Over the next six weeks I am going to be working alongside with the Antarctic Heritage Trust, helping out with their on-going projects. The Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) is a New Zealand based charity, inspiring people in discovery, adventure and endurance. Since 1987, AHT has been working on four Historic huts conserving their heritage in the extreme conditions. Lizzie Meek and Al Fastier, Programme Managers have a small team of conservators and carpenters, working together to save the expedition bases of the early Antarctic explorers. Lizzie leads a specialist team of artefact conservators working to conserve more than 20,000 objects spread between the huts while Al managers the carpenters, making sure the buildings are waterproof and structurally sound, repairing original materials and techniques wherever possible.
This summer is the 60th anniversary for Scott Base and New Zealand’s involvement in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) under the leadership of Sir Edmund Hillary. The original Scott Base was built in 1956-57, and the first hut built (known as the TAE hut or Hillary Hut) still survives and is part of the modern and much expanded Scott Base. The Antarctic Heritage Trust have taken the role of conserving New Zealand’s first indigenous building on the Antarctic continent, restoring it back to its original design. At the moment, AHT have brought in a team to remove all the asbestoses within the walls of the building before we start any work inside. This gave me a chance to work with Lizzie’s team monitoring the artefacts and ongoing maintenance at Captain Robert F. Scott’s hut at Cape Evans and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds.
Monday and Tuesday, I spent preparing with my team ready to go in the field for five days. This involved going through all our gear, including setting up our 7 tents and double checking all our equipment and making sure we had enough food and water. After settling into my new home, I started to get a feel for the routine. A normal working day at Scott Base is 8.00am - 5.00pm. We have a daily team meeting at 7.30am, followed by our daily quote of the day before heading off to complete our set tasks.
After lunch, I headed down to the AHT workshops overlooking the Weddell seals. I don’t know how anyone does any work down here, the view is so distracting. Walking around the base, you can’t help but stop and look out upon the fantastic landscape. You find yourself looking up at Mt Erebus, gazing across to the sea ice at White Island or focusing on the seals and their pups in the Pressure Ridges. My first task was to paint the roof rafters in orange, one of the original colours of the hut. My very white overalls quickly became covered in orange paint. We wrapped up the day with final checks and packing everything into the back of the Hagglund ready to go for tomorrow morning.
5.00pm came around sooner than expected and after dinner I squeezed in a trip to Scott’s Discovery Hut, on the peninsula in front of McMurdo. It was like stepping into a time capsule, where you could instantly picture yourself as part of Scott’s expedition team, returned home for the day. The hut was designed in a pyramid shape, supported by a central post. The walls were coated in black from remanences of burning seal blubber to stay warm. It is amazing to see first-hand, how the first Antarctic explorers lived and survived in these conditions. I am really looking forward to spending more time in the other huts while I am in the field.
I spent my last evening at Scott Base, walking around the pressure ridges with Damian and Jamie before heading home tomorrow. After somewhat graduating our AFT Training, this was our first time walking on the sea ice without any assistance or guiding and we were all quite proud of ourselves. My most memorable moment of the day was when we were observing the seals and very curious Weddell pup slowly crawled towards me, stopped 4m in front of my camera! I was literally walking on water all the way back to the base. Still buzzing from today, I am going to get some sleep, ready for an early start tomorrow going into the field.
BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador 2016
In October 2016, I received news from the BLAKE that my scholarship application had been successful, and I was proclaimed the Antarctic Blake Ambassador for 2016.