Conserving Damoy Hut: Blog #1

The first dispatch from Damoy, a small wooden hut in Antarctica currently undergoing restoration.

Conserving Damoy Hut: Blog #1

The first dispatch from Damoy, a small wooden hut in Antarctica currently undergoing restoration.

Conserving Damoy Hut: Blog #1

06/02/2023

Greetings from Damoy on our voyage of discovery.

We have been on-site at Damoy Hut for 11 days now and Antarctica is living up to her reputation for changeable weather. We have had a couple of calm days – with a brief sighting of the sun – but mostly it’s been windy, raining or snowing… or all three at once!

Day two of our stay on Wiencke Island, where Damoy is based, saw us battening down the hatches to weather a big storm with maximum wind gusts of 70 knots. A baptism to summer in the south for sure.

A conservator strips paint from Damoy

Stripping paint from Damoy (Credit: Jo Bradshaw, UKAHT)

Despite the challenges we have faced due to the weather and location, work is coming along nicely on Damoy Hut. As I write, we have stripped and repainted the south gable; have stripped and put one coat on the north gable; have stripped the west side of the hut; and are now waiting for some sun and/or wind to dry the timber so that we can start painting. We will move onto the east side in a day or two. This job is most certainly DIY in the extreme!

The three of us have settled nicely into a good routine. My job as Field Guide, or as we have renamed it, Base Camp Manager, is to make sure the ‘back-office’ side of things runs smoothly so that Sven and Martin can do their jobs of restoring and repainting this stunning piece of history. 

This means making sure we are all fed and watered and that our mess tent and personal tents are looked after by either digging the tent skirts into snow – which acts as ballast when the winds are high – or by digging them out of the snow when it is falling heavily and trying to bury us; dealing with comms; liaisoning with ships when they visit us; helping Sven and Martin with some paint stripping; and many more jobs on top of that. Never a dull moment!

Damoy hut showing its two colours (old and new)

A work in progress (Credit: Jo Bradshaw, UKAHT)

As Damoy Hut is a historical monument we need to document and log any changes or work that we are doing here. Sven and Martin are in contact with UKAHT daily to have each part of their work approved and are coming up with innovative ways of dealing with the issues that face them from erecting the scaffolding on uneven ground to sympathetically stripping and repainting the exterior to its original colour orange. Their skills are wide-ranging – we certainly have the best of the best working down here at Damoy.

It has certainly been a voyage of discovery for us all, even if the three of us are used to the environment and the work that we are doing here. New challenges crop up daily and as we cannot simply pop down to the local hardware store, we get creative in the safest possible way.

The sun makes a rare appearance (Credit: Jo Bradshaw, UKAHT)

It’s not all work though. We have just been for a short walk along the bay and marvel at the heavy sea ice which is currently cutting us off from the Neumayer Channel. We also passed a sleepy fur seal at a safe distance and said a distant hello to several Gentoo penguins who frequent the area during the breeding season. 

Onwards with work now as there is a break in the weather and the painting and stripping must continue at pace. We have another two weeks here until HMS Protector picks us up and delivers us safely around the corner to Port Lockroy to be reunited with the team there.

All the best from the Antarctic peninsula. 

Jo, Martin and Sven.

The team at work (Credit: Jo Bradshaw, UKAHT)

 

(Lead image: Shutterstock)