Conserving Antarctic heritage

Issue: Volume 94, Number 3

Posted: 23 February 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqZ

The Antarctic Heritage Trust, a New Zealand-based charity, leads a heritage conservation project to save the expedition bases of the early Antarctic explorers, while increasing access and understanding through its education and outreach initiatives.

The conservation project

The Antarctic Heritage Trust cares for an extraordinary legacy: five expedition bases once used by the early Antarctic explorers and more than 20,000 artefacts that they left behind including clothing, equipment and provisions.

These simple, wooden buildings built in the Ross Sea region, that served as bases to explore the Antarctic continent, feature in many tales of adventure and scientific discovery – some harrowing, all inspiring.

After a decade of extensive conservation work, unprecedented in scale and complexity, the Antarctic Heritage Trust reached a milestone this Antarctic summer. It has saved thousands of artefacts and three buildings from the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration (1895-1917) including Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition bases at Hut Point and Cape Evans, and Ernest Shackleton’s expedition base at Cape Royds.

Over the last decade the Trust’s Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project has seen 62 specialists from 11 countries operate from purpose-built conservation facilities in harsh conditions to conserve this legacy for current and future generations.

In summer conservation carpenters and artefact conservators work together in the field in 24-hour daylight, staying in pyramid-shaped tents, that are essentially the same design as those originally used by Scott’s expedition. During the dark winter months, artefact conservators have worked at New Zealand’s scientific research facility, Scott Base, conserving objects.

The project has seen the weatherproofing of the three ‘heroic era’ buildings, removal of snow and ice threatening Captain Scott’s Cape Evans hut, repairs and maintenance to each of the buildings and the insertion of systems both below and above ground to deflect and prevent water, snow and ice entering the buildings.

Meanwhile to date, conservation experts with specialities in paper, wood, textiles and metal, have conserved more than 18,000 individual objects. On the way there have been some significant new discoveries including three crates of ‘Shackleton’s whisky’ and two crates of brandy, photographic negatives and more recently George Murray Levick’s (a member of Scott’s Northern Party) photographic notebook at Cape Evans.

The Trust will now undertake conservation work at the continent’s first building at Cape Adare, and subject to securing funding, the original 1957 building at New Zealand’s Scott Base, established by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the International Geophysical Year. Meanwhile, ongoing maintenance and monitoring is in place for Scott’s and Shackleton’s buildings and their collections.

The Trust is supported in its work by the New Zealand Government through Antarctica New Zealand, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

View the film produced by the NZAHT Saving Scott’s and Shackleton’s Huts(external link)

Antarctic Heritage Trust teaching and learning resources

The Antarctic Heritage Trust’s education and outreach programme enables people to connect with the incredible stories left behind by the early polar explorers. The Trust has engaged in a number of collaborations to make the lives of the explorers more accessible, including partnering with Google and the Polar Geospatial Center to capture the interiors of the explorers’ expedition bases(external link) including Captain Scott’s base at Cape Evans and Ernest Shackleton’s base at Cape Royds using StreetView technology: 

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has also created an online resource dedicated to Captain Scott’s 1910–1913 expedition.

Scotts last expedition website(external link) is based on an award-winning touring exhibition developed by the Trust, Canterbury Museum and Natural History Museum London to commemorate the centenary of British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910-1913 expedition to Antarctica.

The online exhibition comprises three parts: a text and image– rich journey through Scott’s last expedition, a virtual tour of the exhibition as it appeared at Canterbury Museum, and a learning and discovery section.

The learning and discovery section includes teacher resources for New Zealand and Australian school teachers created by the Australian National Maritime Museum (who showed the exhibition) and Canterbury Museum. The resources support classroom teaching and independent learning. They can be used as an adjunct to the website itself, which recounts the story of Scott and his men’s experiences.

In addition the Antarctic Heritage Trust has created an interactive polar explorer game called Journey Plan for the site which involves preparing for an upcoming sledging journey.

Prepare to go sledging with the Antarctic explorers

The Journey Plan game(external link) is designed as an opportunity for students to learn more about what everyday life was like for the early polar explorers and the resources needed to be able to live and work in the harsh Antarctic environment. Students can work individually or in small groups to explore Captain Scott’s Cape Evans hut and choose objects to take with them on an upcoming sledging journey where they need to carry all their equipment, food and clothing. Students learn about self-sufficiency, planning and teamwork. The game is designed to connect with the New Zealand Curriculum social sciences achievement objectives at levels 2, 3 and 4. A teacher resource guide(external link) has been created that explains the purpose of the game, the learning outcomes and suggests additional activities.
More information on all NZAHT resources(external link)

Cool science in action

The core strand of the science learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum is the ‘Nature of Science’. It is ‘required learning for all students to Year 10’ and is the part of the curriculum that explores the ‘science way of knowing’. Through this strand, students learn what science is and how scientists work.

How can we as teachers emotionally and intellectually engage our students with experiences that develop these capabilities? In an ideal world we might immerse them in a relevant science context and have them participate as members of a research team.

That was the ambition behind ‘Cool science in action’, a LEARNZ virtual field trip (VFT) to Antarctica in 2014, provided by CORE and supported by the Ministry of Education, Antarctica New Zealand and Kelly Tarlton’s. The VFT team, like most science teachers, are developing their understanding of future-focused learning in science. On this trip the team worked with classroom teachers to create an experience to help students to be ‘ready, willing and able’ to use what they know, rather than simply ‘learning stuff’.

In the second week of November, 5,700 students ‘joined’ Professor Steve Wing’s Otago University research team at Scott Base. During the week students virtually gathered evidence to help determine how dependent the local marine ecosystem is on food sourced from sea ice. Students virtually helicoptered to Cape Bird to sample penguin guano; skidooed across the sea ice to dive huts where they sampled algae from beneath the sea ice and photographed the sea floor; set up laboratory experiments in Scott Base’s wet lab and sampled scat from a McMurdo Sound seal colony. With the Antarctic marine system responding like a sensitive barometer to climate change, students were able to see that this research had implications for their own life on planet earth.

The VFT was structured to be as inclusive as possible and support curiosity and inquiry into climate change and the Antarctic environment:

  • Online background information published using universal design for learning principles set the stage for the real time adventure.
  • Live audio conferences and real-time chat sessions allowed students to put questions to experts.
  • Five to six videos were uploaded each day.
  • Eight class ambassadors (soft toy mascots) had their own webpage.

The LEARNZ team are using the recently-published NZCER booklet Constructing your primary school’s science curriculum as a guide to structuring virtual field trips that support the five science capabilities.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:34 PM, 23 February 2015

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