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September 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 057

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Antarctic Item 057, a yellow piece of fabric with four protruding cords, comes from McMurdo Station’s Berg Field Center which issues food, supplies and science equipment to field parties.

Like the preceding artifact, Item 057 is a fragment of a larger piece of material that presumably had a purpose. Reduced to its present size, I’ll propose it still has use to resourceful explorers in the field.

How? Well, I imagine its four long winding cords arranged on the yellow field to create a makeshift map describing topographical contours, boundaries, and passable routes. The party using it for this purpose would be lost of course, with a long march ahead of them. When their shoelaces inevitably give out on the march, these cords would serve as replacements. And when their camp flag gets shredded by polar winds, the yellow remnant would be hoisted as the new beacon, inevitably leading to their rescue.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:47 pm

June 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 056

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This item is made of two large pieces of fabric. An orange field meets a black field in what feels like waterproof material. Whatever it is, it is incomplete. At some point the orange area was cut into with pinking shears, reducing its size. The excised segment, which might have provided clues to the item’s function, was lost by the time I acquired the remaining fabric.

What could this missing section have been? I imagine it was the bottom portion of a high-visibility tent cover which, once the tent was pitched, came into contact with the frosty Antarctic terrain. When the time came to strike the tent, the bottom edge of the cover was encased in layers of ice which had built up over a week of strong gales. The shelter’s occupants had no choice but to cut the protective cover free from its mooring, which they did with pinking shears as not to dull their more essential blades. With the tent cover remnant in tow, they continued hurriedly towards their destination ahead of the next impending storm.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:35 pm

May 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 055

Antarctic Item 055-CC-Sat-Sh-500x475

I’m continuing to post items by theme that I acquired in Antarctica for my project. Having recently posted a sequence of round metal objects, I’ll be focusing on folded fabric in the coming weeks.

Most of these pieces are mysteries; remnants of larger material which in turn comprised larger objects. Marks, colors, and textures provide clues to their function, but their exact age and history are up for speculation.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:25 pm

March 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 018

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These are two sides of the same dented lid. Its weathered surfaces suggest that it was exposed to the elements for many years. Otherwise, the lid’s story remains something of a mystery.

I’ll venture a guess, though. I imagine that the lid sealed a can of rations that Robert F. Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition took to the South Pole. Upon reaching their destination on 17 January 1912, they pitched tent and popped open the can. The lid, tossed to the side, rolled out of the shelter’s unsecured entryway onto the polar plateau. Propelled by frigid gusts, the disc raced across the ice for days, following the landscape’s contours and glaciers. Navigating the Trans-Antarctic mountain range and the Dry Valleys in a final descent towards the open sea, the lid suddenly encountered a fierce blizzard that drove it into a shallow pond, abruptly ending its voyage. For decades it hung suspended in the watery void, surrounded by microscopic creatures. The organisms on one side of the disc increasingly came to regard it as the sun, while the microbes on the other side increasingly saw it as the moon. Eventually it ceased to be an object at all; it was simply two ideas.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.

This and the last three Antarctic Items I featured were generously donated to the Long View project by “Crunch” Noring, the Marble Point camp manager. He retrieved them from the grounds of his Dry Valleys camp, home to numerous remnants from the pre-Code of Conduct era.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:20 pm

January 30, 2013

Antarctic Item 017

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This is yet another Antarctic artifact in my collection that resembles a makeshift ashtray. Its uneven cut suggests that it too was cut from a can. Unlike the previous ones however, it has no ash marks embedded in the base.

Why would this be? Well, I imagine it was fashioned by the the Nimrod Expedition as a back-up ashtray to replace their principal one should it ever be lost. The principal receptacle was slow to be lost however since it was dearly treasured by the party. As a result, the back-up became a gas tank cap for their motorcar. There it toiled until the beloved principal ashtray was finally misplaced. The back-up was ecstatic (to the extent that ashtrays can be) for it could finally show what it was cut out to be. However the team observed that by this time the back-up ashtray’s inner surface was saturated with all manners of petroleum and combustible by-products, eliminating any possibility of safe contact with live embers. In despair, the back-up released its grip on the gas tank, tossing itself into deep snow. This might have been a sad ending were it not for that it lay undisturbed for a full century, enabling it to harvest one of the more remarkably handsome coats of Antarctic rust. By the time it was unearthed in 2009, it was the envy of its oxidized peers across the continent.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:16 pm

November 30, 2012

Antarctic Item 016

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Like the previous object, Antarctic Item 016 lends itself to functioning as an ashtray. In all likelihood, it was.

Who used it? Well, I imagine Shackleton tapping his pipe into it at Cape Royds, splitting the rim at the upper left as he strategized his march to the Pole in 1909. The crack reminded him of ruptured ice, and being a touch superstitious, he brought the ashtray along on the journey to ward off such dangers. Nevertheless, ice crevasses continually hindered his team’s progress, swallowing one of their sledge-hauling ponies and nearly two of their men. Eventually Shackleton came to regard the split ashtray as a bad luck omen, discarding it on the return trek in the Dry Valleys. It was a wise move, assuring his team safe passage from there back to Cape Royds.

Or at least that’s the way I imagine it.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:13 pm

September 30, 2012

Antarctic Item 015

Antarctic Item 015-CC-500x394

I’m back to posting items that I acquired in Antarctica for my project. The process of photographing, cataloging, and assessing the objects is a key step to understanding them and configuring them into the artwork.

I tend to post batches by theme; the next few items will be metallic and round. By observing and comparing these seemingly similar artifacts in close succession, their unique character is revealed, suggesting varied origins and histories.

Antarctic Item 015 appears to be part of a can that was severed close to its end. It may have been devised as a crude ashtray, judging by its shape and smudges on the base. The red rust caking its rim suggests that it is decades old, dating from the days that smoking and exploration went hand in hand.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 8:11 pm

February 28, 2012

Antarctic Item 040

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Antarctic Item 040 comes from a McMurdo rubble pile. The artifact appears to be a conduit connector encrusted with a white sealing agent. While the device isn’t particularly attractive,
it presumably proved useful to scientific research. In this way it’s something of a metaphor
for McMurdo Station itself.

McMurdo is anything but beautiful. Its hodgepodge arrangement of utilitarian architecture describes practical demands and budgetary limitations. As such, it serves its purpose as a
polar research and transit hub but offers little in aesthetic splendor.

That is, until we zoom in closer. Looking beyond the white goo of the conduit fitting,
I marvel at its rust which at close range resembles brightly colored patches of lichen.
Similarly, much of McMurdo’s character resides in its inconspicuous textures, weathered
colors, and stray marks which speak to Antarctica’s environment and history. And that’s
what I look for in the discards I retrieve from the Ice to post here.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:29 pm

December 28, 2011

Antarctic Item 007

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Like the previously posted beer cans, this one was recovered from Antarctica’s Dry Valleys across the sound from McMurdo Station. It’s likely the oldest of the lot (note the steel lid,
pre-dating aluminum ends) and certainly the most weather-punished. Its rich textures and
varied colors demanded that both sides of the cylinder be photographed.

Traces of an indecipherable label design appear in the first view. If anyone recognizes its identity, please let me know.

Much thanks to Marble Point camp manager “Crunch” Noring for finding and donating these artifacts to the Long View Project.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:35 am

December 21, 2011

Antarctic Item 006

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This Heineken can appears to have been laying on its side at the mercy of the Antarctic elements for some time, rendering one half quite rusty and the other half thoroughly so.

Oxidation aside, its advanced age is also revealed by a pair of lid piercings. It wasn’t till the early 1960s that discardable pull-rings were introduced, replacing churchkeys as standard can-opening mechanisms.


Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 10:35 am
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