Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gearing to Go

An early rise this morning to make my flight down to Christchurch, where I was to undergo the final steps of preparation, before departing to “the ice”. Upon arrival I was met by AHT (Antarctic Heritage Trust) administrator Karen Clarke with the news that our flight south had been bumped back a day to the twelfth, due to a backlog in cargo needing to be delivered to Scott Base. Although slightly disappointing it is not a huge setback in the scheme of things.

My adventure down on the ice will last approximately five weeks as I work alongside the AHT on conservation and repairs of Sir Earnest Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod’ hut at Cape Royds (about a two hour hagglund drive over temporary sea-ice from Scott Base on the Ross Island). Being so far away from any established base I will be enjoying the authentic Antarctic experience of staying a short distance from the hut in a tent similar those used by the explorers of the heroic-age of Antarctic exploration. The AHT team being deployed this summer consists of eight others all of whom are highly experienced and knowledgeable in their specialised professions, from carpentry project managers to artifact conservers and furniture specialists. Their backgrounds are varied with a mixture of Kiwis, British and Canadians on the team. So far, of the team of ten I have met Martin, Jamie (Jam), Randy and the project manager and twelve season Antarctic veteran Al Fastier. All of these men will stay on the icy continent for the duration of the New Zealand summer, later working on Scott’s ‘Terra Nova’ hut, with Martin and a few others “Wintering Over” at Scott Base.

The next port of call in Christchurch was The Antarctica New Zealand store room where we were fitted out with all the cold weather gear needed. A good amount of time was spent ensuring the clothing was a proper fit, a must in such harsh conditions! This included three jackets, eleven pairs of gloves (on top of the two pairs I brought with me) thermals, hats, polar-fleece layers, insulated overalls, tough waterproof trousers, merino tops, glasses, a “bunny suit” and two pairs of tough outdoor boots. All of this gear is designed to give different options of layering for different weather situations. Apparently the gear is good enough to stand up to -50 degrees C (any colder and you wouldn’t be outside), pretty amazing stuff!

Following the fit out Paul Woodgate gave us our departure briefing along with a quick lesson on the geography of Scott Base. A lunch at the Antarctic visitor centre followed, giving a break in the day’s events. This afternoon Al made a presentation to the AHT team at hand, outlining the work to be done this summer at Cape Royds and Cape Evans. To supplement this information he went into some detail as to the work the AHT has completed in previous seasons at the historic huts. It is truly amazing to see the progress of the AHT’s work since it was established in 1987. The passion, drive, forward thinking and sheer determination behind the Trusts efforts really ring true when you see evidence of the work done through rigorous processes and strict timelines. With all four historic huts in Antarctica being listed on the 100 most endangered sites on earth list in 2008 the importance of this work is plain to see. It is an
honour to be a part of such an exciting project on behalf of the Sir Peter Blake Trust, as the Antarctic Youth Ambassador.

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