Summer Conservation Season Complete
The Trust’s On-Ice Conservation team spent seven weeks in Antarctica undertaking a comprehensive monitoring and maintenance programme on the historic Ross Island explorer bases of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and Sir Edmund Hillary. The team, led by Lizzie Meek, the Trust’s Collections Conservation Manager, included Lead Conservator Jane Hamill, Conservator Megan Absolon, Lead Heritage Carpenter Zack Bennett, and Conservation Support Lachie Cromar.
“With a short season and an intensive work programme, we were fortunate to have skilled and experienced team members Zack, Jane and Meg, and the energy of our first time Antarctican Lachie,” says Lizzie.
In addition to the annual monitoring and maintenance programme for each historic site, artefacts that had undergone stabilisation treatments by the Trust’s On- Ice Conservators during Winter 2022 were returned to the sites: 574 artefacts were returned to Shackleton’s Nimrod hut and 399 returned to Scott’s Terra Nova hut, including pony snowshoes and tack from the stables, and an expedition medical kit.
“Returning the conserved artefacts after a mammoth Winter conservation project was particularly rewarding for the team,” says Lizzie.
While at Scott’s Terra Nova hut the team worked on an archaeological site survey and recorded details of artefacts newly visible this season due to low levels of snow accumulation; these included a husky skeleton, a New Zealand Railways tarpaulin, a dog collar, and a pony blanket. “Our Lead Conservator Jane, who holds an additional degree in Archaeology, focused all her time at Cape Evans on documenting the many new finds in detail. Using our Draft Site Archaeological guidelines, we will be adding this information to our GIS records and looking at possibilities for ongoing stabilisation and monitoring,”said Lizzie.
To manage liquid blubber from the blubber stack in the Western Annex as it mobilises during the warmest summer weather, the team installed flashings to direct liquid blubber run off, a perforated sheet metal filter, and a sump box to catch the run off.
Lead Heritage Carpenter Zack Bennett says, “A growing problem with the blubber stack is the increasing oil run-off. In 2011 a timber bund was installed to try and contain the seeping blubber oil and prevent it from leaking into the walkway in the Western Annex and entrance to the Stables. Over the last several years this bund has required emptying each season and it has been regularly overflowing. Our work this season will make the liquid blubber oil easier to manage.”
At Shackleton’s Nimrod hut at Cape Royds the team continued conservation work started last season on the Venesta box stack positioned along the southern wall of the hut, checking, consolidating, and removing any deteriorated food products.
To reduce the amount of melt water and ice flows entering the subfloor of the hut, the box stack was moved 700mm away from the southern wall of the hut, enabling the south wall to breathe and dry out. Ice build up was also removed from under the hut.
Work was also undertaken to repair and reinstate a damaged chimney flue and rigging. Zack Bennett says, “Last winter was remarkably stormy with many high wind events. During a winter storm, two of the hemp rope stays that hold the chimney snapped causing the chimney to fall. Both the remaining section protruding through the roof and the section that broke off were left with large dents. We used a small hydraulic jack, a mandrel we fabricated onsite, and panel beating hammers to work the dented flue back into shape before lifting the chimney back into position and securing with new hemp rope, copper, and wire rope stays.”
Additional work at Cape Royds included repairs to damaged hessian on the fodder bales located along the north wall of the stable. The hessian gradually degrades as a result of light damage, penguin guano and abrasive scoria, and is periodically replaced.
While on Ross Island, the team also inspected the Observation Hill Memorial Cross and Vince’s Cross and rationalised and packed a large quantity of Trust equipment and supplies to be returned to New Zealand during Antarctica New Zealand’s Scott Base Rebuild Project.
The Trust extends its thanks to Antarctica New Zealand for their logistical support throughout the season and to the United States Antarctic Program for their support of the team’s work at Hut Point Peninsula.
Conservator Megan Absolon (left) and Lead Conservator Jane Hamill return artefacts to Shackleton’s Nimrod hut after undergoing stabilisation treatments by the Trust’s On-Ice Conservators during Winter 2022. © AHT/Lizzie Meek
“Returning the conserved artefacts after a mammoth Winter conservation project was particularly rewarding for the team.”
The box stack along the south wall of Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod’ hut, now sitting 700mm away from the hut wall. © AHT/Lizzie Meek
L-R: Zack Bennett and Lachie Cromar reinstate the chimney flue on top of Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod’ hut. © AHT/Jane Hamill
Megan Absolon undertakes solubility tests on the stove in Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod’ hut for the purpose of informing future treatment options. © AHT/Jane Hamill