MetService unearths ‘priceless’ artifacts related to famous Antarctic explorers

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When Kevin Alder saw the words “Terra Nova,” the hair on his head stood on end.

A manager at MetService, he immediately recognized the historical significance of the old logbooks that had been handed to him.

Generations of New Zealand schoolchildren have grown up on the heroic tales of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton and their attempts to reach the South Pole.

Artifacts related to both men and documents from another polar legend, Sir Douglas Mawson, have been discovered by the MetService as it prepares to leave its headquarters in Kelburn.

The material includes two logbooks (1910, 1911) from the Terra Nova, the ship that transported Scott and his team in their tragic attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.

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The departure of the Terra Nova from Lyttelton to Christchurch in November 1910.

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The departure of the Terra Nova from Lyttelton to Christchurch in November 1910.

Another logbook comes from the rescue mission to rescue some of the members of Shackleton’s 1914-16 Trans-Antarctic Expedition who had been stranded for a year on Ross Island in Antarctica.

There are also inventories and letters from Australian explorer and geologist Mawson, who is credited with being the first at the South Magnetic Pole.

Alder says he couldn’t believe it when he realized that two of the handwritten metrological logbooks, which are meticulously completed, came from one of the most famous ships in Antarctic history. .

MetService Managing Director Stephen Hunt with one of the recently discovered Polar Logbooks in their basement.

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MetService Managing Director Stephen Hunt with one of the recently discovered Polar Logbooks in their basement.

“I read the words Terra Nova and the hair on the back of my head just stood on end.”

While the story focused on the race to get to the South Pole, what most people don’t realize is that the British expeditions were primarily science-driven, said Stephen Hunt, managing director of MetService.

Many of the expedition members were scientists, including meteorologists, conducting research on recording geographic, meteorological and ocean conditions. The expeditions faced extreme conditions and went to great lengths to record, observe and measure the data in the logs.

Pages from Terra Nova's logbook.

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Pages from Terra Nova’s logbook.

This is reflected in the documents that have been found and Hunt says the importance of the find cannot be overstated.

“The documents certainly have meteorological value, but more importantly, they are invaluable historical artifacts from a time of extreme courage and sacrifice. The discovery of these logs and records in the MetService Archives is remarkable. “

The material relates to a period that has long fascinated Hunt.

MetService Director Kevin Alder (left) and Managing Director Stephen Hunt review some of the invaluable documents.

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MetService Director Kevin Alder (left) and Managing Director Stephen Hunt review some of the invaluable documents.

The bravery, camaraderie and determination to succeed against all odds that Scott and Shackleton displayed are still inspiring more than a century later.

For Alder, there was one more reason to celebrate the discovery.

His great-grandfather, Thomas Beaumont, was in the Royal Navy and wrote to Scott in 1908.

The logs are in excellent condition.

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The logs are in excellent condition.

The logbooks contain detailed reports, every four hours, of the weather and Hunt says the data is particularly useful for those researching climate change.

Hunt has been in contact with the New Zealand Antarctic Trust for advice on how best to store and protect the material.

The discovery of the documents came as MetService prepares to temporarily leave its base in Kelburn. He moved to Seabridge House, on Featherston St, so that the Kelburn Building could be reinforced against earthquakes. The distinctive satellite dishes on the roof will be permanently moved to their office in Paraparaumu.

Robert Falcon Scott, the leader of the British Antarctic Expedition.

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Robert Falcon Scott, the leader of the British Antarctic Expedition.

Hunt says the building has served them well since 1968, but needs to be reinforced against earthquakes.

“We want to make sure that we provide a resilient environment for our employees and the essential services we provide. “

The Antarctic Heritage Trust’s director of operations, Francesca Eathorne, said the trust was “thrilled” to learn of the discovery of the artifacts.

“As the organization that looks after the bases of these explorers in Antarctica, the trust looks forward to revisiting the collection in due course and learning more about these fascinating objects.”

Documents relating to polar expeditions involving Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Douglas Mawson.

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Documents relating to polar expeditions involving Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Douglas Mawson.

Terra Nova

The British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13, was led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott. He had a series of scientific and geographic goals, with Scott wanting to be the first man to reach the South Pole.

The expedition sailed on the Terra Nova, a boat built in Dundee for whaling.

He was pushed to pole by Norwegian Roald Amundsen by 34 days. Scott and his four companions died on the way home.

Scott’s death in March 1912, and the grief that followed for someone considered a hero, was a defining moment in British history. Such attempts to reach the South Pole are called the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.


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