This season as part of their work on the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project a team also travelled 750 km north of Scott Base to Cape Adare. The required conservation equipment was secured for the future conservation of Borchgrevink’s 1898 British Antarctic Expedition huts. Read the Cape Adare update.
Many of us are familiar with the need to undertake regular maintenance on our own homes so they don’t fall into a state of disrepair as they are exposed to weather throughout the seasons. Imagine then how buildings fare in Antarctica.
Caring for five historic expedition bases at Ross Island, Antarctica means a regular monitoring and maintenance programme is critical due to the harsh weather conditions and the age and construction of the buildings.
Once the initial major ‘conservation phase’ of each heroic-era base and Hillary’s (TAE/IGY) Hut on Ross Island was completed, an annual monitoring and maintenance programme was developed by Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Each summer the Trust undertakes this programme of maintenance checking the historic buildings for winter storm damage and rectifying issues identified before they become more serious. This includes removing snow from around the buildings before it accumulates and turns to ice. It also includes monitoring the building’s interior micro-climate and condition of the extensive artefact collection.
A team of four travelled to Ross Island in November to implement the annual monitoring and maintenance programme for the expedition bases. Joining the Trust’s Programme Manager Al Fastier was returning contractor Nicola Stewart (Conservator), the Trust’s General Manager Operations and Communications Francesca Eathorne and Executive Director Nigel Watson.
As part of the Ross Island annual inspection programme a rigging cable on Nimrod hut, Cape Royds was found to be broken. An emergency repair was undertaken and a survey of the remainder of the rigging completed. This information will allow an historically correct repair to be undertaken next season.
Nigel, Al and Nicola have spent many seasons working at these sites; however it was Francesca’s first trip to Antarctica. She enjoyed learning first-hand about the conversation project with the wealth of experience and knowledge on the team.
Francesca says, “Assisting the conservation team with the monitoring and maintenance tasks gave me a deep appreciation for the level of dedication and patience required when working within these delicate sites.”
Working so closely with the buildings and their thousands of artefacts I had the privilege of noticing the small details that I felt make these sites so poignant – things like the fine stitching on the fur sleeping bags, a toothbrush worn down at the handle, a hot water bottle and socks hanging in Scott’s cubicle (similar to what I brought in my kit). The everyday things that contrast to the stories of courage and hardship that inspire us today.”
Overall it was a very successful summer season completing the annual programme and undertaking the required repairs. The historic huts were left structurally sound and weather tight ready to endure another Antarctic winter in isolation.