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Posted by Cricket


Date: 11 December 2010
Temperature: -3C
Wind Speed: 11 knots

 


The storm Lizzie talked of lasted five days, beginning Wednesday evening and ending the following Monday morning.  High winds and blowing snow reduced visibility and made working, getting around camp and in and out of our tents a true effort.  Though exciting to have a good storm – there are several of us who enjoy such and secretly hoped for one down here – it was a relief for it all to be over and to finally get a chance to dry out our clothes and tents.

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Carpenters working in the snow © AHT/Cricket

We are starting to wind down our time here at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut Cape Royds and this week we’ll be finishing up various conservation projects.  For the last several days we have been steadily working in the stables area, sewing down a cover over a stack of fodder bales to help preserve what remains and prevent further erosion from the wind and snow.

 

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Covering fodder bales © AHT/Cricket


Over the next couple days we’ll pack up camp and move to Captain RF Scott’s hut at Cape Evans.  We have almost a week at Cape Evans before returning to Scott Base for two weeks and Christmas.  I know I’ve said it before, but it is fantastic here at Cape Royds and I’m keenly aware of the time quickly ticking by.

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100 year old oil

Posted by Cricket and Diana Dec 16, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

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


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

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


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

 

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Prices fuel tins in the crate. © AHT/Diana

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Popcorn

Posted by Cricket and Diana Dec 6, 2010

Posted by Martin


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 30 November 2010
Temperature: -6C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -13C

 

 

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Campsite at Cape Royds © AHT/Cricket

 

Our camp at Cape Royds sits over the hill and due east of Sir Ernest Shackelton’s Hut from his 1907 Nimrod Expedition.  We are nine, 6 carpenters and 3 conservators, and we each sleep in our own bright yellow polar tent, like the ones the early explorers used on their expeditions.  I am 5’6” tall and can just stand up straight at the center of the tent, which makes dressing into our bulky Carhartts and big Sorrel boots relatively easy.  The tent’s yellow fabric creates a strong warm light inside, which makes it nearly impossible to tell colours apart.  We laugh at how disorienting it is to know what a colour should be and see something entirely different.  Blues look like black, and purples are a horrible brown, etc.  The tents are remarkably comfortable, and though not as warm as the lower-to-the-ground Mountain tents, are wonderfully pleasant for longer field trips like our 4-week-long stay at Royds.

 

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Polar Tent © AHT/Cricket


We have the luxury of having a good sized mess created by two wannigans joined together at the side.  The wannigans are new this year and are retrofitted hydroponics containers from the days when vegetables and herbs were grown at Scott Base – we use many of the plant hooks and ceiling wires to hang our clothes and towels.  We have a propane stove for cooking, a small diesel stove for heat and melting snow for water, and a sink that is fed by a Coleman cooler and drains into a bucket.  It’s a relatively simple life here of work, base chores, relaxing in the evening and sleep.  It’s amazing how quickly one forgets about the clutter and noisy details of normal life like tv and telephone calls, and rediscovers how great good company and good books really are.

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Cape Royds

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 30, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: November 25, 2010
Temperature: - 6 degrees  c
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Sunrise: Sun is up
Sunset

 

We have been working at Cape Royds on the hut built in February 1908 by the British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-09, which was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It was also periodically used by the Ross Sea Party of Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917.

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Royds in Snow - Circa 1908 Photographer unknown © Alexander Turnbull Library

 

It is a lovely setting for a hut, nested in hills of volcanic rock which have been scoured by glaciers and the harsh Antarctic weather.


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Metal cladding on Stables © AHT/Diana

 

When we have visitors to the site one of the questions frequently asked is why is there metal sheeting on the side of the building?  It is hard to tell but this area used to be the stables. If the visitor looks closely they will see the feed troughs. Shackleton had taken ten white Manchurian ponies to Antarctica because they were know to work well in cold conditions and it was hoped they would be of great assistance in sledging to the South Pole. The stable walls were constructed of wooden cases filled with food and the roof was canvas, with sledges used over the top to assist in supporting the roof. The metal sheets were put up to protect the wooden cladding on the hut from the ponies kicking. Today the canvas is gone but some of the cases and the feed troughs remain.

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Feed troughs in Stables area © AHT/Diana

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Posted by Lizzie

 

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


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

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

 

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


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

 

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

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Posted by Cricket

 


Ernest Shackleton’s hut from the Nimrod expedition at Cape Royds sits on the coast of Ross Island beside an Adelie penguin rookery.  In contrast to the quiet and elegant beauty of Captain R.F. Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, Royds seems more intimate and personable, partly due to it being nestled in a cove amongst rolling hills, but also because of our penguin neighbors.  I think Royds might be my favorite, and this is because we’re so close to the penguins, which we can watch across Pony Lake and hear chattering all day long as we work in and around the hut.  It’s fantastic to be so close to these funny little birds which seem to be constantly busy and fidgeting.

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Shackleton’s hut with the Adelie penguins in the background © AHT/Cricket


Last night we had a special treat.  After dinner we heard a different bird call like a low trilled honk.  It was the sound of Emperor penguins.  We spotted about a dozen coming along the coast from the north, slowing making their way south across the ice.  In contrast to the quick and sometimes random Adelies, the Emperors appear calm and methodical.  They are a stately bird.  They moved in a straight line, stopping at times for twenty to thirty minutes, before continuing on their way.  We sat on the cliff for almost two hours, eager for them to get closer and willing them to hurry.   They finally made it to the edge of the Adelie rookery where they paused for a time before carrying on.

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Emperor penguins on march © AHT/Cricket

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Hi, It's TV's Ben Fogle here.

 

I'm in Antarctica working on a documentary about Captain Scott. It's been a fantastic trip so far. I'm living with the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservation team at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's last expedition base. A few days ago I helped Diana, Cricket and Lizzie load up the 1500 objects conserved at Scott Base over the winter and a hagglund (tracked vehicle) brought the vast array of objects out over the sea ice. A long slow and delicate operation. These arrived safely and the team have been busy repopulating the building with the objects.

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I have been struck with the atmosphere, presence and history at Cape Evans. The place has a unique smell which is not unpleasant. It's a mix of seal blubber, old food, leather and textiles. The classic images of Herbert Ponting coupled with the evocative diary entries of Scott's expedition members really bring this place to life.

 

The dedication of the Trust staff in this challenging environment is inspiring to witness. I'm hopeful we can do this magnificent place justice in the documentary.

 

Ben Fogle

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Posted by Diana


Date: November 12, 2010
Temperature: 0 degrees celcius
Wind Speed: none
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up
Sunset: The sun does not go down


We have been working at Captain RF Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Ross Island for two weeks. While onsite we live in a camp not far from the hut with views of Mt Erebus and the Barn Glacier.

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Dive hut with Erebus is the background © AHT/ Diana

 

Located close to our campsite is an American scientific event dive hut . A heated wanigan covers a diving hole which has been drilled into the ice.  You can see to the bottom 85 feet below, with krill and other small water creatures swimming round in the hole – a wonderful place to visit. This evening I walked across the sea ice from our camp on land to the hut. The snow has been blown off and the amazing warm weather and blazing sun have made the ice is so slippery you can almost skate with your boots.

 

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Inside the dive hut © AHT/ Diana

 

I was in the hut with Stu, one of the Antarctic Field Trainers from Scott Base, watching the marine life and thinking wouldn’t it be fun if a seal swam by when one appeared – it was barreling towards the hole till it saw us and then it made a big “U” turn. We were completely startled as she came so quickly and then swam by, a beautiful dappled grey form sliding by the hole.

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Scott Base to Cape Evans

Posted by Conservators Nov 10, 2010

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

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

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Travelling by haggalund on frozen sea ice © AHT

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

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

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Scott Base weather

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 2, 2010

Posted by Diana


Date: November 3, 2010
Temperature: -15.4
Wind Speed: 12 knots with gust to 30 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: The sun is up all the time
Sunset


Here in Antarctica the weather is very important, as it was when Captain RF Scott and his men were at Cape Evans. Back in 1912 the readings were all taken using manual instruments, as can be seen in this image of Dr. Simpson taking the weather at Wind Vane Hill.

 

Today we have an electronic system which monitors actual wind speed and temperature as well as recording it on a chart. This is in the weather area of the Hatherton laboratory at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

 

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Hatherton Laboratory ©   AHT/Diana


During a big storm the needle on the wind speed meter can jump up 50 knots, or sometimes more. There is also a graph which continually records data. Some mornings, if it was windy through the night, I go up to the Hatherton Lab to see how strong the wind was. Last night we had gusts over 50 knots. There was a white out when I happened to wake up and look out at 3 am. Thankfully the wind died down as today was the day we packed to head out to Cape Evans.  More on that to come.

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Science talk

Posted by Cricket and Diana Nov 2, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 27, 2010
Temperature: -19.5 degrees Celsius
Wind Speed: none
Temp with wind chill: -19.5 degrees Celsius
Sunrise: The sun is up!
Sunset  Next sunset February 20, 2011


The first explorers to Antarctica came with a sense of adventure and purpose. They conducted significant scientific and meteorological observations as well as exploration. Today the main emphasize on Ross Island is science. Scott Base is supporting 75 scientific events this summer. Many science events are supported at US base McMurdo Station and there is also the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center. While working at Scott Base we have the good fortune of attending talks presented by the scientists. This week we went to a talk at McMurdo presented by a joint US French group who are using super pressure balloons to take reading over Antarctica to assist in monitoring the ozone http://www.antarcticconnection.com/antarctic/science/aeronomy.shtml.

 

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Galley Hall at McMurdo © AHT/Diana

 

Early on in our stay at Scott Base (winfly) I joined some folks in a walk up Observation Hill.  Back then it was still dark after dinner but there was light in the sky from aurora borealis and a full moon so it was possible to see a lot. From high up Ob Hill we looked back at McMurdo Station and saw a bright green laser beam shining up from one of the research groups and then one of the high pressure balloons were launched. Spectacular!  It was nice to have the opportunity to hear what this balloon was doing up there in the sky.

 

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The cross on Observation Hill that night at winfly © AHT/Diana

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  Balloon inflated, 4 February 1902  © CR Ford, Royal Geographical Society

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 27 October 2010
Temperature: -20C
Wind Speed: 0 knots
Temp with wind chill: -20C
Sunrise: NA
Sunset NA


This week, Diana and I started preparing for the second phase of our 6-month summer term, which involves camping and working at historic British expedition huts.  Our target deployment date is next Tuesday, 2 November 2010, if everyone arrives from New Zealand in time and the weather permits.  Our schedule for the next three months begins with two weeks at R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, a brief return to Scott Base to resupply, then a month-long session at E. Shackelton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds, a two week re-group period back at Scott Base for Christmas, and, in January, a final month back at Cape Evans.  It’s a lot of movement, which requires careful planning on everyone’s part, including the engineers, carpenters, mechanics and field support staff at Scott Base.

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Sorting food boxes © AHT/Cricket 

For us, one of our tasks is to organize the 35 food boxes.  Each box contains provisions for one person for 20 days and includes a range of quick, high-energy food such as peanut butter, honey, jam, pasta, rice, spice packets, dehydrated meals, cookies, crackers, chocolate bars, oat bars, powdered milk, energy drinks, coffee, tea and cereal.  Yesterday we unpacked each box, parceled everything out and repacked placing one food type per box.  In the field, we’ll each rotate through cooking duty, and since our average group size is 10, having the boxes arranged by food type makes it easier to pull in bulk what’s needed for each meal.  Seeing all this food got me thinking about what meals I could make.  I’m certain about one thing, cereal will trump the dehydrated fish pie dinner.

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 20 October 2010
Temperature: -23C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)

 

Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began.  When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work.  The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public.  It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.

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TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT

 

The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting.  The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica.  Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea.  Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.


The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings.  It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom.  Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY).  At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.

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Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT

 

One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch.  The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch.  After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?

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Flag raising ceremony

Posted by Cricket and Diana Oct 20, 2010

Posted by Diana

 

Date: October 20, 2010
Temperature: -22 degrees C
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26degrees C
Sunrise: 3:24 am
Sunset 12:07 am

 

The conservators with the Antarctic Heritage Trust come to Scott Base at Winfly (early August) and stay until almost the end of “Mainbody” ( the summer work term) when the “Winter over” conservators come in. This means that the AHT conservators get to know two seasons of Scott Base employees.
We recently took part in the Flag raising ceremony which is held to celebrate the work of the outgoing 2009/10 team by the incoming 2010/11 team. It is in commemoration of the first flag raising ceremony held at Scott Base.

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Winter flag © AHT/Diana

 

In 1957 a short but impressive ceremony took place, attended by Sir Edmond Hillary, Captain Harold Ruegg, Administrator of the Ross Dependency, Captain Kirkwood from the Endeavour, Admiral Dufek (US Navy), Captain Weiss from the USNS, Pte. John R. Towle, the press and workers associated with the establishment of Scott Base. The youngest member of the party, 20 year old Able Seaman Ramon Tito RNZN, hoisted the first flag. The flag pole used was an historic one recovered from Hut Point where it had been placed by R.F. Scott in 1902-04.

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Joel attaching the flag  © AHT/Diana

 

Our 2010 ceremony had 20 year old Joel lower the flag which flew all winter and raise the new flag. The top of the flag pole is still the original from Scott’s era.

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New flag up © AHT/Diana

 

The ceremony had a turning of the page feel about it with the excitement of the new crew at being in Antarctica and for the departing crew the prospect of seeing their families again after 13 months on the ice.
 

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