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World-leading project saves Antarctic legacy

The world’s most extreme conservation project has saved three historic buildings and thousands of artefacts once used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

Image courtesy of Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The milestone was reached this Antarctic summer after a decade of extensive conservation work by the Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand).

Over the life of the project 62 specialists from 11 countries have undertaken cutting edge heritage conservation unprecedented in its scale and complexity in the polar regions, to conserve Scott’s and Shackleton’s Antarctic legacy.

The three heroic-era buildings and their artefact collections were in danger of loss after a century of extreme environmental conditions. To combat this, and in a world-first, the Antarctic Heritage Trust has been working year round in Antarctica with the support of Antarctica New Zealand.

Image courtesy of Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Working from purpose-built conservation laboratories, artefact conservators, have meticulously conserved 18,202 individual artefacts including food supplies, clothing, equipment and personal items left behind in the historic huts. Heritage carpenters have repaired and weatherproofed Scott’s huts at Cape Evans and Hut Point and Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds, improving environmental conditions.

During the conservation work previously undiscovered artefacts have been found including most famously crates of Scotch whisky and brandy at Shackleton’s historic base, unseen photographs and a notebook from Scott’s historic hut at Cape Evans.

Image courtesy of Antarctic Heritage Trust.

While ongoing maintenance of the buildings and artefacts from Scott’s and Shackleton’s bases remain a priority, the Antarctic Heritage Trust will now begin conservation work on the first building on the continent at Cape Adare and, upon securing funding, the original building, built for the Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1955-58, at New Zealand’s Scott Base.

“The dedication of the conservation teams and the passion for the legacy that they are saving has been the key to the project’s success. We are particularly grateful for the support of the New Zealand Government and supporters worldwide. With ongoing care these sites will stand for current and future generations,” said Nigel Watson, Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Executive Director.

Updated on 23rd July 2015