This artfully rusted Cadbury tin was found and donated to the Long View Project by
Rae Spain, camp manager at Lake Hoare in Antarctica’s Dry Valleys. No identifying
marks remain apart from the script logo on the lid, but the artifact’s shape and size suggest it to be a can of Bourne-Vita, Cadbury’s malted drink product introduced
I consider it something of a companion piece to Sifta Sam, as both are Dry Valleys
discards made in England circa 1940s-50s. I’ll speculate that they both belonged
to the same research party, perhaps an early incarnation of the British Antarctic
Survey which has been the UK’s national Antarctic operator for over 60 years.
Intriguing also is the container’s hidden contents which rolls around with a dull thud.
I was briefly tempted to break the tape between lid and can to reveal the mystery,
but thoughts of encountering a congealed malt (or is it mold?) ball made me
reconsider. At least for now.
This week I resume posting the items I collected in Antarctica for use in my artwork.
All these found and donated objects are grouped under the “Waste Stream Reclama-
tion” category in the blog’s sidebar.
Today’s item is a weathered Sifta table salt container courtesy of “Crunch” Noring,
the Marble Point camp manager. Found underfoot at his Dry Valleys camp, this dis-
card is a remnant of the pre-Code of Conduct era when littering was common in
Antarctica. The packaging design suggests that the container dates from the 1940s,
when Sifta Salt and the fabulous Sifta Sam character (click the old salt for a close-
up!) were brand names of Palmer Mann and Co. Ltd. of Sandbach, Cheshire, UK.
The company is long defunct and very little information about it exists online, but
image reference indicates that the deteriorated area below Sifta Sam once read
“Jolly Good Salt.” This container is certainly the most delicate item in my collection
of discards. Its flaking label — or what’s left of it — appears to be just barely
If yesterday’s flag was battered, today’s is positively tattered. This wind-ravaged field marker is marvelously soft and delicate to the touch, a featherweight ghost of its former self. Much thanks to my friend Sharona Thompson, connoiseur of the worn and weathered, for this unique find from the windiest continent on Earth.
Ice drills are used for making the holes that support the field marker flags’ 10-foot bamboo poles. Placing flags and replacing worn ones are an ongoing, full-time activity.
The most notable marked trail extends between McMurdo Station and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Known as the South Pole Traverse, it covers 1,048 miles with 12 x 10 inch nylon banners staked every quarter mile for a total of 4,192 flags. The route is covered by tractor trains hauling heavy equipment, fuel, and, as mentioned in my third South Pole dispatch, around 100,000 pounds of solid waste annually.
For a thoroughly informative and entertaining account of establishing and flagging the Traverse, I recommend checking out ICE Letters by Tom Lyman, Safety Supervisor of the 2005-2006 South Pole Traverse Project.
Antarctica has no official flag since it’s not a nation nor ruled by any single government. But if there were to be a flag, I’d nominate this ‘ready-made’ for a few reasons: Field marker flags such as this abound on the Ice and practically represent the continent already. Design-wise, the frayed fabric effectively communicates the nature of the environment, while the blue hue suggests ice, water, and sky. And, its lack of insignia is apropos to Antarctica’s absence of a single ruling party.
Its day may yet come. In the meanwhile, field marker flags remain indispensable on the Ice in all their colors. Black ones signify danger. Red, green, and blue flags designate safe areas. Yellow flags mark al fresco pee stations. (Yes, that subject again.)
Field marker flags serve to increase camp visibility, especially in adverse weather. They also help identify wind speed and direction. But most often, they designate trails and paths. Tomorrow I’ll introduce the longest marked route in Antarctica along with the third flag in this series.
Big thanks to James Roemer at McMurdo’s carpentry shop for today’s item.
This week I’ll be featuring discarded flag fabric from Antarctica. Flags are ubiquitous on the Ice where a typical day offers encounters with any number of safety flags, warning flags, field flags, trail flags, military flags, and of course national flags including Old Glory itself.
The flag above was retired from service shortly before I brought it back to San Francisco. I’m told it flew over the main hut at Lake Hoare, which would make it the same one in my January 13 photo, re-posted here:
How will this flag figure into my project? Possibly in pieces, since its stripes were cut into by the time I got it. Initially dismaying, the missing chunk now inspires me to combine various fabrics and textures to invent hybrid Antarctic flags with new significance.
Much thanks to Jessy Jenkins at McMurdo’s Berg Field Center for procuring this very special artifact for me.
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 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.