; Sun
will vanish in mere days, a week at most.  But now
there's wonder to be found in every bit of green
that shimmers.  The projection that illuminates
our wall shows sunspots, smokes and quivers as it pours

into our lucky eyes.   Can we say it pours
into our hearts as well?  Why ever not?  The world
is like that.  We decide what sun illuminates
our hidden places; we decide to let this sun
be more than just a splotch of light, be growth and green
things, fruits and flowers, a riot of colors inside us now.

You can't assume we all are eager for this now.
“Stay, sun.  Don't go, not yet!” we say, as daylight pours
away, swirls too swiftly down the drain.  Green
flash?  That's nifty, yes, but must it mean the world
is racing into night?  Life without the sun?
A scary thought.  Yet even fear illuminates

the inner landscape.  We expect illumination
here, and grumble when it doesn't strike.  But now
we must forget all that.  The circling of the sun
reminds us that it's time to sleep.  Our efforts pour
into another day of work: building worlds
from boxes big and small, harvesting the green-

house, gathering data, cleaning floors.  Some are green
with envy, hearing of our lives.  “Illuminate
us too,” they cry.  “Tell us how it is.  Our world
is so mundane.”  A plan: next year we'll trade, not now.
Venus floats in the bright blue sky.  The light that pours
upon the plains is glowing fragments of the sun.

We think about the world, the places filled with green,
the rocks, the friends, the sun; these threads illuminate
this frozen here, this now, across which sunset pours.

-- Victoria Grace Landgraf   2006


 

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Corn and flour

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Julie

 

Date: 23/3/11
Temperature: -13.5
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise: 7:58
Sunset 19:59


Martin has blogged about how food crates were used as architectural building blocks at both Cape Royds and Cape Evans (see last week’s blog).  Stacked into walls, crates of dry goods – predominately corn and flour – remained frozen until needed and also provided additional shelter, a practical system.


As Martin writes, many of those boxes will be conserved over the winter, but then we will return the food boxes to their original locations – i.e., outside, where they will remain exposed to harsh conditions.  This situation presents us with a conservation dilemma.  We are all aware that if the boxes disintegrate in spite of our conservation treatments, one-hundred-year-old corn and flour will leak into the environment. To make things worse, some of the corn and flour is already significantly mouldy.  Mould samples have been tested in previous seasons, and we are confident that the existing mould does not pose a current health hazard (though we continue to take health and safety precautions as we work).  However, we do not know what will develop in the future.

 

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Corn and flour drying, before reinsertion into conserved wooden boxes.   © AHT / Julie

We are charged with preserving the original configuration of the artefacts, but also with preventing the introduction of materials that could be hazardous to the Antarctic environment or wildlife.  In the end, we have settled on a compromise.  As Martin repairs the wooden boxes, we are drying the food in large trays, removing any mouldy contents, and then repacking the food into the conserved boxes in sealed, doubled plastic bags.  The introduction of the plastic bags alters the original contents of the boxes, but the bags should prevent hazardous leakage into the environment.

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Signs in the sock

Posted by Conservators Mar 28, 2011

Posted by Sarah

 

Date:           22/3/11
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Temp with wind chill: -28
Sunrise:           7:51
Sunset           20:07


What, you may ask, can a humble sock tell us about the heroic era of exploration? Well quite a lot if you know what to look for. Many of the explorers on Captain Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition stitched name tags in their sock, while others used simple colours stitches to indicate whose they were. In fact we still do similar things today with our matching Antarctic New Zealand issue clothes, using coloured ribbons.  So these name tags give us a direct and very personal link to individual explorers such as Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

 

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Label on sock belonging to Apsley Cherry-Garrard © AHT/Sarah

 

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Detail of  embroidered ‘name tag’  © AHT/Sarah

But there is more.  Many of the socks are so well worn, they have been darned, patched and re-patched, this speaks of a make do culture, where everything was valued and repaired. These repeatedly patched socks very often indicated reuse by the subsequent Ross Sea Party from Shackleton’s 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Not having enough of their own clothes they had to make, repair and reuse whatever they could from the previous expedition. 

 

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Sock from Cape Evans © AHT/Sarah

More evidence of use can be found in the dirt and detritus left behind on the socks. Some are covered in reindeer fur from sleeping bags - were they bed socks?  Others are thick with seal blubber and soot - who in the Ross Sea Partly wore these to gather and burn seal blubber with?
Have you any idea who the sock in the picture belonged to? Is the straw stuck to the heel from the padding inside a boot or is if pony fodder?

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Installment 1 - Boxes

Posted by Conservators Mar 23, 2011

Author: Martin

 

Date: 16-03-11

Temperature: -20°C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -40°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53

 

 

In my last blog I talked about boxes in waiting and the setting up of my workbench here in the Hillary Field Centre at Scott Base. Now I will talk about where the boxes came from and what will happen to them. Ever since they were used by Sir Ernest Shackleton to build a garage and stables outside the expedition base for his 1907-1909 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition, these boxes have survived in one of the harshest climates on earth. Most of them still contain the original food. The food however has become an environmental risk as the boxes disintegrate and without intervention most of them would be lost to the environment very soon.

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Remains of the east wall of the stables © AHT

 

Over the summer months we have spent several weeks dismantling and excavating the structures, packing the individual boxes up and transporting them to Scott Base for conservation. This also included creating a very detailed record about the condition and location of every single item. It allows us to return the conserved boxes next year to their original location. They are now stored in their frozen state until we are ready to thaw them and look at their content for the first time in more than 100 years.

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Diana gets a box ready for travel © AHT

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Return of the Sea Ice

Posted by Conservators Mar 23, 2011

Author: Jane

 

Date: 16/03/11

Temperature: -25°C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Temp with wind chill: -35°C

Sunrise: 07:08

Sunset: 20:53

 

 

We have had the rare pleasure of open water in front of the base for a few weeks now. The open water has attracted a range of wildlife that would not always be seen here. The curious emperor penguins that Sarah described, lots of little Adélies, Weddell seals and even whales. It was quite an experience to look up from the Scott Base dining room table and see a pod of Mike whales swimming past!

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Whale swimming near the pressure ridges in front of Scott Base © AHT/Jane


The temperature is beginning to drop now and we seem to be steadily hitting -20°C and lower. The sea has been freezing over nearly every day, but then it has either washed out into McMurdo Sound or melted up until now. On Monday the sea in front of the base froze over and it looks like it is going to stay frozen this time. A whale managed to pop its head up for a moment in a melt pool yesterday, but unfortunately I think this may be the last we see of them for a few more years. Three Adélies were seen running towards Cape Armitage early this morning.


The penguin exodus and the ever shortening days seem to herald the beginning of winter and the wonderful sunrises and sunsets that it brings.

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Sea ice forming in front of the summer labs © AHT/Jane

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Date with a Penguin or Two.

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Sarah

 

Date: 28-02-2011
Temperature: -12
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -32 degree C
Sunrise: 23:01
Sunset 05:13

 

With the open water, there comes wild life. Jana and I went for a walk earlier in the week to see some the emperor penguins gathering near the base. As we approached them they seemed to be heading back over the sea ice away from us, so we got as close as we safely could and sat down. Within a few minutes a group of about 50 emperors had surrounded us!

 

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Jana surrounded by penguins.  © AHT/ Sarah

 

I was somewhat concerned, as when kneeling I just about see these great bird eye to eye, and I had heard stories about people being flipper bashed by them. But the great bird just eyed us up and down and sang to us! What an amazing treat, Jana and I have been on a high ever since.  And yes, you are not suppose to go closer than 10 meters, but if the animals come to you it’s a different matter.

 

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Emperor Penguins close up and personal. .  © AHT/ Sarah

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Boxes Waiting

Posted by Conservators Mar 10, 2011

Author: Martin

 

Date: 9.3.2011
Temperature: -18 Degree Celsius
Wind Speed: 20 knots
Temp with wind chill: -43
Sunrise: 06:14
Sunset 21:49

Tools are a bit like dear old friends. You might not see them for quite a while, but if you do it is as if you have never been apart. So it was with a great deal of excitement and relief to see my own workbench and a box of tools arrive with the yearly supply ship at Scott Base in Antarctica. The trusty workbench, which I built 28 years ago as an apprentice piece, is quite a seasoned traveller by now, having come from Germany to New Zealand and now Antarctica.

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Workbench waiting for action © AHT/Martin

Glad to be reunited, we had a fully operational little woodworking shop up and running in no time. Sarah, Julie and Jane , the three object conservators on the team have their own lab where they conserve a whole variety of artefacts, but will also help me conserving a large number of wooden food storage boxes. Literally thousands of these boxes have been used by R.F. Scott and E. Shackleton on their Polar Expeditions. Apart from transporting and storing food, they were also used as building blocks. Full of food and having been out in the harsh Antartic environment for a hundred years, a couple of hundred of them are in desperate need of some care and will be my companions throughout the coming winter month.

 

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Foodbox in need of some care © AHT/Martin

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Breakout

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Author: Julie
Date: 28/2/2011
Temperature: 21.5
Wind Speed: 14
Temp with wind chill: -50
Sunrise: 05:30
Sunset 23:01

 

 

On February 24th the ice in front of Scott base began creaking and heaving up and down as if it were breathing.  By evening, pieces of the ice shelf were steadily breaking off and drifting out towards open water in the distance.  As the sun hit the horizon at 11 pm, a network of cracks in front of Scott Base were appearing and disappearing as bright white lines which opened and shut as the ice bobbed up and down.  By midnight, pressure ridges that have been standing in front of Scott Base for over a decade had floated out to sea.  A beautiful pink fog sat on top of the sea: fog requires water, and we are not used to seeing fog.

 

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The evening of 24th February. Photo: Steve Williams


Sometime between about 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning of the 25th , the ice broke away from the shore in front of Scott Base for the first time in 14 years.  Most of us don’t expect to ever see open water in front of Scott Base again.
That morning, mini-icebergs floated in front of Scott Base in brilliant indigo blue water.   We could see yellow starfish on the ocean floor.


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The morning of February 25th. Photo: Steve Williams

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Christchurch earthquake

Posted by Conservators Mar 8, 2011

Authors: Julie and Sarah
Date: 25/2/2011
Temperature: -10
Wind Speed: 30
Temp with wind chill: -42
Sunrise: 03:48
Sunset 00:28

An earthquake hit Christchuch on February 21 that was strong enough to register on the instruments at Scott Base.  It has become apparent that the earthquake is one of the worst disasters that New Zealand has ever experienced.  Everyone at Scott Base has some connection to Christchurch, and some have had difficult news.  Like the rest of the world, we are horrified by the destruction, and deeply saddened by the deaths.  At times like this the reality of being isolated and far away is brought home to us.

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Scott Base flag Credit AHT Julie

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