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Author: Stefanie

Date: 8 August 2013

Temperature: -38.2

Wind speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -62

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Over the last few weeks our workload has dramatically increased as we frequently conserve over a hundred objects a week. This is due to our current conservation treatments of the contents of Venesta food storage boxes. Many are being looked into for the first time since leaving their manufacturer in England over 100 years ago and hold different quantities. Some boxes can contain over 70 objects in just one box while others can hold 30 objects. Most objects are food products that require various degrees of conservation assessment and treatment. The food products uncovered are in various conditions and although some are badly deteriorated, festering and leaking from cracked, corroded or broken containers, others are in astoundingly good condition remaining very well persevered in their original packaging with some still maintaining perfect form and smell.

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Raspberry, Blackberry & Apple jam manufactured by Beach & Son

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Ground Cinnamon and Ground Ginger manufactured by Griffiths McAlister & Co.'s

 

There were many commercial sponsors for the Antarctic expeditions. Scott lists these in an appendix to his journal and of these, this week, we have opened boxes manufactured by John Burgess & Son, Gillard & Co., Beach & Sons and Fry & Sons, finding exceptional examples of unopened fine and luxurious food products. A pick of which includes Raspberry and Strawberry Jams, Ground Cinnamon, Ground Ginger and the essence of vanilla,  French Olives, Devilled Ham Pate, Potted Beef Pate, Turtle Soup, Pickled Onions, Gorgona Anchovies, Meat loafs, sauces, pickles, condiments…

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Essence of Vanilla, Savoy Sauce, pickles and meat pate manufactured by John Burgess & Son

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Historic Pickles Onions...

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Lights on

Posted by Conservators Aug 5, 2013

Author: Marie

Date: 5 August 2013

Temperature: -33.9

Wind speed: 13 knots

Temp with wind chill: -51

Sunrise: Will be soon

Sunset: N/A

 

 

As we start getting ready for the end of the third act, winfly, the sky is turning purple or red from time to time, towards Mount Erebus. If you drive up in the direction of Arrival Heights, it feels like someone has turned the light on. Suddenly, you get a stunning panorama. We haven't seen much landscape these last three months, and no sky line. The great mountains have appeared again on the continent, and seem closer and taller than when they disappeared. It's spectacular and it seems to have happened all of a sudden, as a Deus ex machina. Out of the dark at least, we are 'somewhere' again, after a few months feeling we’re in an orbital station. With the light coming, the colours change and so do the hearts, everyone is feeling lighter and happier.

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A three weeks long sunrise starts behind Mount Erebus

 

 

Then, alas, the darkness takes over again. After these few hours of discreet light, the stars now look paler. We're waiting for the next day, for more horizons.

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Daylight on Arrival Heights

 

 

But just when the light will be illuminating the stage, the curtain will fall for Stefan and me, as will be leaving on the very first flight out of Antarctica, just before the sunrise.

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Author: Sue

Date: 2 August 2013

 

Researching my cans of margarine seemed to be looking increasingly like a can of worms … or at least a can of misinformation! If many internet sites are to be believed, margarine production and sale was banned in New Zealand under The Margarine Act, 1908, repealed sometime after 1974. So how did Captain Scott come to have a case of what appeared to be NZ margarine in 1910?

 

Tracking down the said Act, I discovered that it didn't actually ban margarine at all. Designed to protect New Zealand's dairy industry—which, it was believed, would take a battering if margarine coloured to imitate butter, was readily available as a low-priced butter substitute—the Act actually banned the addition of yellow colourants in margarine.

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Margarine tins before the contents were emptied

 

And other countries including Australia, France, Denmark and some US states were doing the same. While allowing the supposedly appealing yellow colouring of butter (which they still do, for that matter … after all, have you ever seen yellow milk?), prohibiting the colouring of margarine was designed to greatly reduce its popularity with consumers. Some companies in the US got around the ban by including sachets or capsules of yellow colouring with their margarine, to be stirred or kneaded through before serving.  

 

But back to New Zealand and to Captain Scott ...

 

In addition to banning colourants, I found that The Margarine Act, 1908, also strictly regulated margarine production and packaging. It stipulated that margarine could only be legally produced under an annually renewable licence, for a fee, and that every package had to be "distinctly and durably branded or marked 'MARGARINE' on the top and on one side, in printed capital letters not less than one and a half inches square …" And so that accounts for the unusual appearance of Scott's margarine tins … on which the letters are just under the compliance size. But should I mention that the margarine was a deep rich yellow colour, reminiscent of mango ice-cream? Or was that just the result of 100 years in the great freezer of Antarctica, perhaps?

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Samples of lard and margarine

 

Oh, and a final colourful little twist to the story …

 

When NZ's Margarine Act, 1908, was finally repealed in 1989 allowing colourants to be introduced, the dairy industry cheekily lobbied the government to force all margarine manufacturers to colour their product blue … but, if that's to be believed, it clearly, and thankfully, failed!

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Hidden gems

Posted by Conservators Jul 30, 2013

Author: Jaime

Date: 30 July 2013

Temperature: -31

Wind speed: 20 knots

Temp with wind chill: -49

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Having completed the restoration of the solid timber boxes from Bowers Annex, our attention is now focused on the fifty odd Venesta (VENeer from ESTtoniA) boxes, most of which were recovered from the same area.

 

These boxes formed part of a makeshift wall at the back of Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, but whereas the timber boxes were fairly sturdy, containing metal liners, densely packed with Colmans flour tins, the Venesta boxes are far more delicate objects, fabricated from 4mm plywood panels, riveted to each other through a light, steel, angled edging and filled with a huge variety of tinned and bottled food.

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Unopened but full Venesta case

 

One hundred years of weather and corrosion have reduced the metal edging and canned contents to crumbling rust and the boxes to a mass of delaminated plies. It is only because they were excavated from densely packed snow and ice that both the panels and contents of some of the Venesta boxes have at least remained together.

 

Luckily though, the odd Venesta box fared better, opened but forgotten in a quiet corner of the hut and crucially, remaining relatively dry, and  undisturbed until this week. Within, nestled in straw, perfectly preserved bottles, wrapped in delicate tissue paper, as immaculate as the day they were packed. 

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100 year old Venesta contents

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Author: Sue

Date: 25 July 2013

 

 

Our work on the unconsumed food stores from Captain Scott's hut at Cape Evans is keeping us busy indeed. As case-after-case of food is opened, assessed, documented and stabilised (before being repacked into its restored wooden case), we are greeted with a constant stream of surprises and delights ... oh, and some unpleasantries too as we deal with leaking tins of 100-year-old meat, fish, and dairy products. Can you imagine what a tin of cod roe, turtle soup or anchovy sauce looks and smells like 100 years on? Best you don't.  

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Sue with margarine tins before treatment

 

One particular case piqued my interest this week—a case containing six large tins decorated with a gridded star-and-dot pattern, and the word 'MARGARINE' printed very boldly on each top, bottom and side. Margarine had been patented 40 years earlier by a French chemist and was, at that time, made predominantly of animal fat. The six tins were packed in sawdust in a plywood case on which the stencilled letters 'LYT …' were still legible, suggesting they had been taken on board Scott's ship, 'Terra Nova', in the NZ port of Lyttelton.  Captain Scott's journal more-or-less confirmed this with his mention that, while in Lyttelton in 1910 making their final preparations for the voyage south, "the various gifts and purchases made in New Zealand were collected—butter, cheese, bacon, hams, some preserved meats, tongues".

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Margarine tins before treatment

 

Curious as to why there was no maker's name on the tins, I did a bit of internet research to see who was making margarine in New Zealand at that time in the hope of identifying the brand. And what many internet sites (including the NZ Government's Te Ara site) led me to believe was that it was no-one. I found quite a number of references stating that production of margarine was illegal in New Zealand between 1908 and the '70s or '80s. Hmmm … Scott, 1910 … bootleg margarine? Must look into this a little further …

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Margarine tin after treatment

 

Find out more in Part 2 of the blog, following in the coming weeks.

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Being and Time

Posted by Conservators Jul 21, 2013

Author: Stefanie

Temperature: -25.6

Wind speed: 21 knots

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

I came to the Antarctic with a list of personal projects to achieve during my 8 month winter-over on the ice.  I imagined time passing very slowly over the dark winter months with seldom to do every evening. Consequently, I assumed it would allow one to accomplish several goals and I would finally finish Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, and Heidegger's Being & Time, play the piano every day, learn another language and carve a chess set.

 

After 6 months of wintering over, I can now safely say that time passes very quickly and we always have so much to do. Having incorporated some of our personal objectives into everyday life, our evenings are always very busy. On Monday evenings, Marie and I attend a car mechanics class delivered by the base mechanic, Lex.  On Tuesday's, Jam and I have French class taught by Marie. Wednesday's have recently been nominated an evening to go climbing and the rest of the week's evenings are dedicated to the gym, social events, and the opportunities to learn unique skills like, for example, surgical suture.

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Dr. Fay from McMurdo Station teaches Marie and me how to stitch a cut would. Credit Becky Goodsell

 

Under the guidance and instruction of Dr. Fay from McMurdo Station, and armed with curved surgical needles, scalpels, forceps, syringes and pig skin, we set about learning sutures, stitching techniques and suturing a wound infield.

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Author: Marie

Date: 9 July 2013

Temperature: -42

Wind speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -52

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Health and safety are a priority down here, and it's for very good reason. As we are isolated from the rest of the word, we need to evaluate every situation and control any risk. Rescuing a party is a dangerous expedition in itself, and the Search And Rescue (SAR) team is constantly training.

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Nice weather for a day out

 

Hence, when a friend and I went skiing the Castle Rock Loop last Sunday, we had two radios with extra batteries, two head torches with spare batteries, a shovel, a medical kit, a GPS, extreme weather clothes, hand-warmers, food, pee bottles … when it was a three-hour journey on a flagged route, and a warm -25 degrees with wind chill.

 

But then it got windy when we were half way, and the forecast became uncertain. The situation was re-assessed and it was decided that we had better not pursue our journey. Happily we were just having tea in one of the shelters on the road and we just had to stay there and wait for a ride back. We spent time eating frozen candy and trying to play soccer (yes, in an artificial igloo!) to stay warm. Scott Base's Mike and Molly played the 'orange boys' and arrived with crisps and drinks in a Hagglund 40 minutes later… and so we just went back to base.

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The USAP emergency shelter 'Apple 2'

 

But at least, we can now start a story with "I was stuck in this igloo by blowing winds, when all of a sudden …" which can look very nice on Facebook … until one's mum sees it (and then the real trouble starts).

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Space

Posted by Conservators Jul 11, 2013

Author: Sue

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -22 degrees

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -29 degrees

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

There are many outstanding things about living for a while in Antarctica. One of them is certainly meeting some of the other people who do the same, and learning about their roles here. We, with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, are fortunate to be involved in some of the more unusual winter work—and work that changes constantly—so there's always a lot of interest and fascination from others in what we do. We regularly have visits and/or enquiries from those at Scott Base and neighbouring US McMurdo Station who are curious to know 'what artefacts are in the lab today?' And they're never disappointed.

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The AHT team heads to the dome above McMurdo Station © AHT/Sue

 

A recent highlight for the AHT team was to be taken on a tour of the NASA facility at McMurdo by the two NASA engineers who are wintering-over there, and who have become our friends through our regular social inter-base darts evenings.

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The dish antenna inside the dome © AHT/Sue

 

The tour involved an overview of NASA's ongoing data collection programme from the many international polar-orbiting satellites that pass overhead … on average once an hour, and collecting such data as ocean salinity and temperature measurements. This was followed by a visit to the hilltop dome housing NASA's dish antenna. There, in minus 30-something degrees, we watched in awe as the 10m dish leapt with surprising agility to its task and tracked a satellite from horizon to horizon. Fascinating stuff, and beaut to see!

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Mid -Winter

Posted by Conservators Jul 10, 2013

Author: Jaime Ward

Date: 26 June 2013

Temperature: -19.9

Wind Speed: 0

Temp with Wind Chill: -19/9

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Recently we celebrated mid- winter in true Antarctic fashion, with an elaborate dinner at Scott Base, for the fifteen of us and 25 invited American guests. The following evening was Mc Murdo's turn which, given their number of winter staff, was a much larger event to which we were all invited.

 

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Scott Base Mid-Winter dinner - Tim Delaney

 

This tradition of celebration goes back to the early expeditions, for whom the passing of midwinter must have been hugely significant, allowing them to look forward to the gradual return of the sun and a chance to get away from the cramped confines of their winter quarters.

 

http://http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.447/ Click here to see a photograph of Midwinter Day Dinner at Winterquarters Hut, June 22nd 1911.

 

Mid –winter has also given us all a reminder of that we on Ross Island are just one small part of an extensive international community of Antarctic winter residents at bases both on the continent and on the sub-Antarctic islands. A new tradition is emerging with each of the bases e-mailing their mid-winter greetings (and usually a group photo) to each of the others. We received about thirty and they now cover the dining room wall, a great reminder that in spite of all this apparent emptiness, we do still have neighbours.    

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Flexing our Lenses

Posted by Conservators Jul 4, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 2 July 2013

Temperature: -26C

Wind speed: 10 knotos

Temp with wind chill: -37C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Some of my favorite accounts of life at Cape Evans is how grateful and respectfully the men talk about their shared lecture series. You get a sense they are thriving of each others knowledge and love to learn from one another. I find it very saddening these days that immediacy and access to information on anything make many iPhone professors with a few finger swishes and the desire to listen, debate, and share in person is eroding rapidy.

 

http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.543/

Herbert Ponting lecturing on Japan.  October 16th 1911

 

The link attached is to a wonderful image of Ponting giving a talk about his time in Japan. He has brilliantly bleached in the glow of the projector and added in the image of the Geisha. I can't help, in looking at the photo to think how wonderful it would be to be back in a time where such mystery and intrigue still lay uncharted by most and learning was rich with personal accounts and captured audiences.

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Aurora show, on Scott's birthday.  © AHT/Stefan

 

Everyone on base is trying to do their best to keep 'Ponko's' art of photography alive, and we’re all happily learning from each other, not Wiki-searches!.

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One man and his pan

Posted by Conservators Jun 28, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 12 June 2016

Temperature: - 31C

Wind speed: 5 kts

Temp with wind chill: -40C

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http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/library/pictures/catalogue/article/p2005.5.477/

 

Above is the obituary of one Thomas C. Clissold, taken from The Polar Record.  Having worked as a Chef for many years it always amuses me when if I happen to mention Clissold's name, my work space neighbor (Jaime) retorts, "Oh! Mr Grumpy ". Although Clissold can seem very stern of expression in Ponting's photographs, if you have worked in catering it's very easy to understand why the rigours of life might give you a furrowed brow.

 

Our Chef, Damian is a joy to have on base.  He's a true talent and manages to maintain a very laidback and jolly disposition.  But as the long Antarctic winter marches on you can see why someone like Clissold would have been in a unique position. Whilst many of the men would be finding differences in behavior and working practices endlessly grating and annoying, it’s an entirely different prospect to cook a hot dinner for someone you might not like day in, day out.

 

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Cooking pot before treatment

 

Food and its quality determines so much of what happens with morale on base, and in reading how miserable a poor cook made life on the Discovery expedition, you can see how much of an impact Clissold's service was to a happy life in the Cape Evans hut.

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Cooking pot after treatment

 

I've recently been lucky enough to work on one of the cooking pots, (famously featured in a Ponting photograph), with Clissold at the stove………….looking grumpy.

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Author: Marie

Date: 17 June 2013

Temperature: -24

Wind speed: 15

Temp with wind chill: -32

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

You probably know that Scott's choice of ponies and motor sledges against dog-hauling contributed to his terrible fate. We have already mentioned the ponies, and now for the motors:

Back in France, a few kilometres from my home town, there is a mountain pass quite famous for having dodgy conditions in winter. On this specific pass, in 1908 French Antarctic explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Robert Falcon Scott, not convinced by dog-hauling sledges, conducted the first motor sledges test.   Two French companies worked together to produce the sledges they were willing to offer to both expeditions.

 

Charcot tried a 200kg motor sledge, which was really successful. The next day, Scott tried a 750kg sledge.  The weight appeared to be a major problem as the sledge sunk in the snow, stopping the chain rotation and so the motor.  But the load capacity (several tons against 400 pounds for a pony, 200 for a man and 100 per dog) was such an advantage that both explorers decided to carry the machine to the ice.

 

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Capt. Scott at the Lautaret Pass, in front of Glaciers' Hotel

 

In 1909, Charcot shipped his motor sledges to Antarctica on his boat the Pourquoi Pas? considering them as an experiment for future expeditions and relying on man-hauling for the party.

 

The weight of Scott’s sledges was a predominant problem again as the party unloaded the cargo at Cape Evans in 1911. Being too heavy, one of them broke the ice and got lost in the sea.  The party had already decided on restrained use of the motor when engine complications started…

 

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An unidentified component with a broken pipe....

 

I started working on a potential 'car part' or 'engine part' last week. They are still unidentified, but as Stefanie and I are just starting classes with our dear mechanic Lex, we hope to solve the mystery.

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Bowers' Annex

Posted by Conservators Jun 17, 2013

Author: Jamie Ward

Date: 12/06/2013

Temperature: -27.7 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 22 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -45 degrees celcius

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

For the members of Scott's Terra Nova expedition, the hut at Cape Evans provided a warm, secure shelter. But the fact that it had to also accommodate all their food and equipment, whilst at the same time maintaining a useable living space, meant that space was always at a premium.

 

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Beginning the excavation of the south wall of the Terra Nova hut

 

Luckily, both wooden food boxes and to a lesser extent the horses' fodder bales, provided a ready supply of regular building blocks from which extensions to the hut could be created. With the addition of roofs made from surplus timbers, the remains of packing crates, and a final covering of roofing felt and canvas, stables were fabricated and Bowers' Annex was built against the southern wall of the hut to store much of the expedition food. At around 25kg each, neatly stacked Colman's flour boxes, produced excellent external walls, strong and heavy enough to resist the worst of the Antarctic weather.

 

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The remains of Bower's Annex

 

A few years ago, the remnants of the Annex were excavated from solid ice, beneath a deep snow drift and the remaining badly deteriorated boxes were carefully removed to Scott Base for conservation. After over three months' work, this task is now complete and a total of 79 boxes, most still with their original contents, will return home to Cape Evans this coming summer. 

 

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Conserved Colmans flour boxes - JW. New timber weathers to silvery grey over a few years.

 

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Author: Marie

Date: 09/05/2013

Temperature: -25 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -30 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

Light is life, and so is poetry. I had this very simple thought slowly building up in my mind throughout this week.

 

We walk out of the night on Sundays. A few weeks ago, we were walking to see, between two nights, an inch of blue sky, we were looking at appearing light from under an ice roof; Now, we walk again, just to stare at the white hidden into the complete darkness.

 

An inch of blue sky, a glance into a Velasquez book by the fireplace, poems on Auroras that Jaime translated, the Aurora I saw last night, and then this morning a question: what I am going to write on? What's really meaningful here? All these precious moment merged into evidence. We're living here, as anywhere, out of light and words. There are just different lights and different words.

 

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Blue light through the ice

 

Our flashes of light are made of moon rays on the ice shelf, our city's lamps are hanging from the stars in faded green auroral curtains and the sunray touching one's hand has been swapped for an electric sparkle.

 

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Enlighten cities of ice

 

From all over the world, we're here sharing our songs and our slangs, we remember Italian and Greek, comment on English Latin roots and on Verlaine's lover.

Here we live and that's how we stand.

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Author: Stefanie

Date: 29/05/2013

Temperature: -27 degrees C

Wind Speed: 10/13 kts

Temp with wind chill: -55 degrees C

Sunrise: n/a

Sunset: n/a

 

 

The environment in Antarctica is extremely dry. It is an average of 18% Relative Humidity in the lab at Scott Base and while the development of corrosion on metal artefacts is inhibited, the dry humidity is not so kind to organic materials. Great effort is made to prevent paper artefacts from curling during their treatments and to introduce a degree of humidity to aid the treatment of organic objects. A humidity chamber is normally constructed for this purpose:

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Humidity chamber constructed by Stefan and Jam for the treatment of leather harnesses.

 

We also suffer the consequences of the dry environment and continuously strive to remain hydrated by drinking copious amounts of water. Our water bottles have become permanent accessories. Moisturisers and silicon barrier creams are found distributed throughout Scott Base to help combat flaking skin and cracking fingers. Some people apply sticky tape around their fingers to prevent their skin from completely splitting, some apply eye-drops daily and everyone is seen applying lip balm regularly. And so, one very memorable Sunday, we constructed our own humidity chamber. Rain was made by spraying a room down with pressure water and for a few glorious hours we basked in rain, puddles and high humidity… 

 

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Humidity Chamber constructed by Mike for the treatment of Scott Base staff.

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