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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Similar as this Bud can appears to the previous post, this one proves older on close inspection. In addition to having lost its red pigment, this one’s blue has faded too. Oxidation is more advanced here, particularly on the top and bottom. But the biggest clue is the fully-detachable pull-tab which was phased out in the 1970s. This can’s tab, regretfully, remains somewhere in Antarctica.
I’m back to cataloging more discards that I retrieved from Antarctica to include in my artwork. This month’s featured finds are beer cans.
This Bud can appears to be relatively new, judging by its condition and stay-on-tab design. Still, it languished long enough for the weather to have stripped it of its familiar red markings (red being the most fugitive of printing ink colors).
Resembling a half-completed printing job, the blue-and-white motif appropriately suggests the icy landscape in which the can underwent its transformation.
Like many of the exquisitely oxidized artifacts in my Long View Waste Stream Reclamation collection, this can with ‘teeth’ was found and donated to the project by Marble Point camp manager Randall “Crunch” Noring.
No label remains but the can’s contents was presumably agreeable judging by the many jabs to its lid, as if to empty every drop. Which isn’t inconceivable given the desolate, sub-freezing environment it was consumed in. Indeed, every drop of nourishment — agreeable or otherwise — counted back in the days of less-developed survival support and gear.
This vessel is among several retrieved Antarctic items I’ll be including in “Age of Wonder,” an upcoming group show in Northern California. The exhibition will feature my Long View project in progress which takes the form of a free-standing installation where Antarctic art and artifact engage each other in dialog. Look for a post here on the installation’s completion in the weeks to come.
Like the smoke grenade posted yesterday, this one was retrieved from Antarctica’s
Dry Valleys where it was probably used for signaling purposes. Unlike the burning-type
grenade however, this bursting-type model used white phosphorus (WP) filler, spread
by explosive action. WP is a highly efficient smoke-producing agent, burning quickly
at 5000°F upon exposure to air, producing an instant bank of dense white smoke.
The intense heat generated by this process causes the smoke to rise rapidly in cold environments, ideal for ground-to-air signaling in Antarctica.
Big thanks to Chris Gardner who found and donated both grenades to the Long View Project in the course of his McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER field work. His Antarctic photos are great favorites of mine; I particularly like this Abstract McMurdo set.
This used colored-smoke grenade was originally housed in the type of container posted yesterday. Indeed, the two may have been a couple as both were found in the Dry Valleys, albeit by different individuals at different times. Ironically, the paper container’s label survived to tell us of its contents while the steel grenade relinquished all its identifying marks to the elements, including the top surface hue that originally indicated its smoke color.
The Army/Navy Model 18 Colored Smoke Grenade, as the M18 is officially known, has various uses both in training and combat. In pacific settings such as Antarctica, it can function to signal aircraft and/or to mark a target landing zone. Having experienced the Dry Valleys fog, I’ll guess that this device dutifully served to guide a helicopter safely to base back in the relatively nascent days of GPS technology.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Some technical details for the curious: The M18 is a burning-type grenade which burns oxygen. A pull-ring igniter activates the fuze which detonates the filler, creating pressure
to force the smoke out through the emission hole at the bottom. Weighing 19 ounces, the device can typically be thrown 115 feet (35 meters) and its 11.5 ounces of filler generates
a cloud of colored smoke for a duration of 50 to 90 seconds.
Some history on its early manufacture from the Redstone Arsenal Chronology:
16 November 1943: The first M-18 colored smoke grenade (violet) was produced at Huntsville Arsenal on this date. Production continued until 8 May 1945. Persons working in colored smoke were paid one grade higher to offset the danger involved in the manufacture of these munitions; to compensate for the dusty conditions under which they worked; and to make up for the staining of the employees’ skin. The higher wage scale applied to all of the different colored smoke operations.