As the year crawls to its inevitable end and we turn our thoughts to Christmas, it is important to keep things in perspective as the trials of the season also begin to appear. Usually, these occur doing the early stages of Christmas travel. The trips we so eagerly planned mid-year start becoming a reality as we hit the waterways, roads and airways for the ‘break’ we have been anticipating. Somehow in our planning, we conveniently forget the crowded Pacific Highway or the moorings that are hard to secure in our favourite ‘secret’ bay. The airport queues seem longer this year and we are again surprised that so many other people seem to have had the same idea as us. No matter what tales of Christmas travel woe you’ve endured this season, rest assured, someone has had it worse than you. In fact in 1911 a journey was undertaken that became known as ‘The Worst Journey in the World’.
I had the privilege of documenting and registering the museum’s recently acquired collection of 184 glass lantern slides and 107 positive transparencies by Herbert Ponting, Charles Reginald Ford and others who documented Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13 and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16.
Antarctica, a place I dream of exploring, but like so many of us, it seems so out of reach. That’s why I can’t wait to for the exhibition Elysium Antarctic Visual Epic to open at the museum this Saturday.
The exhibition follows a team of 57 explorers from 18 countries that set out on a unique scientific and artistic expedition to Antarctica in 2010 to document the environment and record any evidence of climate change. Continue reading
I have always been an avid reader, the type of kid that disappeared at Christmas to read the books left by Santa or being told turn off the light and sneaking a torch under the covers just to read just a little bit more.
As I have gotten older my love of a good story hasn’t waned, just adjusted to my busier life so it takes an extraordinary tale to keep me turning the pages late into the night. It really doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I work in a museum surrounded by thousands of stories.
One adventure that has recently kept me up to the wee small hours is Shackleton’s boat journey written by a New Zealand ship’s captain FA Worsley, originally published in 1940. The most incredible thing about this book was that it was a factual account of the Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica, and the journey undertaken to save the lives of his men after the ship Endurance became stuck and crushed in the ice in the Wendell Sea on his way to Antarctica.
If I had been given the narrative without knowing a little of the background, I would have thought it was an amazing story full of heroism, determination and leadership. However, as part of my research the book provided a compelling and valuable insight as to conditions the men endured. Written today, editors would have labelled it not believable and a work of fantasy, nobody could survive in the conditions they endured (certainly not me, give me a tropical island any day). But of course, just to prove my thinking wrong, Australian environmental scientist and adventurer Tim Jarvis and his team have just recreated the sea and land crossing Shackleton undertook in his traditional gear.
I came across the Ernest Shackleton expedition and polar explorers late last year when I was asked to write some educational resources to support Tim’s re-creation of Shackleton’s expedition. You could say that was a fascinating process for me to explore the history of the original expedition, collaborate with Tim’s Shackleton Epic team and to have access to some of their amazing images of Antarctica. (Antarctica is now moving up on my list of places to travel to one day if I can just get around the, it’s freezing issue).
I’m conscious of not spoiling the whole story to those uninitiated with the tale and to always leave your audience wanting more, I will finish here with a link to Shackleton Epic webpage. For teachers interested in the education resources they can be found on the museum’s teacher resources webpage.
Out of those entries we have a winner! Congratulations Nicole!
Nicole came to see Scott’s Last Expedition with her boyfriend and his parents, who were visiting Sydney. Nicole and her boyfriend are frequent visitors to the museum, so were thrilled to find out she’d won.
Nicole is 25 years old and works locally in Pyrmont. She likes to travel and recently came home from a holiday in South-East Asia, so is really excited that she now has another holiday coming up to plan for.
The prize she won is a Junior Suite for two people on the ‘Scott and Shackleton’s Antarctica – Ross Sea’ expedition from Orion Expeditions, departing 25 January 2013 (valued at just under $60,000). This voyage covers some of the polar regions famously charted during the first race to the South Pole by pioneering explorers Scott and Shackleton 100 years ago. Nicole will voyage across the Ross Sea coast which extends from the ice shelf northwards until it reaches the very tip of Victoria Land and Cape Adare. The trip will also take in the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island with its large colonies of penguins and elephant seals and Campbell Island. Having seen the recreation of the hut in the museum’s exhibition Scott’s Last Expedition, Nicole will have the opportunity to visit the real hut at Cape Evans as well as Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds.
Nicole’s first question when she found out was what she needed to pack!
Of course the next question is: Who will you take with you Nicole? I know of a certain ‘someone’ who would love to go to Antarctica…*wink* *wink*
Scott’s Last Expedition is now open at the Natural History Museum, London until 2 September 2012. It will then travel to the Canterbury Museum, NZ. It was developed through a collaboration between Natural History Museum, Canterbury Museum and Antarctic Heritage Trust NZ.
We have a visitor at the museum! Whale research vessel Whale Song arrived last Thursday and will be moored at the museum wharves until 21 January.
On Thursday, I went onboard to have a look around. During my visit I met Curt and Michelle who live and research on the vessel with their daughter and two professional crew… Oh, and Skipper their fiesty little watch dog! Curt and Michelle generously showed me around the vessel and told me about their facsinating whale research.
I learnt that Whale Song is an ice class research vessel specifically built to conduct whale research throughout the worlds’ oceans. Her hull and machinery are sound dampened so that whale songs can be heard using towed acoustic arrays (a series of underwater microphones) while the vessel is underway. She may be one of the few vessels, besides navy submarines, that was ever designed to operate silently like this. She has forward searching sonar and military spec night vision cameras (which we tested out, but no whales in Darling Harbour!) for locating whales in the most challenging conditions from the tropics to the poles.
Curt also showed me the impressive three dimensional real time bottom mapping software that allows scientists onboard to map canyons and seamounts where they find whales.
Most recently the team have completed the second season of a five year program funded by US oil and gas giants known as the Joint Industry Partners. The project operated from Perigian Beach to the Queensland Sunshine Coast and examined the behavioural affects of seismic air guns on migrating humpback whales. Prior to that, Whale Song was in the Kimberley region measuring blubber thickness with stereo cameras set up on her gimballed 12m boom crane and applying satellite tags to northbound humpback whales off Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef.
After a brief stop in Sydney, Whale Song will head south around the bottom of Australia, studying pygmy blue whales, killer whales and sperm whales enroute to Fremantle where she will finish her first circumnavigation of Australia. The following months will be spent satellite tagging blue whales and humpback whales in preparation for an expedition to the Antarctic in the summer of 2012/2013.
Whale Song can be viewed from the museum wharves until 21 January.
For more information about Whale Song and the Centre for Whale Research, visit their website.
P.S Check out pics from my visit on Flickr.
Author: John Kemister, Antarctic Heritage Trust NZ Conservator
These two interesting objects from Scott’s Terra Nova base at Cape Evans have been conserved at the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s conservation lab at New Zealand’s Scott Base ready for return to the hut in the summer.
The first is a well made double sheave pulley block that could have been utilised either on the ship Terra Nova, or in other situations where additional lifting or pulling force was required. The assembly consists of two galvanized pulley wheels mounted in a wooden block. A spliced steel wire bridle, wrapped with tarred rope, supports the block and connects it via a steel thimble to the hook. This bridle is held tightly around the block and thimble with tarred choker wrapping.
The second object is a remnant from an identical block, consisting only of the wrapped steel wire bridle, a distorted thimble and the remains of a fractured hook.
While working on conserving these it was interesting to conjecture (and unless historic records provide a clue it will only be conjecture) what task Scott’s men were performing when this damage occurred.
If only it could talk.
John is Australian and is currently working as a Conservator over summer for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. To follow what he and the rest of the team are working on to conserve Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s heroic era base at Cape Evans, and to experience a slice of life on the Ice, visit the conservators’ permanent blog on the Natural History Museum website.
Read more guest blog posts from the Antarctic Heritage Trust:
Conservation in Antarctica
Antarctica’s first bicycle
The Australian National Maritime Museum thanks Antarctic Heritage Trust NZ and Natural History Museum London for their recent guest blog posts in celebration of Scott’s Last Expedition, here at the museum until 16 October 2011.
Our current exhibition from London – Scott’s Last Expedition – has given me the opportunity to check out our own Antarctic collection to see what we have. And we have a surprising amount of material relating to Antarctic exploration covering some four centuries. It includes maps and charts, including an Ortelius view published in the 16th century, a 1714 view of the southern hemisphere, and one that shows the 1870s Challenger expedition of 1872-1875 which was a scientific expedition funded by the British Admiralty and the Royal Society. It made many discoveries that laid the foundation of modern oceanography and was named after the expedition ship HMS Challenger – which had been deployed to the Australia Station at one time. One of the Space Shuttles was named Challenger in honour of this expedition.
The collection also houses engravings of the usual suspects associated with southern voyaging including Magellan and Cook and a wonderful map with Cook’s three voyages which dates to 1784 and includes “other modern voyages”. And what collection would be complete without Cook’s two volume publication “A Voyage towards the South Pole and Round the World performed in His Majesty’s Ships the Resolution and Adventure”?
Something quite different is the artwork for a costume designed by Frances Rouse for the play ‘Counting Icebergs’, about the life of Captain James Cook’s wife, Elizabeth. It has a map of Antarctica and Cook’s voyages on the skirt. (see image)
As well as Cook’s books we have the first of the French contributions to Antarctic exploration – that of Dumont D’Urville’s 1837-1840 expedition which included an attempt to discover the south magnetic pole and claim it for France. It was a horrid journey for them – trapped in ice, harsh conditions on board, scurvy. They retreated to Chile to recover and had another attempt via Hobart. This time they crossed the Antarctic Circle, saw one of the US Exploring Expedition Ships and, incredibly, hurried away. And speaking of the US expedition – the 1838-1842 voyage led by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes – we have the volumes published by this exploration and survey expedition of the Pacific Ocean. The museum also commissioned two models to be made relating to the US expedition – the Flying Fish and Wilkes’s flagship the Vincennes.
Robert Falcon Scott is of course one of the names synonymous with Antarctic exploration and we have two published volumes from his first British Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904 – which included an attempt at reaching the South Pole. The relief voyages are also important to document and the Morning made two voyages to resupply Scott’s expedition in 1902 and then in 1903. One of the officers – Gerald Doorly – published a lively account of his time on the ship.
A second French expedition was undertaken in 1908-1910, under the command of Jean-Baptiste Charcot. It was his second expedition to Antarctica and he also undertook nine North Pole expeditions. The name of his ship was the Pourquoi-pas?– the Why-Not? The expedition charted some 1,250 miles of coastline, took 3,000 photographs, wrote 28 volumes of scientific data and during winter did courses in grammar, English, geography and first aid to pass the time. The ship had a library of some 1,500 volumes – they were certainly prepared to winter over! Our Antarctic collection includes a published account – in French – of the expedition.
Certainly the most talked about expedition was Scott’s second and fatal Terra Nova expedition of 1910-1913 when the Norwegian Roald Amundsen beat him to the prize of being first to the South Pole. Herbert Ponting was the first professional photographer to be taken on any Antarctic expedition and he recorded the voyage south on the Terra Nova and became a member of the shore party. Ponting took black and white and colour photographic stills, and recorded short clips, becoming one of the first to use a movie camera and to take colour photographs in Antarctica. A number of his more famous photographs were reprinted using the original glass plate negatives and we acquired a fine selection of them. We also recently acquired a series of 35 stereoscopic cards that featured different aspects of Scott’s expedition, especially the second western party to Cape Geology. (see image)
The other great Antarctic story is that of the crushing of the Endurance and Ernest Shackleton’s remarkable journey to safety and eventual rescue – all caught on camera superbly by Frank Hurley. Again, his original negatives were used to produce some fine reprints and have added nicely to our collection. Shackleton’s great leadership skills and survival against all odds was used in many ways – including a pamphlet encouraging Australians to enlist in WWI.
The collection covers more than the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Hubert Wilkins is relatively unheralded but was a major star in his time. This South Australian was a polar explorer, pilot, soldier, geographer, war photographer and ornithologist. In his latter guise he joined the Shackleton-Rowett expedition on the Quest in 1921-1922.
The Royal Australian Navy has been involved with the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions as early as 1947 with the landing ship HMAS Labuan taking the first contingent to Heard Island. Sailing on this ship was described as “a caterpillar in motion, rippling from bow to stern”. A crew member kept newspaper clippings and various other ephemera relating to the voyages and these were acquired in 2002.
Philately is big in most areas, none more so that the Antarctic – especially with special air polarogrammes and First Day Covers and we have a fine selection from all the major Antarctic bases. (see image)
So you can see that we cover a broad range of Antarctic history and the good news is that we are progressively putting it up on our eMuseum site. So don’t forget to visit Scott’s Last Expedition and to also browse our collection on-line.
Lindsey Shaw, Senior Curator
Everyone here at the museum is extremely excited about our new winter exhibition Scott’s last expedition. This amazing exhibition takes over 600 square metres of our galleries and is filled to the brim with photographs, artefacts and specimens that document Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s famous expedition to the South Pole, where tragically he and four of his men lost their lives almost 100 years ago.
This unique exhibition goes beyond the fatal tale of the expedition to celebrate the achievements and scientific discoveries made by the expedition team. Among some of the impressive objects on display you will find specimens such as sea sponge (Haliciona (Gellius) rudis) collected during the expedition, still green over 100 years on; and Brittle Star (Astrotoma agassizii), a star fish that sports long flexible arms to capture prey, a species found throughout Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula.
At the centre of the exhibition is a representation of Scott’s base camp at Cape Evans. Visitors can walk inside the life-size hut and get a sense of the everyday realities for the 25 expedition members, from the cramped conditions and homeliness of the hut, to the wealth of specimens collected and experiments conducted.
This comprehensive exhibition follows the journey of Scott and his men from start to finish, and displays original artefacts, equipment, clothes and personal effects for the first time in Australia.
To commemorate the centenary of the expedition and celebrate its achievements the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand and the Antarctic Heritage Trust, New Zealand, have collaborated to create this international travelling exhibition. Australian National Maritime Museum is the premier venue for the exhibition.
Join Lindsey Shaw, ANMM senior curator, for a talk about this outstanding exhibition on Friday 12 August. For booking information, visit our website.
Exhibition now open until 16 October 2011.
Learn more about the exhibition at www.anmm.gov.au/scott