Portsmouth woman’s Antarctic adventure was a ‘dream come true’

Diana McCormack, senior conservator at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard joined an expedition to the Antarctic to help preserve huts/artefacts from famous historic explorers. Picture: Lizzie Meek
Diana McCormack, senior conservator at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard joined an expedition to the Antarctic to help preserve huts/artefacts from famous historic explorers. Picture: Lizzie Meek
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TENDING to historic artefacts left by the world’s greatest explorers in the sub-zero temperatures of the Antarctic isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.

But for conservation expert Diana McCormack, it was a dream come true.

Diana McCormack, senior conservator at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, recently joined an expedition to the Antarctic to help preserve huts/artefacts from famous historic explorers. Picture: Lizzie Meek

Diana McCormack, senior conservator at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, recently joined an expedition to the Antarctic to help preserve huts/artefacts from famous historic explorers. Picture: Lizzie Meek

The history buff, who works as a senior conservator at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, spent six weeks on an expedition to Ross Island.

She joined a select team in a battle to preserve the bases of famed explorers Captain Robert Falcon Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Sir Edmund Hillary.

Working with the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust (NZAHT) as the group’s first conservation ambassador, she helped tend to dozens of items left inside the huts.

The 36-year-old, who is now back in Portsmouth looking after HMS Victory, said: ‘The trip was more than I had ever imagined. It was a dream come true.’

Battling temperatures of minus 20C, she and the small team of volunteers inspected a range of huts used by the explorers on their voyages.

But it wasn’t a simple mission. The team spent days sleeping on the Antarctic ice in polar tents.

And they even had to shift huge snow drifts that had blocked up one of the huts.

Despite the cold, Diana said it was worth it.

She said: ‘When you walk into the huts it really does feel like they have just left.

‘You can see the wardrobe, tables, lamps, sleeping bags in the bunks and tins of food inside. It feels like they were all just there.’

Diana’s work saw her using her conservation skills to preserve metal tins of food, left behind, from rusting, as well as a pack of matches and even a horse shoe.

Now back in the UK, she aims to spread the word of her adventure to university students and others as part of her ambassadorial role.

For more details of the trip, see nzaht.org.