UK Antarctic Heritage Trust team leads Antarctic mission to preserve historic expedition base

6/12/2017

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A team of seven experienced conservators are heading to one of the most hostile places in Antarctica on a mission to save a site of significant Antarctic heritage.

We are sending a bigger team for a longer season than previous missions which highlights the complex nature of the site and the operations in this challenging environment.

The UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) project aims to safeguard a British scientific base, known as Base E, on Stonington Island off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

The group of specialists, which includes experts from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZAHT), will spend three months on the isolated island carrying out emergency repairs to the base and undertaking a detailed conservation survey to help secure the future of the site.

Base E was established in 1946 and was the centre for much of the early mapping of the Antarctic Peninsula, carried out by dog sled teams – the data is still an important source for those studying coastal change today – and has been rarely visited since its closure in 1975. The island is home to two historic bases; British Base E and the US East Base, both of which have been designated as Historic Sites under the Antarctic Treaty.

Although Stonington Island is only 0.4 miles long and 0.2 miles wide, its rocky and remote nature means that this will be one of the most complex and demanding projects for the seven-strong team, which will depart in December.

The field team includes: Joanna Hull, Project Manager; Torbjorn Opheim, Camp Manager; Michael Powell, Conservation Carpenter; Geoff Cooper, Conservation Carpenter; Al Fastier, NZAHT Heritage Programme Manager; Lizzie Meek, NZAHT Artefacts Conservator; and Nathan Fenney, BAS Photogrammetry Consultant.

The island was the expedition base of the famous polar explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs in 1948 and has a notoriously perilous past - from a specialist tractor falling though the ice and a forced aircraft landing, to a dramatic crevasse rescue, which earned a George Medal. Many of the men stationed there throughout its history are still with us and memories, diaries and photographs have played a vital role in the background research in the preparation of the project.

Camilla Nichol, Chief Executive of Cambridge-based UKAHT said: “We are sending a bigger team for a longer season than previous missions which highlights the complex nature of the site and the operations in this challenging environment.

“The current base is a steel-framed hut and was the first two-storey building to be erected on the continent. The team will be carrying out essential repairs to reduce snow ingress into this historical structure to slow down the decay and protect key original artefacts.

“Images will be taken to create a 3D model of the building to capture the interior and exterior of the base and there will also be a comprehensive conservation and sampling survey of the site.

"This work paves the way for a long-term monitoring and maintenance programme for the site to ensure its long terms survival along with the five other historic sites in our care.”

As well as demonstrating how the UK is leading the way in the management of Antarctic heritage, the team hopes this critical work will help to ensure the long-term care of this historic site so that future generations can learn from, and enjoy, this remarkable part of our world.

You can follow the team’s progress of the trip by following #StoningtonDiairies on social media and via the UKAHT website at http://www.ukaht.org/discover/conservation/stonington-diaries/

Image:Base E, Stonington Island, Antarctica’

Credit: UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

 

About Stonington Island

For more information, please visit the Stonington web page.

About United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust

The United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) exists to advance the preservation, enhancement and promotion of Antarctic heritage and to engage, inform and inspire a global audience.  The UKAHT is a UK based charity dedicated to promoting Antarctic heritage and this is achieved through the care and conservation of historic buildings and artefacts and delivering and supporting a range of innovative programmes.  All sale proceeds from the shop enable the UKAHT to continue their conservation and awareness programmes. Find out more: www.ukaht.org

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