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1

Passing Through

Posted by Conservators Jul 8, 2014

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 25t June 2014

Temperature: -22.4 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 7.7 kts 40 NE

Temp with wind chill: -31.7 degrees celcius

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

Passing through the conservation laboratory at Scott Base is a memorable and extraordinary experience. There is continuously a spectacular display of different objects in various stages of conservation treatment.

Image 1.JPG

Working Lab

One bench displays the mid-treatment of metal food liners and boxes, another bench reveals 32 ration bags filled with cocoa powder, flour, cereals and curry powder and another bench modestly exhibits penguin skeletons.

Image 2.JPG

Sledging ration bags containing cocoa powder, cereals, flour and spices

Every day each one of us is presented with challenges and discussion in material science and the conservation of such objects. Meg is currently conserving a wooden tent frame, 2 penguin skeletons and a box of cement for a seismograph.

Image 3.JPG

Meg conserving two Penguin skeletons

Sue is carrying out the conservation treatment of an iron alloy supply box filled with sugar cubes that are largely dissolved and recrystallized into a solid mass, and I am working on the 32 ration bags, a wooden stool and lead bucket with layers of paint on its surface.

Looking around the lab today it reminds me of how fortunate object conservators are to work on such a large and varied selection of materials.

Image 4.JPG

Stefanie conserving Lead bucket and Sue conserving sugar in metal liner.

1

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 02/07/2014

Temperature: -28 degrees Celcius

Windspeed: 0kts

Temperature with Wind Chill: -28 degrees Celcius

Sunrise: NA

Sunset: NA

 

 

Let there be light… and heat!

The flick of the switch is usually all it takes for us to enjoy a good read on the couch in a warm room on a cold winter evening. There may be a wood fire or central heating, an electric blanket, underfloor heating or even a lovely heated towel rack in the bathroom. A microwave is a handy way to warm the hot chocolate and the light dimmers can create some ambiance. And everything smells as good as the roast that comes out of the oven. Ahhh…

Back to reality. Lucky for me, my reality is most of the above combined with corrosion removal during the day. And I've just completed conserving a fabulous large Homelight Lamp Oil fuel can from Discovery Hut which was a provision of the British Antarctic Expedition.

Homelight Lamp Oil can.JPG

Homelight Lamp Oil can

 

The same brand of oil was also sent down in this beautiful wooden box.

 

Wooden Box.JPG

Wooden Box

 

I've also recently worked on small oil cans containing oil in remarkably good condition. There were many types of oils and fuels, including calcium carbide for acetylene lighting, brought down on the historic expeditions to create heat and light for the long winters, with seal blubber as the final resort.

 

Small Oil can.JPG

Small Oil can

At Scott Base today we have all the heat and lighting required to live an exceptionally comfortable winter existence provided mostly by diesel fuel generation with an impressive 22% of delivery by wind power. Plus a toasty gas powered 'log' fire to read Scott's Journal in front of.

 

0

Midwinter

Posted by Conservators Jun 25, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 18 June 2014

Temperature: -31°C

Wind speed: 15 knots

Temperature with wind speed: -46°C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Midwinter is upon us, for those in the southern hemisphere at least. For those of us in Antarctica, midwinter is traditionally a time of celebration and feasting. We've reached our shortest day—our darkest day—and now we move towards the return of the light and the return of the sun in a couple of months' time. Definitely a milestone to be celebrated!

 

But where did this 'tradition' begin, on a continent with a very short history? Certainly not with the members of the Belgian Antarctic Expedition who, in 1898, became the first expeditioners to winter in Antarctica after being trapped in the ice aboard their ship 'Belgica'. For them it was all doom and gloom, with tales of 'dreary, cheerless days', of hardship, extreme discontent, illness and tragedy. Midwinter was described as 'the darkest day of the night; a more dismal sky and a more depressing scene could not be imagined'. And, to add 'another cloud to the hell of blackness', their beloved cat, Nansen, succumbed to the long darkness at midwinter, and died.

 

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Nansen, the 'Belgica' cat

 

The midwinter tradition should probably be credited to Robert Falcon Scott, who on his first expedition just four years later describes the festivities of midwinter 1902 in some detail. There were decorations 'with designs in coloured papers and festooned with chains and ropes' and 'the tables were loaded with plum puddings, mince pies, and cakes'. There were speeches, presents, sing-songs, champagne, and great revelry, with which, Scott records, 'we agreed that life in the Antarctic regions was worth living'.

 

As we at Scott Base hung the decorations, opened gifts and tucked into our 9-course midwinter dinner, shared with some good friends from neighbouring McMurdo Station, we couldn't have agreed more. Salute!

 

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Scott Base midwinter dinner 2014

2

Recently, a nice coincidence occurred in the lab while we were beginning conservation work on a new series of objects from the collection at Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery Hut at Hut Point.

As I was documenting this French cognac bottle,

AHT11088_1!_Side1_BT (Medium).JPG

Picture of  French cognac bottle, before treatment.

My colleague Sue, object conservator, came to me with an unidentifiable paper fragment that she found in one of the objects she was treating (a billy, repurposed from a food tin by a member of Captain Scott's party). As the paper conservator of the team, I am in charge of the conservation of every paper artefact.

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Picture of a billy, where the paper fragment was found.

 

But how big was my surprise when I realised that this fragment of paper was actually the missing part of the label from this bottle!

What are the chances of that happening? How incredible is it that on this particular day I actually had on my bench the bottle from which this paper fragment originated? Especially when you consider that 50 artefacts pass through the lab each week, every week! Thanks to this coincidence, we have been able to re-assemble and give back to an artefact a part of its history and identity that had been lost.

During the last 100 years, the environmental conditions within the huts have been harsh and damaging to the paper objects. Sometimes parts are lost, as the paper is very light and becomes very brittle and fragile in this environment. I felt a great sense of satisfaction in being able to re-construct the label on this bottle and keep its history and memory intact.

 

AHT11088_1!_Side1_AT (Medium).JPG

Picture of a French cognac bottle, after treatment.

1

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 11 June 2014

Temperature: -22.4C

Wind Speed: 7.7 knots 40 NE

Temp with wind chill: -31.7C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

My grandmother, my mother and even my best friend have been heard announcing the old view that 'you can tell a man by his shoes' implying that shoes can portray a man's moral character. Today that view may be mostly obsolete, especially in the Antarctic.

 

In the Antarctic, where there is little room for fashionable and aesthetic footwear, our shoes and boots are practical. Designed for Extreme Cold Weather, they are big, sometimes knee high, and insulated with high soles and thick layers of fleece. With wear and tear, we repair them and with decreasing temperature and new demands, we alter them.

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Meg, Sue, Stefanie and Aline with their Extreme Cold Weather boots

 

This was also the case for Scott and his men. They patched, re-stitched and altered their boots often adding hobnails to increase grip for walking on ice and stuffing insulating sennegrass inside to help overcome freezing temperatures.

 

One may interpret that these men stayed true to their old boots, maintaining and caring for them. These men were professional and practical yet display chaotic domestic habits in the scruff and buildup of dirt on the boot soles. Perhaps, pronate distortions in the boots tell that they were sometimes stressed and exhausted with sore and cold feet.

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Above and below: Historic boots from Cape Evans with additional Sennegrass inside and hobnails in sole

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It was sometimes the case that the historic explorers wore less practical and fancier shoes. Uncovered from under Wilson's bed, in Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, a black patent leather pomp, with a decorative grosgrain bow, was found. This rather fancy shoe is completely unsuitable for the harsh Antarctic conditions and may perhaps lend a tale about a man's more sensitive character. The owner of this shoe was a man with grounded feet; a man with a sense of vanity, style and perhaps even artistic humour.

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Black patent pump or court shoe with decorative ribbon

 

Overall, we can be sure of one thing: Practical and durable boots are a necessity for surviving the harsh Antarctic conditions and equally as important is  the superficial and impractical accessory that can sometimes lift a man's moral and make him feel at home.

0

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 27 May 2014

Temperature: -13

Wind speed: 20 / 18 kts

Temp with windchill: -25

Sunrise: 9.30am

Sunset: 3.38pm

 

 

The Ross Sea Party of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) is one of the most fascinating groups of explorers to stay at, and make extensive use of, Discovery Hut. Their mission was to lay depots to aid Shackleton's planned traverse of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to Ross Island via the South Pole. After laying depots, one group waited over two months at Discovery Hut for the sea ice to harden so to be able to walk back to Cape Evans and join the rest of the team. During these months the stranded men recovered from ill health and as they were also ill-equipped, improvised games and made tools out of salvaged materials.

 

Lamps that were made out of old food tins and fueled with seal blubber offered 'a flickering glimmer of light in the dark interior'.

 

Discovery Hut was an important staging post for the Ross Sea Party. Stranded inexperienced men with inadequate equipment and a determination to complete their mission were forced to improvise clothing and equipment in order to survive. Some of these artefacts are currently in the lab. 

 

Clothing was repaired with materials and fabrics salvaged from inside the hut.

 

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Jacket worn and heavily repaired by a member of the Ross Sea Party

 

Image 3 (Small).JPG

An Improvised snow shoe made out of a plywood supply box

 

Snowshoes were made out of plywood from Venesta supply boxes that, in the example above, originally contained Spratt's Special Cabin Biscuits. The resourcefulness, creativity and determination of the Ross Sea Party is seen every day in the lab as we continue to conserve artefacts from Discovery Hut.

 

0

Macro Magic Moments

Posted by Conservators May 20, 2014

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 20 May 2014

Temperature: -38.2

Wind speed: 10kts

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

As AHT conservators we're always marvelling, ooh and aaahing at objects from Discovery Hut as they pass over our work benches. In many cases we can directly identify what we're working on as the same object shown in the historic photographs. There are many iconic objects from Discovery Hut which give the viewer a strong sense of connection to the heroic expeditions, particularly objects that are complete or in surprisingly good condition.

 

Such objects include cooking pots, hand-made tools and clothes, shoes and long-johns and beautiful boxes of Fry's cocoa tins. Working close-up with objects gives an altogether different experience and connection with these objects. As you document, repair or prepare surfaces at close range the finer details of the materials, use or re-use becomes apparent. The beautiful patina or severe delaminating corrosion that develops on metal that has been sitting in the Hut for over 100 years;  the stitch pattern on a home-altered mitten; or the cutting and reshaping of bits and pieces to form an object for which purpose we may never be too sure. It’s this type of detail which sparks the imagination and appreciation for beauty in the macro world. To me this is just as rewarding as seeing the objects in the broader picture. Who had a hand at this object? Who lit this burnt-out match? Whose ideas transformed the object in front of me?

 

On the rusted metal edging of a biscuit supply box I recently worked on I happened to notice the stamped letter 'B' in the rivets securing it to the box. No more than 3mm's it seemed like a little gem among the rust.

B Rivet (Small).jpg

'B' Rivet

 

 

I'm currently working on a Nansen cooker, a type of aluminium cooking pot system designed to work with a spirit fuelled primus stove, and whilst removing corrosion realised that the scrape marks on the side of the pot were left there by the last cook. Who was the last person to cook that day? How awful was the concoction and how hungry were they?

 

Scrape the pot (Small).jpg

Scrape the pot

 

Then to the small and sweet. This tiny stamped markers mark, The Gutta Percha Company London, is all but 10mm across on a sweet little bottle only 12cm high. In the age of big bold logos this is a refreshing company sign.

The Gutta Percha Company (Small).jpg

The Gutta Percha Company

 

I'll continue to look out for more magical macro moments and keep you posted.

0

Celebrating Easter

Posted by Conservators May 6, 2014

Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 23/04/14

Temperature: -26 degrees

Wind speed: 11 mph

Temp with wind chill: - 38 degrees

Sunrise: 11.42am

Sunset: 2.00pm

 

 

The week before Easter in the Antarctic Heritage Trust lab, I had been working on chocolate. Not because I was excited about Easter and hoping to get the traditional magical chocolates, but because a wooden box of Fry's Cocoa tins came into the conservation lab for treatment. A large paper label remains on the side of the box, still clean and brightly coloured, an element that usually disappears because of age and weather conditions. The five tins inside were in good condition and unopened, still full of their contents.

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Box of Frys Cocoa tins (side 1)  before treatment

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Box of Frys Cocoa tins (side 2) before treatment

 

Captain Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition brought quite a lot of cocoa to Antarctica in 1901, as a healthy and also sweet, delicious drink. It is true that chocolate is very enjoyable, especially when you are in this climate and landscape. It seems that the explorers were consuming cocoa often, and having chocolate during Easter made me think about them, how a simple drink or meal can become a golden distraction and delicacy!

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Tins of Frys Cocoa

 

For Easter at Scott Base we all wrote clues for each other and Sunday was animated by people running from one side to another, hunting for their eggs. I really enjoyed this way of combining a social event with all the team down here and to remember what is happening in the "real world"! Finding our chocolate eggs at the end of the game was delightful! And it made this sweet very special.

0

Open Water

Posted by Conservators Apr 15, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 09/04/2014

Temperature: -24 degrees C

Windspeed: None

Temperature with wind chill: -24 degrees C

Sunrise: 0905

Sunset: 1643

 

One of the highlights (so far) of this winter on the ice has been, without doubt, the opportunity to observe the effects of having open water in front of Scott Base. Usually a year-round frozen ice shelf, the open water has brought some spectacular sea mists and not just the usual populations of Weddell seals and Adelie penguins, but large numbers of killer whales and Emperor penguins (and even the occasional cruise ship!) … to literally right outside our windows. Beats television!

Morning sea mist.JPG

Morning sea mist

 

Cruise ship.JPG

A cruise ship takes advantage of the open water to take a closer look at Scott Base

 

 

Each day we have had the pleasure of watching a group of about 50 Emperors (all adolescent males, I'm told) huddle, fish, play, squawk, dive and scoot around (belly down) on the ice edge. And occasionally they'll take a long walk across the ice to what seems like nowhere in particular, usually in single file and in a very determined fashion, only to huddle for a while before returning again by foot or from beneath the ice through an open pool or crack. But, alas, as we head into our last fortnight of daylight before the austral winter darkness sets in, the sea now looks to have frozen over and, sadly for us (and perhaps also for them, as they may have been equally fascinated by the behaviours of Scott Base residents) the last of the Emperors have walked off … to somewhere else.

Emperors huddling.JPG

Huddling

 

Emperors off for a walk.JPG

Off for a walk

0

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 02/04/2014

Temperature: -34 degrees celcius

Wind speed: 0 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -34 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 0926

Sunset: 1826

 

Oh the frustration of losing things. It's a bit late for the owner now but it's nice to have found his second sock. Of course it couldn't have been in the washing machine, and it wasn't under the bed. It was in fact under the floorboards of Discovery hut. Why and how did it get there is anyone's guess. The magical mystery of missing things may never be understood. Interestingly though, the sock was also under the floorboards with other objects including empty ration bags, twine and cordage, a dust-brush, sardine can and safety pin.

 

SECOND SOCK.jpg

Second sock

 

The objects were recovered from under the floor by the outgoing AHT summer team who were undertaking structural stabilisation work on the hut which involved lifting some of the floorboards. So how did these objects manage to find their way there? Of course we can only speculate but it's likely they were simply swept into a hole in the floor which had been created by the Ross Sea Party.

The empty ration bags are unmarked and so we can't ever know what meal they contributed to. One of the bags is still tied at the top and ripped open down the side. One appears to be covered in cocoa and white crystalline grains, perhaps sugar. Taste testing is not advised for obvious reasons. Others contain a soft waxy substance also of unknown identity. I'm curious as to what they actually contained and what the men were up to on the day they emptied those bags. The image below shows the ration bags drying after being washed to remove damaging acids and salts. All stains, soot and contents are retained as important historic information.

 

RATION BAGS DRYING.jpg

Ration bags drying

 

Another interesting part of the underfloor assemblage of objects is a beautifully retained length of twined rope with a particularly strong smell. The smell isn't altogether unpleasant but it's distinctive as you open the door to the workspace each morning. The smell is very similar to pine tar which was used to saturate hemp fibres for pre-prepared wooden ship caulking, which is likely the purpose of this rope.

 

CAULKING.jpg

Caulking

It's been an interesting week contemplating the discarded or lost objects under the hut and I wonder if the loss of that sock was ever of torment to its owner.

0

Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 26/03/2014

Temperature: -25 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 20 knots

Temperature with Wind Chill: -40 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 08.21

Sunset: 19.34

 

A paper conservator back in Spain, I arrived in the Antarctic knowing that the artefacts I would be working on for the Antarctic Heritage Trust would be very different to the European manuscripts I am used to.

Last week I had a very good example of the challenge that represents the conservation of a paper artefact here. Two wads of paper arrived on my bench in such bad condition that all the fragments of pages were stuck together. 

 

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Before treatment artefacts

 

The challenge that I was presented with was multiple; being able to understand its structure, identity, history and devise a conservation plan appropriate to the context of Scott's Discovery Hut, where the items were found. The paper was very fragile and the shape it arrived in was the result of degradation. Moreover, I had to make the correct decision about the presentation of the artefact after treatment, for its return to Discovery Hut.

 

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Aline treating the paper fragments

 

Sharing opinions and knowledge with my colleagues was very beneficial as well and together we made a decision. I discovered that the fragments were from two different newspapers, one unidentifiable and the other one from a British newspaper called 'The Review of Reviews' published in July 1893. Thanks to this information and the known history of Discovery Hut (built by Scott and his party in 1902 but where various expeditions also spent time), we decided to keep the artefact folded so as to not intervene with the shape in which it was found, but rather to access as much information contained within the pages themselves through the conservation treatment. 

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After treatment artefacts

0

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 19th March 2013

Temperature: -14.0 degrees celcius

Wind Speed: 5/8 knts

Temp with Wind Chill: -21 degrees celcius

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

In Discovery Hut there is a bed (or sleeping platform) that is composed of a section of tongue and groove, originally from the ceiling of the hut itself and positioned on supply boxes beside the stove area. The area surrounding the stove became a cozy den for several desperate explorers seeking security from the harsh Antarctic environment. In the words of Dick Richards of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party (Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917): The hut may have been a dark cheerless place but to us it represented security. We lived the life of troglodytes. We slept in our clothes in old sleeping bags which rested on planks raised above the floor by wooden provision cases.

 

Image 1.JPG

Bed platform and sleeping aea in the hut. Credit: Stefanie White.

 

 

Before returning to Scott Base this week, Meg and I completed the conservation of the supply boxes that raised the bed. After many hours working in the soot and seal blubber drenched dark room, we learned how to overcome the difficulties working in the cold and dark of the hut. We wore leather padded gloves as opposed to nitrile gloves, which freeze immediately in cold environments. We wore Extreme Cold Weather gear and head lamps as opposed to our white lab coats and magnifying bench lights. We also defrosted ice to wash our tools and hands on the stove that we light every morning in our working container nearby.

 

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Stefanie conserving the area under the bed platform in the sleeping area beside the stove.

Image 3.JPG

 

Area under bed platform mid treatment.

We devised a method to systematically map each piece of the bed platform so that upon their return after conservation our interference left minimal mark. As well as leaving minimum traces of our presence in the hut, by taking back all of our equipment and waste to Scott Base every night we also left no trace in the environment.

0

A Date with Google

Posted by Conservators Mar 20, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 12 March 2013

Temperature: -25 degrees celcius

Wind speed: 20 knots

Temperature with wind chill: -41 degrees celcius

Sunrise: 06.39

Sunset:  21:21

 

 

The world has changed exponentially since I began my professional life as an archaeologist… back in the olden days when hardcopy books and journals were our main sources of information. One of the more remarkable changes is without doubt the access we now have to information on pretty much everything, via the internet. A good example occurred this week as I was treating artefacts from Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery hut, down here at Scott Base. The hut was constructed in 1902 by Scott's 1901–04 expedition, was used a number of times by Shackleton's 1907–09 expedition, used for periods by Scott's 1910–13 expedition, and again by Shackleton's depot-laying Ross Sea Party in 1915–16. The US Navy was next to visit in the late 1940s, a US research base grew alongside it from the 1950s, and a group of NZ volunteers carried out some restoration work in the early '60s, and fitted a lock to the building for the first time. So there is a long history of activity in and around the hut, which was found filled with snow and ice on several occasions, and emptied. Artefacts that remain there today could date from any of the 'heroic-era' periods of use or subsequent visits, so it's interesting to ponder how and when an artefact came to be there … and particularly satisfying to discover some evidence of its age. An object I was working on this week revealed just such information, with more than a little help from Google. It was a Primus stove made by a Swedish company, and now covered with a thick layer of black soot from Discovery hut's seal-blubber stove, suggesting it dated from one of the early expeditions. Whilst stabilising the corrosion, I discovered a small letter 'D' stamped in the base beneath the soot layer, and a quick search revealed that, from 1911, Primus stoves made by this company were stamped with a letter to indicate their year of manufacture! How convenient is that?!

 

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So this one was made in 1914 … after Scott but in the same year that Shackleton's Ross Sea Party was stocking the refitted SY Aurora in Australia in preparation for laying supply depots for Shackleton's unsuccessful Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in Endurance. Aurora took on supplies in Sydney and then more in Hobart before heading south in late December of 1914. So this Primus, brand spanking new at that time, almost certainly made its way from Sweden to Australia to be procured by the expedition in either Sydney or Hobart, travelled to Antarctica on Aurora, and was used in the hut by the Ross Sea Party. Cool! And that was revealed in just a few short minutes from the comfort of Scott Base, on the ice, via satellite. Whatever did we do before Google … or modern technology, for that matter?

 

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2

Dog biscuits

Posted by Conservators Mar 6, 2014

Auhtor: Megan Absolon

Date: 07/03/14

 

 

I’ve been very fortunate since arriving on the Ice to be working in the on-site conservation laboratory at Hut Point, which is situated directly behind Scott’s Discovery Hut (1901-04). Stefanie and I have been conserving food boxes from an internal wall made from stacked supply boxes. This wall was built during Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition (1907-09) when they used Discovery Hut as a staging point for depot laying. The Hut is described by various expeditioners as a dark and cold place to spend time and Shackleton’s men wished to enclose a cosy space around the stove to make the quarters more habitable. The supply boxes used were predominately Special Cabin Biscuits and Special Dog Biscuits made by Spratts Patent Limited of London, who also supplied the army and navy.

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Meg documenting the supply box wall

 

Every time we walk into the Hut we get the chance to imagine the many stories and desperate situations the men who passed through Discovery Hut experienced.  It’s incredibly exciting conserving the boxes that make up the internal wall in the Hut as we discover new and different details every day.

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Special Dog Biscuit Box

 

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Box with paw print

 

Dogs are also part of the amazing history of the Hut, with Scott taking 23 dogs for hauling sledges on his National Antarctic Expedition. In 1908, during Shackleton’s Expedition, three puppies ended up at Hut Point. It was decided to leave the puppies in the Hut for nearly a month while depots were laid for Shackleton’s push to the Pole. Dr Eric Marshal recorded that 24lbs of mutton was chopped up for the puppies as well as dog biscuits and snow left for their survival. The men returned to find the puppies had eaten all the mutton but not the biscuits.

 

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Tom Crean, with a litter of sledge dog puppies

 

The highlight of my week was discovering two puppy paw prints inside one of the boxes. The prints were made from seal blubber which was throughout the Hut at the time as it was used as fuel for cooking and warmth. Dogs are no longer allowed in Antarctica but we’d still love to have one to play with.

0

Top memories

Posted by Conservators Feb 27, 2014

Author: Aline Leclercq

Date: 28/02/14

 

This is my first time in Antarctica, and since I have been here, each day is more surprising than the day before. After two weeks of getting to know the new lifestyle and the objectives of the paper conservation work, I went last week for an evening walk. Two friends from Scott Base working for Antarctica New Zealand came with me. We were enjoying the sun and the weather, still warm at the end of the summer (already -15 ⁰C). Walking here means being well covered especially because of the wind and the temperature, but the landscape and the silence around are very special.

Image 1 (Small).JPG

The cross at the top of Observation Hill last Friday

 

We went up Observation Hill, between Scott Base and McMurdo Station, where a cross was erected in 1913 in memory of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his party who died on their return from the South Pole the previous year. Because of the difficulty of the path to the top, and the surrounding landscape, reaching the top and arriving at the cross was a very moving experience for me … I realised the danger and the exceptional lives of these men, who came to Antarctica more than a century ago.

 

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My bench at work with artefacts in conservation treatment

 

After having spent my first week on the conservation of artefacts that represent their quotidian life in the Antarctic in Scott's Discovery Hut—their food, their tools, their clothes, etc.—and getting to the cross, I had a completely different feeling about these artefacts and realised in a very concrete manner the exceptional qualities of these men. Top view, top memories …

0

The stories of an artefact

Posted by Conservators Feb 25, 2014

Author: Stefanie White

Date: 26/02/14

 

 

 

Returning to visit Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans was an incredibly rewarding experience. The sun was especially bright that day making our view from the helicopter ride from Scott Base sensational.  Upon arriving we found Adelie penguins and seals playing in the shore break. Entering the hut is a magical experience where one steps back into the time of the historic explorers.  As we walked around the hut I noticed several objects that our previous winter team (which I was part of) conserved and had been returned to their place in the hut by the recent summer team.

 

The stories associated with artefacts play a major role in their interpretation, historical significance, value and conservation treatment and upon seeing the artefacts we conserved, I felt a personal connection and a new story that I associate with those artefacts. I was reminded of all the conversations, the deliberations, the analyses and the treatments that we carried out last year. I remember the excitement in the lab, when Stefan conserved Clissold's cooking pot, which now takes prime place in the kitchen area of the hut.

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Clissold's pot, conserved by Stefan, returns to its central position in the kitchen area of the hut

 

The Finnesko boots, which I spent so many hours reshaping and rediscovering now hang at the Hut's entrance.

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Finnesko boots hang beside the entrance to the hut

 

Not only did Marie conserve an enamel dish uncovering the residue of caramelized sugar on its edges, but also convinced our chef to recreate a Scott style rhubarb pie in a similar dish at Scott Base, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. That enamel dish now sits on the wardroom table in the officer's area in the hut.

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The conserved enamel dish on the wardroom table in the officers area of the hut

 

I look forward to the stories that I may associate to the artefacts I conserve this year!

1

The great outdoors

Posted by Conservators Feb 20, 2014

Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 21/02/14

 

 

With environmental awareness, survival skills and effective team processes topping the agenda, the incoming AHT winter team got stuck straight into Antarctic Field Skills training following our arrival on the ice last week. This included a couple of days out on the ice shelf (in spectacular weather, thankfully), forming teams to carry out a variety of tasks and learning or refreshing some vital skills.

 

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Getting started and discussing the design

 

After selecting appropriate layers of clothing for the minus 12-degree temperature, preparing our individual sleep kits and pitching our polar tents, we set about designing and building our kitchen in which to shelter from the breeze, light our stoves and boil water to prepare our dehydrated dinners-in-a-bag. Using saws and shovels to cut and lift ice blocks, we simultaneously created a pit and constructed walls, not forgetting some seating and a bench for cooking. Being somewhat easier than it sounds, before long our far-from-perfect but nonetheless perfectly adequate little ice-kitchen took shape.

 

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Looking good - the team relaxes in the ice-kitchen

 

In we piled, and some reasonable curries and pasta dishes (and considerably better camaraderie) were enjoyed late into the bright sunlit night.

 

Good training … good fun!

 

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N-ice work!

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Change of shift

Posted by Conservators Feb 11, 2014

Author: Meg Absolon

Date: 11/02/13

 

 

What an exciting week it's been for AHT on the ice! A shift change has brought four fresh conservators to Scott Base for the winter-over season and a much anticipated home-coming for the summer conservators and carpenters. For a short time we’ve been a group of nine AHT staff at Scott Base.

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Sue, Sefanie, Aline and Meg after fuel refill, Invercargill

 

The 2014 winter-over team consists of Lead Conservator Sue Bassett (AUS), Stefanie White (IRE), Aline Leclercq (FRA) and Meg Absolon (AUS). Following a whirlwind of introductions, inductions and field skills training we're all excited and ready to unpack artefacts from Scott's Discovery Hut for conservation treatment. And just to top off a fabulous first week in Antarctica, a pod of Orcas swam past the dining room at dinner time. Thanks for the welcome!

 

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Aline, Stefanie, Meg and Sue just landed

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Mercury in a vacuum

Posted by Conservators Feb 4, 2014

Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 05/02/14

Temperature: -2C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February 2014

 


This summer I spent several days conserving the Fleuss vacuum pump found on the bench in the science corner of the Cape Evans hut. This is a hand powered single cylinder vacuum pump made of cast iron and cast brass.
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Fleuss vacuum pump before treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener


The pump would most likely have been used for drawing a vacuum in a bell jar in order to run chemical experiments at 0 pressure, or to draw chemicals through a filter system for experiments. It was made by the Pulsometer Engineering Co. of Reading, England, from a design patented by Henri Fleuss who was famous for inventing self contained diving apparatus in the late 19th century. He called this model the Geryk after the German scientist who invented the general style of vacuum pump in the 17th century.
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Makers plate © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 


The pump was heavily corroded, having been exposed to over a century of high humidity and regular freeze/thaw cycles. Most of the ironwork had been painted black at one time and part of the vacuum bulb and the pump cylinder had been painted red, however, only flaking traces of the paint remained.
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Fleuss vacuum pump after treatment © AHT/Josiah Wagener

 

Remnants of mercury in the bottom of the bulb and the valve chamber of the pump has resulted in chemical degradation amalgamation leaving some of the metal porous and crumbly. We are unsure of the purpose of the mercury, and would be interested in any knowledge our readers can give us as to its purpose within the pump.


One unfortunate side effect of contact with mercury is that the solder and brass of the vacuum bulb has become very fragile and has cracked around the base.
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Cracked bulb © AHT/Josiah Wagener


To conserve the item, the rust was reduced with hand tools and abrasive pads then the remaining rust was converted with a tannic acid solution. The resulting dark surface was coated first with acrylic lacquer and then with microcrystalline wax. A brass rod splint was fashioned to hold the cracked bulb in place.


The treated pump will resume its place on the end of the science bench, now stable and protected for many more years.
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Fleuss vacuum pump on workbench © AHT/Josiah Wagener

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Home, Sweet Home!

Posted by Conservators Dec 22, 2013

Author: Nicola Dunn

Date: 23 December 2013

 

 

 

It’s hard to believe that in early November Sy, Lizzie and I made the trip from Scott Base to our new home which is just a short walk along the beach from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans (built for the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition). Travelling in a tracked vehicle known as a Hagglund we headed out across the sea ice following the route frequently taken by members of both Scott and Shackletons expeditions around the shoreline below Mount Erebus. Behind us we pulled sledges of supplies to sustain us for 3 months, and the historic artefacts that we are returning to the hut after conservation treatment.

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The Hagglund and sledges on the sea ice outside Scott Base being prepared for the trip to Cape Evans

 

 

Our camp is basic but comfortable and we soon settled in and now feel quite at home. Whilst we each have our own tent for sleeping other areas are made up of converted freight containers towed over the ice and left on site from year-to-year. Two adjoining containers are used for cooking, eating and warming-up and the kitchen area has a diesel fired stove on which two pans are constantly melting snow for our water supply.  The views from the windows over the sea ice are spectacular.

 

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Our tents on the beach at Cape Evans with cloud formations around Mount Erebus in the background

 

 

We have all the basic staple foods for cooking and Sy has constructed an ice block freezer outside for our meat, cheese and vegetables that need to stay frozen when the temperatures edge above zero during the summer. The kitchen has a gas stove and oven, a breadmaker which I love using, and a yoghurt maker. We carefully sort and label our rubbish and the poo from the bucket in the little toilet block before sending it back to Scott Base and NZ for disposal.

 

We can communicate with the outside world by radio to Scott Base and by a satellite phone to the rest of the world.  The electricity for computers and charging batteries is provided by solar panels.

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The camp at Cape Evans with our tents in the foreground, the green accommodation containers, red and black conservation laboratory and Terra Nova hut in the far distance

 

 

Working in Scotts hut we find ourselves asking questions about the daily lives of the men that lived there, and these often echo questions asked by friends and family as they try to imagine our camp set up. If you have any questions about how we live – just ask.

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Sun set no more

Posted by Conservators Oct 31, 2013

Author: Josiah

Date: 30 October 2013

Temperature: -16.6C

Wind speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -23C

Sunrise: None. It's up all the time

Sunset: 20 February

 

I love sunsets. The setting of the sun can be serenely pretty or transcendently beautiful. I spent many years fighting forest fires and saw some truly spectacular sunsets coloured by the smoky air. Here in Antarctica the sunsets have been especially wonderful.

 

1 Early season sunset (Custom).JPGEarly season sunset over Observation Hill © Josiah

 

Each sunset down here is a treasure because there aren’t very many of them. The day that I arrived in Antarctica, 1st Sept, was the first day that the sun had peeked above the horizon in about 4 months and it quickly dipped to the first sunset of the spring.

 

2 First sun rise-set (Custom).JPGFirst sun rise/set of the summer © Josiah

 

From 1st Sept to 22nd Oct we had a series of wonderful sunsets. They can last for hours here as the sun gradually slopes down toward the horizon turning the sky from pale blues to rich oranges, yellows, and fuchsias, then gradually through pastel purples and rust hues and finally into deep indigo.

 

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Soft sunset over the sea ice © Josiah

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Sunset over Crater Hill © Josiah

 

Each sunset becomes shallower and longer as the days lengthen until eventually the sun just barely dips behind the horizon.

 

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And then it sets no more. We had our last sunset of this year on 22nd Oct. Unfortunately we had 2 days of clouds and snow on the 21st and 22nd so the technical last sunset wasn’t visible, but I did manage to get some good pictures of the sunset on the 20th.

 

7 Last Sunset (Custom).JPGLast Sunset of this year © Josiah

 

Now, although the sun no longer sets, it does sink low and traverses the Southern horizon throughout the night. For several more days, or maybe weeks, this will give us wonderful long, almost sunset shows of golden orange skies throughout the night.

 

8 Sun traversing the South (Custom).JPGThe unsetting sun traversing the southern horizon © Josiah

 

Eventually the sun will be high enough that there will be essentially no difference between night and day. Some time in February the process will reverse and the sun will gradually work its way back down to the next sunset on 20th Feb. Here at Scott Base we celebrated the final sunset of this year in grand style with the traditional Hawaiian Luau themed party.

 

9 Last Sunset Party (Custom).JPGLast sunset party © Mike

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All Change

Posted by Conservators Oct 14, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 11 October 2013

Temperature: -25C

Wind speed: 10 knots

Temp with wind chill: -37C

Sunrise: 5am

Sunset: 10.20pm

 

 

When we arrived at Scott Base, Josiah and I joined a small team of 10 people who had just spent the winter on the ice. Whilst it was busy, it was also relaxed and quiet, but suddenly it’s all change. The summer season has begun and the base population has swollen to over 50 excited people, many of whom have not been to the ice before.

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Preparing dinner in the outsoor kitchen © Issac

 

Last weekend we got to know some of the new crew as we joined them to learn Antarctic Field Skills from the specialist trainers – how to survive in the Antarctic environment, while working, having fun or in an emergency. 

 

We put together sleep kits of layers of thick sleeping bags, collected food supplies, learnt how to light camp stoves in sub-zero temperatures and discussed how to protect ourselves from frost bite. We then headed out to spend the night camping in tents similar to those used by the early Antarctic explorers.

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Breakfast time in a blizzard - warming tea, Milo and porridge © Nicola

 

That evening, after digging a kitchen area protected by snow blocks, we heated water and dined on packets of dehydrated food. When we turned in at 11pm it was still light and the weather perfectly calm. But this is Antarctica! Overnight the winds increased and in the morning we emerged from our flapping tents into near blizzard conditions. Although I’ve done field training on my two previous trips to the Ice it was always in fine conditions, so I really enjoyed experiencing some ‘real Antarctic weather’.

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Preparing to de-camp

    

Thanks to the training Josiah and I now feel confident as we make plans to head out to spend three months camping at the historic hut sites.  We are definitely looking forward to the experience. 

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It's about science

Posted by Conservators Oct 3, 2013

Life in Antarctica is and has always revolved around scientific study and discovery. When Captain Scott proposed his expedition to the South Pole in 1910 he felt that the primary purpose of the expedition was scientific study. He commented in his journals that if they reached the pole then people would pay attention to their scientific research. If they failed to reach the pole then their expedition, with all of its discoveries, would be largely ignored.

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Wilson and Bowers check the thermometer on the ramp. 7 June 1911 © Scott Polar Institute

 

Today science is still the driving reason for work in Antarctica. The American McMurdo station is run by the National Science Foundation and New Zealand’s Scott Base, run by Antarctica New Zealand, is used primarily as a staging area and support base for a variety of scientific projects each year. Now, as then, much of the research done on this continent is environmental study. Researchers here study the movement of the Polar ice sheets, particulate concentrations in the upper atmosphere, air and water temperatures, weather patterns over the polar region, biology of the marine life, and any number of other subjects that may have subtle but wide reaching implications for the world in general.

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Mike and Tim check the thermometer on the ice. © Josiah Wagener

 

As a part of that research, the staff here at Scott Base periodically measure the thickness and temperature of the sea ice in this arm of the Ross Sea. A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to join Scott Base staffers Mike and Tim for an evening trip to check on one of the sea ice probes in the bay. We travelled about 25 kilometres by Hagglund to reach a small instrument table anchored far out in the middle of the ice. Without a GPS it would be difficult indeed to find this one speck in the middle of the vast white flat. They downloaded the recording from the array of thermometers buried through the depth of the ice, changed the batteries in the device, then drilled a new hole to check the current thickness of the ice and of  the layer of soft ice crystals forming on the underside of the sheet.

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Drilling a hole to measure ice thickness. © Josiah Wagener

As we left the remote site we had a beautiful view of sunlight piercing through the clouds onto one of the glaciers that feed ice into this sea.

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Sunlight on mountains and glacier © Josiah Wagener

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Scaling the Castle

Posted by Conservators Sep 26, 2013

Yesterday evening the AHT team, along with a few other intrepid explorers under the guidance of the expert Mike Rowe, climbed Castle Rock, a prominent landmark on this peninsula which was often mentioned by the early explorers. Castle Rock is a reddish volcanic plug standing up sheer from the top of the ridge of the peninsula.

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Castle Rock prominent on the ridge line between Scott Base and Mt. Erebus © AHT/Josiah

 

We rode a Hagglund snow vehicle out about 3 miles to the base of the rock, then climbed around the side to the top in time to watch another fantastic sunset. The view from the top of the castle is stunning. The mighty volcanos Erebus and Terror, which form the backbone of Ross Island, dominate the eastern horizon.

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Mt. Erebus and Mt. Terror from Castle Rock © AHT/Josiah

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The conservators atop the Castle © AHT/Josiah

 

To the south is the ice barrier and White and Black Islands. To the west, the ridge tapers off to where Scott Base and McMurdo sit on either side of Observation Hill on the edge of the frozen sea. Across that sea Discovery Peak dominates a jagged range of mountains and glaciers that hold back the ice of the Antarctic plateau. To the north, we looked toward Cape Evans where we will be spending most of our summer, and beyond it to distant Cape Royds where some open water is showing beyond the edge of the sea ice.

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Cape Evans, Cape Roys and Delbridge Islands © AHT/Josiah

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Sunset over the Royal Society Range © AHT/Josiah

 

As the sun abruptly set behind the western mountains this tableau turned to gold, to fuchsia, and to plum.

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Mt. Erebus as the sun sets © AHT/Josiah

The ever whistling wind stung our cheeks and noses but it was hard to tear ourselves away from the spectacular view to hike back down to the Hagglund to return to our comfortable Scott Base. I hope that we may find another opportunity to go up to Castle Rock, but as the days rapidly lengthen I doubt if we will have another chance to see a sunset from up there again this year.

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Catching the Hagglund home © AHT/Josiah

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Under Pressure

Posted by Conservators Sep 20, 2013

Author: Nicola

Date: 18 September 2013

Temperature: -21C

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Sunrise: 7.10

Sunset: 18.30

 

 

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Heading for a walk amoung the pressure ridges © Josiah

 

The pond in the village where I grew up would occasionally freeze over in winter and, with my head filled with images of polar explorers, I always wanted to walk onto its thin, enticing shell of ice.  So, this evening it was a great thrill to be able to step from the land in front of Scott Base and onto the 2m thick sea ice.

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The moon rising above the jagged silhouttes of the broken ice © Nicola

 

I was heading out to explore the extraordinarily beautiful features known as the pressure ridges.  Formed as the ice is squashed up against the land during winter these jagged walls of ice are slowly forced up into strange, distorted, awe-inspiring shapes. As the tide rises puddles of sea water appear around their base then freeze into ponds of blue ice. The shapes are never static, and over the coming months they will gradually change; fracturing, splitting and sagging under their own weight.

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A jumble of fractured sea ice and frozen ponds with Mount Erebus behind © Nicola

 

I carefully followed the safe flagged route, probing the snow in front of me with a pole, checking for new cracks in the ice. In the gloom as the sun went down I was confronted with two massive dark shapes – seals. During the summer hundreds will make their way through the cracks around the pressure ridges and come up for air. I left them peacefully relaxing on the ice and headed back to the base.

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Seals lying on the ice amoung the pressure ridge walk © Nicola

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Author: Josiah Wagener

Date: 10 September 2013

Temperature: -36.7C

Wind Speed: 8 knots

Temp with wind chill: Approx -50C

Sunrise: Around 8am

Sunset: Around 4.30pm

 

 

Greetings. This is my first trip to Antarctica so it is an all new land of wonder for me. Nicola and I joined the AHT team on the Ice just a week ago and will be taking over the blogging duties from here. We were most fortunate on our flight down to have clear skies and a plane with plenty of windows for a fabulous view.

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Sea ice from the plane

 

We crossed sea ice about half way from New Zealand.

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The Antarctic coast

 

and had our first view of the coast of Antarctica an hour or so later.

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The Victory Mountains


We passed over the spectacular Victory Mountains,

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Ross Island and the Ice


and after about 4 hours of flying had our first look at Ross Island, our home for the next 5 months. The broken pack ice meets the more stable sea ice which in turn meets the massive continental shelf ice around Ross Island.

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Arrival!


We landed on a runway scraped in the unending flat sheet of the continental ice and set foot on the Last Continent, a vast, surreal, frozen landscape, an entire continent to which no human has ever been native. We are here to tend the few fragile threads that link us to the very first people ever to inhabit this remotest of lands. But like them we will be here for only a short time before returning whence we came, leaving this continent where the icy land, sea, and sky reign majestically uncaring of the few people who come and go upon the surface.

I feel that a good adventure has begun.

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Author: Sue

 

 

We all know there are no bears in Antarctica, despite some early maps of the continent having vignettes showing polar bears here. But there’s one little chap with a very adventurous spirit who’d like to set the record straight.

 

In 1993 my childhood teddy bear, Bambino, took a trip to Antarctica … wintered-over here, in fact. I was working at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney at the time and sponsored my bear—whom I’d had since birth—to sail to Antarctica with a couple of hundred other brave bears under the capable leadership of inspirational Australian adventurers Don and Margie McIntyre. Newsletters recounting Bambino’s exciting adventures on the high seas and the ice were duly received as Bambino weathered the storms and rode out the long, cold, dark, windy months. He returned home some time later, none the worse for wear, with proud photos alongside penguins and outside an explorer’s hut. I paid his bear fare—all funds raised went to support the Camperdown Children’s Hospital in Sydney—and a good time was reportedly had by all.

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Bambino gives a wave as he mingles with a colony of Emperor penguins, 1993

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Group excursion to Mawson’s hut, 1993 (Bambino circled)

 

And so when Bambino learned I was planning to winter-over here with the Antarctic Heritage Trust this year, 20 years later, his paw shot up in an instant (although I can't help but notice that it's always up!) and he insisted on tagging along.

 

Appropriately attired and excited by the return of some semi-daylight to the continent this week, the forever-young Bambino was spotted out surfing some snow drifts around Scott Base. (And I’m not really a teddy-bear person at all, but it’s a cute little story.)

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Bambino surfs some drifts at Scott Base, 2013

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The product sells itself

Posted by Conservators Aug 23, 2013

Author: Marie

Temperature:-21

Wind speed: 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -29

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

We have been enthusiastic about conserving 100 year-old food products: the great wrappers and labels, the inventive marketing and all the types of lid, cork and sealing we discovered. Even then, companies were offering freshness, purity, expertise and the latest scientific research and up-to-date technology to put on your plate.

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An unopened egg powder carton

 

What a relief to know that 'The operations are under the supervision of a trained staff of experts with the result that important improvements are constantly being made' to your table salt composition. You can be sure that the salt in the tin is the best possible for your ‘bones, brain and nerves'. You can also rely on pickles, as they are 'recommended by the faculty of digestion'.  And, indeed, some of the food is beautifully preserved and looks incredibly fresh.

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Some of the sales pitches

 

But, the top of the range was reached last week by egg powder in cardboard cartons, both for its persuasive sales pitch and actual quality. It is 'not a substitute but pure eggs without shell or moisture', in a new-style patented cardboard carton!  I'm not trying to sell the product, but even the most damaged carton (the one we had to open, sample and empty since it was leaking its contents) was in incredibly good condition. 

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The actual pure fresh hens eggs in powder form

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Leaflet detailing conditions of use

 

The leaflet inside was in such brilliant condition that our loud and repetitive 'Oh! My! Gosh!' made our colleague in the next office rush in to check if everything was alright with us.  And, that was the very last artefact I had the chance to conserve at Scott Base before leaving the ice - lucky me!

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Leaving a mark

Posted by Conservators Aug 20, 2013

Author: Stefanie    

Date: 20 August 2013

Temperature: -15.3

Wind speed: 12 knots

Temp with wind chill: -45

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

 

Andrew Keith Jack, part of the Ross Sea Party, owned a yellow oiled jacket and slept in the same bottom bunk bed as Thomas Griffith Taylor had in 1911 in the Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans. We know this because his name is inscribed with the same hand on both: 'A K Jack' has been written in thick bold letters on the inner collar of the yellow jacket and on the wall beside the bunk in the Hut. Thomas Griffiths Taylor also wrote his initials at the same bunk. The names on the walls continue to mark a presence, promoting historical value. 

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A K Jack's yellow oiled jacket

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A K Jack's mark in bunk

 

For most, wintering over in the Antarctic is a once in a lifetime opportunity and therefore leaving ones mark behind can be significant and meaningful. At Scott Base we cannot write our names on the walls beside our beds or leave our belongings behind when we depart. Rather, we leave behind a mark in the form of a winter-over photo, which depicts each member of our 2013 winter-over team and hangs on the winter-over wall of fame.

 

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Winter-over wall of fame

 

With the ever increasing light on the horizon, we can see the end of winter and anticipate the first sun rise, flight and fresh food with great excitement. But we must also prepare to say our farewells and leave. Last Wednesday, we celebrated our last supper together as a team and the following day Stefan and Marie left us. It is oddly reassuring that they remain with us in the form of floating heads in the 2013 winter-over photo…

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The meat packing district

Posted by Conservators Aug 12, 2013

Author: Stefan

Date: 12 August 2013

Temperature: -20C

Wind speed: 11 knots

Temp with wind chill: -32C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A

 

Working as a team to conserve and restore Bower's Annex, is extremely challenging. Making sense of the mass of wood and its brooding contents often has us scratching our heads. Recently Jaime arrived at the door to my cage (working area) and 'gifted' me a piece of timber. Neither from a Venesta nor a Coleman's solid timber box, the section of wood, would now become an object, and my responsibility to conserve. Jaime had noticed it had some semi-legible bleached print on the surface, where the original paint had eroded away.

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Piece of loose timber, suspected to be from a mutton packing crate © AHT/Stefan

 

After perusing the print again and again, the "From Tho#,  Bor###### & Sons" led me to see if a company called Thomas Borthwick & Son's was registered at the time. By a stroke of luck one of my searches led to a brilliant history of frozen meat suppliers in Australia and New Zealand.

 

http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-Cyc06Cycl-t1-body1-d2-d23-d20.html

 

It appears most likely the section of wood came from a packing crate containing frozen mutton. There are many accounts in the mens’ diaries as they set sail from Christchurch on the Terra Nova of mutton dinners and the gifted carcasses from the Lyttleton community that hung from the rigging.

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Mutton carcass in Discovery Hut's store room © AHT/Stefan

 

There is still 2 freeze dried sides of mutton that reside in a store room at Discovery hut: although butchery styles and size/maturity of mutton will be similar the world over, it's spooky the similarity between the carcass at Discovery hut, and those hung in the Tomoana Freezer Works in Napier, New Zealand.

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Tomoana Freezer works, Napier, New Zealand

 

Thomas Borthwick & Sons are still trading today in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, and are still very much in the meat business.  Sadly however, both then and now, there is no spring Welsh lamb in Antarctica, a far superior beast, especially on the plate.

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