Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ice Excavation

Having spent the best part of a week attached to the other end of a jackhammer or similar tool, I am moving jobs. Shackleton's hut was elavated about 300-450mm from the ground using piles. Over the years with the gradual weathering of the hut there has been a mass of ice accumulation underneath the floor. Although the mass of ice is not as bad as it once was (due to some intervention by the AHT in 2007, where they famously discovered Shackleton's hidden whiskey stash) there is still an estimated 12 cubic meters of ice still needing removal.

Kitted out in thermals, a bunny suit and waders I got to work with J.T and AI. As you can imagine, with very little crawl space breaking off and removing the ice is a big team effort. Breaking the ice away was awkward as well as quite exhausting at times, especially pushing the ice out, often on our stomachs pushing it with our hands. However there have been some exciting moments under the hut. In our excavation of the ice we came across a number of artefacts, perhaps for the first time in over a century (I put this down to wearing our lucky red socks from the Sir Peter Blake Trust). Amongst these artefacts was an axe with label in-tact, some rusted up tins and what appears to be some old custard powder. Quite interesting stuff, particularly now they have thawed out in the sun and the conservation team is restoring some of the items, from what appears in some cases to be utter disrepair.

All the while as I work away around and under the hut there have been some interesting happenings outside the hut. Some of the AHT team has been extracting old boxes from the stables area. A difficult job as wind-blown scoria over the years has deteriorated the boxes as well as burying them below ground level. It does however make for interesting finds, including a jug and leather horse strapping.

One thing that stands out working for the AHT is the value of good preparation and a great team environment. The individual skill of every team member along with an open minded approach makes for an incredibly efficient and effective machine, one which I am learning plenty from.

Outside of work hours we have taken to going for group walks. Today the weather was as close to tropical as Antarctica has to offer. We walked along the coast to Horseshoe Bay (with Cape Bird off in the distance). It was intriguing to find a few patches of lichen growing in a few places. Any fauna in a place as inhospitable as Antarctica must be incredibly robust to survive! Not long after that we found a family of seals relaxing on the ice-pack. Amongst these was a noisy pup that kept crying out and playing with its mother (penguins were all sure to stay clear as they navigated the pack-ice for the sea). The views were breathtaking in every direction. I still find it hard to believe how lucky I am to experience this magnificent landscape, but also how important it is that we continue to protect it.


Val clarke said...

Great to see you enjoying work and play, love the red socks!
Friends and family are avid readers of your blogs and hang out for updates.
You describe and illustrate your adventure so well we all can share it with you.
Take care
xx Val

David J said...

Were you allowed to make some cold jelly and custarrrd with that custarrrd powder you found?

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