This exquisitely oxidized vessel probably made a handy container in its more cylindrical days. The test tube shape suggests it held scientific specimens. Possibly pebbles or ice chips. Penguin bones or seal tissue. Nematodes, lichens, mosses. Algae, zooplankton, tardigrades.
Or perhaps it held field implements: pencils, tweezers, map pins, eyedroppers, lenses, batteries, clips, clasps, measuring devices. Maybe all of the above. Maybe none. In any case, it holds a good mystery.
This week’s items were found and donated to the Long View Project by Randall “Crunch” Noring, Marble Point field camp manager in Antarctica’s Dry Valleys. Thank you, sir!
Today’s mystery item had a rotating part that’s now stuck. Whatever its former purpose, the “dial with a smile” appears content in retirement.
The flip side is happy too, perhaps because it kind of resembles a toy automobile when turned upside-down. Not a bad after-life for a mechanical device.
This week I’ll be posting found Antarctic objects of a mysterious nature. Their purpose may once have been indicated by labels, connecting parts and context, but their isolated and weathered state now recasts them as curiosities appreciable for shape, color and texture.
If you happen to know what the items are or just want to venture a guess, drop a comment. I like to think of this one as a hybrid of a buckle, can opener, and emergency shoe horn.
This is a fabric map of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The airstrip is at top. The
new elevated station is shown in blue. The Xs indicate the ever-migrating geographic
South Pole marker, and the knob at right is the Dark Sector, a research area free of electromagnetic interference. Everything else that goes on is at left.
Accuracy and scale aside, I could have used one of these sewn to my jacket sleeve dur-
ing my visit there. It beats fumbling with paper maps in windy, subfreezing conditions.
That’s the new South Pole Elevated Station on the left, and the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) on the right. A la fabric discards.
Continuing with the fabric theme, this week I’m posting sketchbook pieces created
with cloth and thread. I’m new to the medium, so my wife Lili is introducing me to
the varieties of stitching, and the material comes from her sewing leftovers.
It’s exciting to be learning a new craft and once I get the basics down, I’ll work
Antarctic content into these pieces.
Happy Independence Day! Midwinter festivities are under way at McMurdo Station
as reported in the Antarctic Sun’s Around the Continent-Research Station Updates
July 2 entry. Celebrations include the annual Midwinter Dinner, dance, photo exhibi-
tion, outdoor run (brrr), and the Fourth of July carnival. Sounds like a blast, minus
the blast of fireworks.
Here’s McMurdo as it appears in the darkness of the Austral winter, which lasts from
late April until August. There are 153 residents at the station now, mostly doing
maintenance, repairs, and preparation for the nearly 1,100 people expected for the
summer research season. The photograph was taken on May 6 by James Walker /
National Science Foundation.
This canvas pouch’s grime and wear suggest it saw lots of action on the Ice. It likely
held Jamesway assembly hardware, which was minimal. The hut’s only metal compo-
nents are nails, fasteners, and connecting bars, allowing the entire 16′ x 16′ structure
to weigh in at 1,200 lbs.
Much thanks to James Roemer at the McMurdo carpentry shop for the past three items featured here. James knows Jamesways as well as anyone — he builds them!
Here’s the carp shop crew in front of a Jamesway they constructed on the sea ice
for researchers to hold and study seals this past season. Nice work guys, and hope
you had an awesome time in Tasmania afterwards, James.
Jamesways, you could say, are the hardest working huts in snow business. Keeping a
camp of scientists (and an artist or two) relatively dry and warm throughout a season
on the Ice is a tall order, especially at the South Pole’s Summer Camp.
Summer Camp is the colony of Jamesways (partly pictured above) situated near the
Pole’s elevated station. Most of the huts are living quarters, and at least one serves
as a lounge. They’re put to a real test here because even at midsummer’s warmest,
outside temperatures average around −25 °C (−12 °F).
Jamesways are either centrally heated by oil burning heaters or use passive solar heat
and solar power for space heating. The key of course is heat retention, which is where
our heroes, the roof blankets, come in.
Roof blankets are a wall system typically using a layer of kapok fiber for insulation.
Kapok, derived from the ceiba tree’s seed pod, is ideal for its lightness, resiliency,
resistance to water and of course for its organic nature. Its flammability requires
flameproof encasement though, and these outer layers — typically muslin or
heavier cotton duck — are further treated with vinyl or plastic for extra durability
Given all that, Jamesways still fall short on energy efficiency and tend to heat un-
evenly (the floor remains considerably colder than the rest of the space). Pushed
to its limit by the onset of Pole winter weather, Summer Camp shuts down for the
dark half of the year, to be dug out of snowdrifts and repopulated at sunrise the
following season. And so the cycle goes.