21 Oct 2014

Restored notebook goes home

9:14 am on 21 October 2014

A photographer's notebook left behind a century ago at Captain Scott's last expedition base at Cape Evans, Antarctica, has been discovered and conserved by New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Self portrait of surgeon George Murray Levick's cubicle in his hut at Cape Adare.

Self portrait of surgeon George Murray Levick's cubicle in his hut at Cape Adare. Photo: Scott Polar Research Institute

The Trust's conservation specialists found the notebook outside Scott's 1911 Terra Nova base. Each year the summer snow melt around the building causes variations in run off patterns, and exposed the notebook for the first time in more than 100 years.

The notebook is a Wellcome Photographic Exposure Record and Dairy 1910. It belonged to George Murray Levick (1876-1956), surgeon, zoologist and photographer - his name is clearly written in the opening pages.

Artefacts programme manager Lizzie Meek discovered the notebook while at Cape Evans last summer when, walking around the grounds observing snow melt, she noticed something in one of the stream beds.

Levick's conserved notebook.

Levick's conserved notebook. Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust New Zealand

"I thought it might be some packaging. I reached in and lifted it out. I realised we had something with a pretty strong connection to the original expedition."

Levick was a part of Scott's 1910-1913 expedition and a member of the Northern Party. The notebook contains his pencil notes detailing the date, subjects and exposure details for the photographs he took.

Ms Meek said she was excited to find the notebook.

"It's just another one of those primary records from the expedition we didn't know we had."

She said the notebook was fragile and because the binding was damaged it gave an opportunity to scan the book's contents while the pages were separated.

"I think what it does is help to explain the photographs that Levick left behind. Often times what happens is you just get the photographs themselves and they form part of a collection; but these give us the subject titles he gave the images."

Lieutenant Victor Campbell surveys with a theodolite.

Lieutenant Victor Campbell surveys with a theodolite. Photo: Scott Polar Research Institute

The notebook's binding had been dissolved by 100 years of ice and water damage, so the pages could be separated and digitised before repair.

Close examination revealed links between the notations in the notebook and photographs held by the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge and attributed to Levick.

Each page of the notebook was conserved by the Trust in New Zealand before being re-bound into sections and sewn back together and the cover reconstructed.

The notebook has been returned to Antarctica; one of 11,000 artefacts at Cape Evans.

In 2013 the Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered photographic negatives left in Scott's 1911 Cape Evans expedition base and in 2010 the Trust discovered three crates of whisky and two crates of brandy under Ernest Shackleton's 1908 base during conservation work.

Pages from Levick's notebook.

Pages from Levick's notebook. Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust New Zealand

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