Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge » SPRI Museum news skip to primary navigation skip to content
 

 

The Polar Museum: news blog

Welcome to the Scott Polar Research Institute Museum news section.

The Antarctic Cataloguing Project is drawing to a close…

October 31st, 2016

antc-objects

The Antarctic Cataloguing Project will be coming to an end in less than two weeks, and so will my time at the Polar Museum. I can’t believe how quickly the two years have flown by!

The project set out to create a fully researched and illustrated online catalogue all of the Antarctic objects in the museum’s collection. This involved describing, measuring, photographing and condition-assessing each object in the collection, and conducting research to find out more about the objects, the people who used them and the expeditions they were used on. The project also aimed to cross-reference the objects in the museum with material in the Archives and Picture Library at SPRI (e.g. if we have Scott’s goggles, have we got a photo of him wearing them or a diary entry where he refers to them?), and with comparable objects in other national and international collections, and to embed the resultant information in the catalogue itself. Quite a lot of work for one person in two years! Needless to say, I felt somewhat daunted by the task when I started in November 2014…

I spent the first three-four months of the project developing cataloguing guidelines and a consistent structure for the catalogue records which would work for any object in the museum (be it Arctic or Antarctic, modern or historical, object or artwork) and which would also correspond with the Picture Library and Archive catalogues where possible. I also did extensive work to cross-reference the different keyword and classification systems already used in the Museum, Picture Library and Archive catalogues to create standardised and structured systems and develop controlled termlists where possible. (I’m a bit of a cataloguing geek so this job was perfect for me!) Details of this work will be available on the project page on the museum website.

It wasn’t until February 2015 that I was ready to start looking at the objects – and since then I’ve looked at every single Antarctic object in the collection (about 2400 items) and have produced detailed catalogue records in the new consistent structure for each, with neat descriptions and new photos. These are now available on the online catalogue, and I’m really hoping that we’ll be able to add an advanced search on the website in the coming weeks.

antc-objects-2

The Antarctic catalogue is available at www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/catalogue

A team of volunteers has worked on a parallel project to draw together existing biographical information about expeditions and expedition members to create biographical catalogue records for them. These will form a shared resource between the Museum, Archive and Picture Library and we’re hoping that these will become available online in due course – so if you’re looking at an object belonging to Scott, you’ll be able to click on his name and it will bring up his biography. I’ve also had the assistance of an absolutely brilliant volunteer who has done extensive research on some of the lesser known Antarctic expeditions, and also on the manufacturers of objects in the collection.

In addition to all of this (because I didn’t have enough to do!), we’ve been busy making five short films about life in the Antarctic on the themes of clothing, transport, food, navigation and science. Each film features objects from the Polar Museum, interviews with guest contributors talking about their experiences in the Antarctic, and historic and modern photographs. Look out for a blog post on these in the near future.

img_6466for-selection-only

I’m really going to miss the Polar Museum and SPRI, but it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable two years and I’m really pleased to have ‘completed’ the catalogue (in as much as cataloguing work is ever complete). My biggest sense of achievement comes from having photographed the sledges over three very hot days in August. Many of the sledges are stored on the top shelves of our very small ‘large objects’ store and I had not-so-secretly been hoping that we would run out of time before we had the chance to photograph them. It was utterly exhausting and quite nerve-wracking at times, but it’s brilliant to know that they’re done.

I’d like to say an enormous thank you to everyone at the Polar Museum, particularly to Sophie and Christina for all of the condition assessing, to Chris and Tom at the Department of Biochemistry for all of the photography, and to all of the volunteers who’ve helped on the project.

Greta

 

Who was Robert Lawrie?

October 12th, 2016

One of the things that we wanted to do as part of the Antarctic Cataloguing Project was to find out more about the manufacturers of objects in the collection and to establish their connection with polar exploration.

lawrie-anoraks

Working our way through the Antarctic collection, I came across about 30 items associated with Robert Lawrie Ltd. – crampons, ice axes, boots, and lots and lots of anoraks (click here to view the catalogue entries). It’s not always clear from the descriptions in the original accession register or from the objects themselves whether the items were manufactured by Lawrie, or whether they were supplied by Lawrie acting as an agent for other manufactures – and I wanted to be able to pin down which was which. Furthermore, it seemed like Lawrie was a prominent figure in the world of exploration in the period 1930-1960, and he even had a glacier in Antarctica named after him in 1959 (Lawrie Glacier at 66°04’ S 64°36’ W). So I wanted to find out more…

Boots and mittens treated with whale oil to prevent the leather freezing.

Boots and mittens supplied to the British Graham Land Expedition 1934-37. They were treated with whale oil to prevent the leather freezing.

Robert Lawrie was born in 1903 and trained as a boot and shoemaker with his father’s firm in Burnley, Lancashire. As a young man, he was an accomplished climber and alpinist and by the late 1920s was manufacturing and supplying mountaineering boots to his own design. In 1931, he made a pair of boots for a man called Ray Greene, who went on to become the doctor on the 1933 Mount Everest expedition. At this time there were many crossovers in the development of equipment for mountaineering expeditions and polar expeditions. Lawrie was commissioned to supply 30 pairs of boots for the porters, as well as some high-altitude boots for the Europeans on this expedition. Until this point there’d been a somewhat closed supply-chain for the prestigious Alpine Club and Royal Geographical Society expeditions – and it seems like this was Lawrie’s break into manufacturing for exploration.

Edmund Hillary's measurements.

Edmund Hillary’s measurements.

By 1935, Lawrie was specialising in climbing and skiing boots and equipment and offered a personalised boot making service. He supplied the British Graham Land Expedition of 1934-37 (where he was experimenting with non-freezing leather for boots and mittens by treating it with whale oil) and Edmund Hillary’s 1953 ascent of Everest.

Despite extensive efforts to track them down, it seems that the company records for Robert Lawrie Ltd. have almost completely disappeared so we just don’t know what was going on. However, the grandson of a friend of Robert Lawrie’s who has the book that contained the templates for all the feet Lawrie made personalised boots for. The client would stand on the book and Lawrie would trace around their feet and take other measurements before making the boots. The book included the pages for Hillary’s feet and the measurements for his anorak. (As well as leading the Everest expedition, Hillary also led the New Zealand party on the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-58).

Greta

Cloches for a bomb ketch, sloop and barquentine

October 4th, 2016

Ships are very important in the history of Polar exploration and that’s why we have quite a lot of ship models in our collection.  We display as many as we can in the museum and library, but some are kept in storage as there isn’t space to put them all on show.  The models are extremely intricate and delicate, so we really need to keep them free of dust because cleaning them is pretty risky for the rigging!  Unfortunately even the smallest ship models are too big for our storage cupboards and end up gathering dust.

Inspired by my allotment I’ve come up with a nifty solution to this problem – cloches!  We have three models in storage which can be covered by a frame very similar to what I use for bringing on veg plants in spring.  These are the ships:

ship-covers

They are (from left to right) the bomb ketch HMS Terror, lost in 1845 during Franklin’s voyage to the Arctic and discovered just last month on the seabed; the sloop Gjøa, (now at the Fram Museum in Oslo) which was the first to navigate the Northwest passage successfully, under the leadership of Roald Amundsen in 1903-6; and last but not least, Shackleton’s three-masted barquentine “Endurance”.

Each ship has its own stand, but the cloches need to be much bigger to cover the ship with enough clearance all round.  So the stand is placed on a baseboard made from MDF, and restrained with little chocks glued in position to stop it sliding around:

img_0370

Unfortunately the MDF is not archival, as it gives off acids which will speed up the degradation of the sails and rigging.  So it needs to be sealed up with aluminium barrier film.  This is the most time-consuming part of building the cloches, as the film has to be ironed on and it takes ages!  Some bits (like the chocks) are too fiddly for the iron-on film, so I use archival aluminium tape to cover those.  This is the Gjøa on the aluminium covered board:

img_0366

The white bits are the aluminium tape.  You can just see the holes in the corners – this is for the cloche framework which goes on next:

img_0375

The framework is made from wooden dowels which also need to be sealed with aluminium tape to stop acids being given off.  The glue I use to stick the bits together is archival too:

img_0379

The last stage is sewing a textile cover with a flap opening for the cloche, from an archival fabric called Tyvek.  I could have used polythene but decided not to as it is rather static and also heavy and unwieldy.  The front of the cover is a flap to get the model in and out and the whole cover is attached to the baseboard with velcro to hold it in place:

img_0380

The Tyvek is opaque so I have put a picture of the ship model on the outside of the cloche with it’s museum ID number.

img_0381         img_0384

Job done!

 

 

Sophie

 

 

New Science in the Museum

September 14th, 2016

I mentioned in my original blog post was that I’ve had one or two ideas about how the Museum could better communicate modern Polar science. Well, here’s one of them: revamping the interactive science displays. The Museum currently has three touchscreens explaining modern Polar science, entitled, respectively, Ice, Climate and Science. These were first installed when the museum was redeveloped in 2010 and are now a little out of date as technology and science have moved on a lot in the last few years. There’s plenty of good information, but the whole thing could do with being rethought and revamped to make it clearer and more representative of the current foci of Polar science.

The Museum's current interactive screen setup

The Museum’s current interactive screen setup

This would be a good way of improving the Museum’s modern science offering – the screens are simply html pages, so there’s very little back end to manage – without having to spend a lot of time or money. I’ve come up with a few suggestions for how things could be improved, such as dedicating one screen to providing the background to Polar science, one to remote sensing (satellites and all that jazz) and one to computer modelling (I may be slightly biased there). These last two are essential tools across all aspects of modern science, so it seems sensible to focus on them. This redesign will also give the Museum the opportunity to link in with the scientific research work many of the staff are involved in, which would also greatly help it to better represent recent scientific developments.

Perhaps you can think of some things that you’d really like to see in the museum. If so, drop the team a line at museum@spri.cam.ac.uk or find them on Twitter or Facebook!

Samuel

Old Science in the Museum

August 31st, 2016

I promised in my last blog post to give some details about some of the more unusual or interesting objects I’ve found whilst poring over the Museum’s scientific collection. I mentioned Andrée’s stuffed carrier pigeon previously, but here are four more objects that I think give a good sense of the Museum’s holdings.

First up is an early pocket sun compass used by Captain Sir James Clark Ross on his voyages in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Ross’s work was crucial in fixing the position of both Magnetic Poles, which allowed great improvements in Polar navigation. Until the shape and contours of Earth’s magnetic field were known, navigation near the Poles had to be carried out using non-magnetic instruments, such as a sun compass, because the difference between true north/south and magnetic north/south was very large at these high latitudes, but of unknown magnitude. Therefore, other solutions were devised, making this compass not only an item of immense historical significance, but also a good demonstration of practical navigation and the difficulties inherent in early Polar exploration.

Ross's sun compass

Ross’s sun compass

Of possibly even greater historical significance is the second item: Amundsen’s reckoning of his position at the South Pole. Scott and his men found this tied to a flag when they arrived five weeks later and thus knew they had been beaten. The text reads:

‘The Norwegian Home Polheim // is situated in 89° 58′ S Lat // SE by E (comp.) 8 miles // 15 Decbr. 1911 // Roald Amundsen’

Amundsen went to a great deal of effort to verify his position and make sure he had actually reached the Pole, sending men out in several directions for several miles, just to be certain they hadn’t got it wrong. This piece of paper is therefore the outcome of some quite precise navigational and cartographic science as well as marking one of humanity’s major exploratory achievements.

Amundsen’s reckoning of his position

Amundsen’s reckoning of his position

The third object symbolises what is perhaps a lesser-known facet of Polar science: geology. Geology was an important element of many early Polar expeditions, with Antarctic fossils and rocks used to support the emerging theory of continental drift and plate tectonics, and remains of interest to this day. Indeed, this particular piece of rock is a specimen of basaltic lava from the 1967 eruption of Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands (just off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula). Antarctica might be seen as a frozen continent, but this piece of lava goes to show that it’s alive and kicking!

Deception Island lava

Deception Island lava

The fourth and final object brings us bang up to date. It’s a digital optical module (DOM) from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The observatory was completed in 2010 and sits more than a kilometre under the ice sheet at the South Pole, with thousands of DOMs spread over a cubic kilometre of ice. The observatory detects the flashes of light emitted by neutrinos as they interact with normal matter, allowing information about their origin and energy to be extracted. It’s also unexpectedly turned out to be a surprisingly-useful glaciological tool, as it’s allowed scientists to map the movement of deep layers of the ice, which would otherwise be virtually impossible. This particular DOM developed a fault in testing, so wasn’t used, but this remains probably the Museum’s best current example of modern Polar science and of so-called ‘Big Science’.

Digital Optical Module from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory

Digital Optical Module from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory

Samuel Cook, work placement student

Science at the Polar Museum!

August 17th, 2016

I’m an MPhil student at SPRI, hopefully progressing on to a PhD come October, and after realising I was going to have a three-month gap over the summer between the end of the former and the start of the latter, I was anxious to do something vaguely productive for at least a part of it. I therefore spoke to Charlotte, the curator, who it turned out had something in mind for just such an occasion. My academic work focuses on computer modelling of glaciers, which, you may think, has very little to do with a museum. To some extent, you’d be right, but not entirely (and who says you can’t be interested in more than one thing anyway?). What I was being asked to do, using my scientific expertise, was to look through the Polar Museum’s large collection of science-related artefacts, identify strengths and weaknesses, and suggest items that could be added to the collection to fill any obvious gaps, particularly with regards to modern Polar science (see, I said modelling wasn’t entirely irrelevant). This was known to be a bit of a gap in what was, unsurprisingly, a more historically-oriented collection.

Stuffed carrier pigeon from the Andrée balloon expedition to the North Pole

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes, it’s a bird. The Museum’s stuffed carrier pigeon from the fatally-unsuccessful Andrée balloon expedition to the North Pole.

Having spent an inordinate amount of time combing through the Museum’s database, launching exploratory expeditions to the basement and deciding quite what you categorise a stuffed carrier pigeon as (is it natural history? Is it communications technology? Is it a navigational aid?), I’ve managed to get a fair idea of what we have and haven’t already got. As a result of this, I’ll be writing a report for Charlotte outlining the current state of the collection and suggesting what we might want to consider acquiring to strengthen it. One problem that has become obvious is that, with modern Polar science being so based on remote sensing (i.e. using satellites and airborne instruments to gather data) and computer analysis, the actual number of tangible objects related to it is rather smaller than it was a century ago – and most of the ones that do exist are essentially variations on the theme of ‘something that looks like a smartphone’. Given getting an entire satellite isn’t really practical for such a small museum, I’ve had to think a bit more widely about what best represents modern science. I’ve come up with a few ideas, so watch this space to see if any exciting new gizmos make their appearance in the future! Further blog posts will be forthcoming, giving a bit more detail about some of the objects I’ve found and some of my ideas.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks!

Samuel

Shackleton Exhibition on International Tour – First Stop the Falkland Islands!

May 19th, 2016

The Polar Museum Shackleton exhibition “By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men” is going on international tour in 2016, and the first stop will be the Falkland Islands Museum in Stanley. This blog post tells the story of how we got the Shackleton exhibition to the Falkland Islands.

It all started back in February 2016 when I e-mailed Leona Roberts, Director of the Falklands Islands Museum & National Trust to see whether they were interested in working with SPRI and willing to show the Shackleton exhibition. Straight away Leona replied to say that they would be “absolutely delighted” to take it. She thought the exhibition would be of enormous interest to both local people in the Falkland Islands and to visitors, and it would allow the Museum to mark the centenary of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in a way that they could not hope to do so otherwise. I was very fortunate to be able to visit the Falkland Islands between 13 – 20 March 2016 to meet Leona and help organise and plan the exhibition. I had a busy week on the islands, and as well as seeing Leona and the Museum team, I also met the Museum Trustees, the Governor of the Falkland Islands – Mr Colin Roberts and members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council to tell them about the exhibition. Everybody I met was very enthusiastic and supportive and made generous offers of help. While I was in Stanley, I took the opportunity to visit the Jane Cameron National Archives and was shown a fascinating photographic album produced by the Falkland Islands naturalist A.G. Bennett in the early 1900s. The album contained several original photographs taken by Bennett of “The Shackleton expedition at Stanley 1916”.

Shackleton 31 May 1916. Image: A G Bennett Collection, Jane Cameron National Archives. The Falkland Islands.

Shackleton 31 May 1916. Image: A G Bennett Collection, Jane Cameron National Archives. The Falkland Islands.

Back in the UK, staff in the Polar Museum worked hard to get the exhibition ready to send to the Falkland Islands before the end of April. Bryan Lintott, the curator of the Shackleton exhibition, used the Bennett photographs to develop new exhibition content to tell the story of Shackleton in the Falkland Islands during 1916, Charlotte Connelly, the Museum Curator, prepared the exhibition license agreement with the University legal services team, and I worked out the logistics to ship the exhibition the 12,700 km from Cambridge to Stanley.  As well as the fifteen exhibition information panels, we also needed to freight a replica scale wooden model of the lifeboat the “James Caird” made especially by the polar explorer Seb Coulthard for the Museum, along with a couple of boxes of Shackleton merchandise for their shop. To protect the exhibition panels from damage during transport we had special protective cardboard boxes made up for us by a local company Performance Packing UK in Haddenham.

James Caird model by Seb Coulthard

James Caird model by Seb Coulthard

 

Packed and ready to go (Bryan Lintott, left, and John Shears, right.)

Packed up and ready to go (Bryan Lintott, left, and John Shears, right.)

On Friday 22 April the shipment was finally all packed up and ready to go at SPRI. Bryan and I then drove it to Chiltern Air Freight in Colnbrook, Berkshire. Chiltern Air Freight, in partnership with Sulivan Shipping in Stanley, have for many years provided regular freight services to the Falkland Islands. Our shipment was very different from the usual freight boxes but Chiltern Air Freight looked after it with great care and attention. It went by air freight from London, UK to Miami, USA and then to Montevideo in Uruguay where it arrived on 28 April. In Montevideo, the freight was transhipped from the airport to the docks and loaded on to the Falkland Islands resupply vessel MV Scout, and it finally arrived in Stanley on 5 May.

 

Falkland Islands Museum Manager Andrea Barlow takes a first peek at the newly arrived packages.

Falkland Islands Museum Manager Andrea Barlow takes a first peek at the newly arrived packages.

The Shackleton exhibition has now been delivered safely to the Falkland Islands and is being put up at the Museum as I write. The exhibition will be opened by the Governor on 31 May 2016 – exactly 100 years to the day that Sir Ernest Shackleton, along with Frank Worsley and Tom Crean, arrived in the islands to organise the rescue of their companions marooned on Elephant Island in Antarctica.

John Shears

Plaster, poultices and Crayola crayons

May 10th, 2016

Recently, I began treatment on a sculpted plaster bust by the Danish artist Eigil Knuth. Knuth was born in 1903 and spent many years of his life exploring Greenland, where he conducted archaeological excavations and scientific expeditions. From 1922 – 1924 he studied art at the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts, and he spent a further three years studying sculpture in Italy. In 1936 he crossed the Greenland ice cap and then spent the winter on the east coast at Angmassalik, where he made a series of portrait busts of Inuit people he met there. The Polar Museum has two of these busts in its collection; one of a child, and the other of a young woman:

_MG_5398

In a treatment in 2014, the museum’s conservator Sophie Rowe did surface cleaning of the sculpture and removed some of the disfiguring dark specks on the plaster. She noted that the yellowish substance around the base looked like what was intended to be a protective layer of wax, but that the object had been left sitting in a bath of it for a long time and it had become a thick, disfiguring coating. Additionally, the hair style of the woman is constructed from two pieces of plaster that were previously attached together, but the joint has broken. The joint on the bun is also covered in this thick, yellow wax which makes it impossible to reattach the pieces with an adhesive:

_MG_5408

Plaster can be a tricky material to treat because it is very porous, so it soaks up anything that is applied to it. Even if you are just cleaning with water, the water will soak in and set any dirt or stains even further into the plaster. For this reason, when cleaning plaster, conservators often like to use a technique called poulticing. Poulticing involves putting a solvent (like water, or alcohol) in a substrate like cotton wool, cellulose pulp, or a gel, and applying that to the surface. The solvent in the cotton wool will travel into the plaster, dissolve whatever is causing the stain, and then as it evaporates, carry the stain back out to the surface where the cotton wool is. Thus, instead of just moving around in the plaster, the stain is moved into the poultice, which can then be removed.  Here is a poultice on the hair piece:

IMG_1787

Before I could use this technique on the object, I needed to find a solvent that would dissolve the wax but not the plaster, and which could be safely used in our lab. Luckily the wax was very thick on the base of the bust, and it was easy to take small samples of it.  I would have liked to run the samples through an FTIR, which is an analytical instrument particularly good for the identification of organic substances such as waxes, but I wouldn’t have access to one unless we waited several months. Instead I made an educated guess about the identity from a strong-smelling clue – the sculpture smelled exceedingly like a Crayola crayon! I did some research about what type of materials are in a Crayola crayon and what they are soluble in, and I did some solubility tests on my wax samples.  This is what they looked like through the microscope:

Evernote Camera Roll 20160418 121532   Evernote Camera Roll 20160418 121531

I even took a video to document the solubility to show to my advisor, Sophie, when we discussed the treatment:

IMG_1672

We decided on a solvent system that we thought checked all the boxes (dissolved the wax, didn’t dissolve the plaster and was safe to use), and I got to work:

photo

Thankfully, everything seems to be going as planned! Poultices can be really tricky to use successfully and sometimes you end up just moving a stain back and forth through a medium instead of removing it; and it can be slow going.  Here is a poultice turning pale yellow as the solvent evaporates:

IMG_1790

And this is the bust partway through treatment, next to a picture of the sculpture before I started removing the wax:

_MG_5398     IMG_8660_ed

While there’s still some work to be done, it’s exciting to see the wax slowly disappear!

 

Megan Narvey

 

The Antarctic Catalogue is now live!

March 29th, 2016

online gallery

It’s been a long time coming, but after seventeen months of working away in the basement examining and photographing our Antarctic objects for the Antarctic Cataloguing Project, I’m pleased to announce that the catalogue is now live on the museum’s website! The catalogue is by no means complete – I’ve still got another seven months on the project and probably another 500 objects to look at it – but it’s great to finally be able make available what we’ve done so far.

Over 1500 records are now available online, of which 900 currently have images. This includes clothing and footwear, snowshoes and crampons, skis, goggles, medals and coins, domestic and personal equipment, foodstuffs, animal equipment such as whips and harnesses, scientific equipment, and geological and natural history specimens. It covers material from the expeditions of Scott and Shackleton in the 1900s and 1910s, the British Graham Land Expedition in the 1930s, the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition in the 1950s, the Transglobe Expedition in the 1980s, and the expeditions of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey and the British Antarctic Survey, as well as many others. More images will be added as the objects are photographed, and more records will be added as the cataloguing progresses.

As well as continuing to populate the online catalogue, we also intend to improve it. We want to increase the number of fields that are displayed to include further classifications (such as geographical and UDC classifications), add information about production (such as the name of the person/organisation which manufactured the item, as well as details of place and date of manufacture), and add references and details of related objects (both within the Museum’s collections and across SPRI’s Archive and Picture Library collections). We are also developing an advanced search which will enable users to search by such things as object name, associated person or expedition, classification and place.

Ultimately, we also hope to be able to hyperlink to biographical records about people, organisations and expeditions which have been created by a team of volunteers as part of a joint Museum and Archive project, and to hyperlink to records for related objects.

While this is very much a work in progress, we’re really excited to have something to share so please do take a look ath the Antarctic Catalogue. We’d love to hear what you think and would really welcome your feedback – get in touch with us on Twitter or comment on our Facebook page.

Greta

“Terra Nova” sails into the museum at last

March 15th, 2016

The Polar Museum has 17 ship models which are mini replicas of vessels used in famous expeditions to the North and South. So I was surprised to discover that until very recently the Museum did not have any model of Scott’s ship “Terra Nova”. That is why there has been no display of this ship in the gallery – until now.

Polar Museum buffs might remember that we do have a model of the Terra Nova made entirely out of silver, very kindly given to us in 2010 by the descendants of Robert Falcon Scott. This needs highly specialized conservation work to repair it and we are actively fundraising for this to be done by a conservation silversmith. But until this work is completed it can’t be put on display.

However, we now also have a traditional wooden scale model of the Terra Nova, very kindly donated by Lindsey Westcott. Lindsey is a descendant of Robert Forde, who served as Chief Petty Officer on the Terra Nova Expedition in 1910-13, and took part in sledging journeys to the Cape in 1911.

The model is a 1:96 scale replica, made by Colin Freeman exactly according to the original ship plans which are held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. We decided it would be a perfect addition to the ship model case in the museum gallery:

photo5

There was no spare space in the ship model display, so we decided to replace the model of the Gjøa, which was the first ship to navigate the Northwest Passage, sailed by Roald Amundsen. The ship models are all suspended from very fine steel wire in fitted metal cradles, which look a bit like birds when the model is taken out:

photo4

The Terra Nova hull is not the same shape as the Gjøa, so new cradles had to be made. Once again we called on the services of trusty mountmaker Bob Bourne to make fitted cradles for the new model. Then we swapped the two ships over:

photo1

Here are the Gjøa and the Terra Nova sailing past eachother on the museum trolley – something which never happened in real life.

There are numerous famous photos of the Terra Nova taken by Herbert Ponting and others, all in black and white. Personally I really like the splashes of colour on the model which remind you that of course the ship was not black and white in real life.  Also the fine detail is amazing:

photo3

Because of the way it was installed, we could not re-use the steel wires which were used to hang the Gjøa, so we had to get new wire. Finding the right thickness to match the rest of the display was tricky, until Bob sourced some very fine twisted steel wire in a fishing shop. Apparently it is the perfect thing for catching pike! The wires were threaded through the new cradle, and the Terra Nova could be hung in place:

photo2

The ship display now shows the Erebus, the Nimrod, the Fram, and the Terra Nova, and so reflects much more closely the stories of Franklin, Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen which are told in the museum gallery. So many thanks to Lindsey Westcott!

Sophie