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New finds from Scott’s historic base

Media Release

25 August 2005


New finds from Scott’s historic base

Display on at Canterbury Museum
Friday 26 August to Wednesday 30 November 2005

Recently discovered relics from Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful final expedition highlight the perilous state of one of the world’s leading heritage sites, according to the experts who brought them back from the Ice.

The items, a backpack and pony hood, were excavated as the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s conservation team battled earlier this year to shift tonnes of snow and ice that had built up on and around Scott’s historic Cape Evan’s hut, collapsing part of the stables roof.

Antarctic Heritage Trust Director Nigel Watson, part of the team, says the relics are a fantastic addition to the collection of artefacts preserved from the period, but the dramatic nature of their discovery underscores the increasing threat to the historic Antarctic huts.

“Finding the items, from Scott’s final Antarctic expedition base was a stroke of wonderful luck,” says Nigel Watson.

“The fact that they were excavated while our conservation team was literally digging the stables out to effect temporary repairs from snow damage serves to highlight the increasing pressure the hostile Antarctic environment is putting on the legacy of the heroic age.”

During the 2004/05 Antarctic Season the Trust’s team of conservation carpenters, archaeologists and conservators started the implementation of the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project at the Antarctic historic huts of the heroic era (1898 – 1917). While clearing Scott’s Cape Evans hut of ice and debris, archaeologist Dr Neville Ritchie dug up a bound canvas backpack and pony hood. The items had been trapped in situ in ice since the earliest days of Antarctic exploration.

The finds have been conserved and will be on display in Canterbury Museum’s Foyer over Spring, from Friday 26 August to Wednesday 30 November 2005.

“The items date from Scott's second expedition, the British Antarctic Terra Nova Expedition, which was based at Cape Evans,” said Natalie Cadenhead, Canterbury Museum’s Curator of Antarctic and Canterbury Social History.

“The backpack may have been used during short excursions on foot to collect scientific specimens. Inside the front pocket of the backpack is an unlabelled corked bottle containing an unidentified substance.”

The canvas pony hood is believed to be an experimental face mask to prevent snow blindness. There are a number of references in Scott’s diary as to how the expedition ponies suffered considerably with snow blindness. This is the only example of a hood, and it is unknown if the item was ever used.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust sent the items to independent conservator Tracey Wedge for conservation treatment to remove salt remnants and to stabilise the objects. Conservation treatment took about three months.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust intends to return these two items to the Cape Evans Hut following their exhibition at Canterbury Museum once the environmental conditions in the hut are more favourable.

ENDS

Antarctic Heritage Trust

The Antarctic Heritage Trust, formed in 1987, is dedicated to the conservation of Sir Earnest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott’s buildings in Antarctica. The Trust’s Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project to save these sites for future generations was launched in Antarctica in 2002 by HRH Princess Anne.

The project was launched in response to progressively losing the battle to save these valuable heritage sites and is supported by the New Zealand Government, Antarctica New Zealand, the World Monuments Fund, and The Getty.

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