During the heroic era of exploration
huts were built along the Ross Sea region by Robert Scott and Ernest
Shackleton to house their expedition crews for up to 3 years while
they explored Antarctica and tried to be the first to reach the
South Pole. When their relief ships came the wooden huts and thousands
of artifacts were left behind. After 9 to 10 decades, the huts are
deteriorating and mold growth is active inside the huts during the
With funds from the National
Science Foundation and with cooperation from the Antarctic Heritage
Trust and the University of Waikato in New Zealand we have been
studying the microorganisms active in this extreme environment.
The fungi responsible for decaying the wood are very unusual and
species identified are rarely found in temperate areas. Since these
species have received little to no study, we are currently working
on the biology and ecology of these unique microorganisms. Environmental
monitoring of the huts is also currently underway and ways to prevent
mold growth inside the huts on wood, textiles, paper, etc. is being
to more information and photographs about our research in Antarctica
For a PDF file reprint of recently published research see:
Blanchette, R. A., B. W. Held, B. E. Arenz, J. A. Jurgens, N. J. Baltes, S. M. Duncan and R. L. Farrell. 2010. An Antarctic hot spot for fungi at Shackleton's historic hut on Cape Royds. Microbial Ecology doi: 10.1007/s00248-010-9664-z (see the Microbial Ecology journal web site "Online First" articles)
Stehberg, Ruben, M. Pearson, R. A. Blanchette and J. A. Jurgens. 2009. A further note on a sealer's sledge discovered on Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands. Polar Record 45:275. doi:10.1017/S0032247409008201
Arenz, B. E. and R. A. Blanchette. 2009. Investigations of fungal diversity in wooden structures and soils at historic sites on the Antarctic Peninsula. Canadian Journal of Microbiology 55:46-56. Reprint
Konkol, N. R., C J. McNamara, R. A. Blanchette, E. May and R. Mitchell. 2008. Microbes can damage but also help restore artifacts. Microbe 3(12): 563-567. Reprint
Arenz, B. A. and R. A. Blanchette. 2008. East Base, SOS: Assessment of deterioration and recommendations for conserving this important Antarctic site. In: Historical Polar Bases – Preservation and Management. Edited by S. Barr and P. Chaplin. ICOMOS Monuments and Sites No.XVII. International Polar Heritage Committee, Oslo, Norway pp.96. ISBN 978-82-996891-2-0. Copies can be obtained from the IPCH.
Duncan, S. M., R. Minasaki, R. L. Farrell, J.M. Thaites, B. W. Held, B. E. Arenz, Joel A. Jurgens and R. A. Blanchette. 2008. Screening fungi isolated from historic Discovery Hut on Ross Island, Antarctica for cellulose degradation. Antarctic Science 20:463-470. Reprint
Farrell, R. L., S. Duncan, R. A. Blanchette, B. W. Held, J. A. Jurgens and B. A. Arenz. 2008. Scientific evaluation of deterioration of historic huts of Ross Island, Antarctica. In: Historical Polar Bases – Preservation and Management. Edited by S. Barr and P. Chaplin. ICOMOS Monuments and Sites No.XVII. International Polar Heritage Committee, Oslo, Norway pp.96. ISBN 978-82-996891-2-0. Copies can be obtained from the IPCH.
Other previously published papers:
Arenz, B. E., B. W. Held, J. A. Jurgens, R. L. Farrell and R. A. Blanchette. 2006. Fungal diversity in soils and historic wood from the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 38:3057-3064.
Duncan, S., R. L. Farrell, J. M. Thwaites, B. W.
Held, B. E. Arenz, J. A. Jurgens and R. A. Blanchette. 2006. Endoglucanase-producing
fungi isolated from Cape Evans historic expedition hut on Ross Island,
Antarctica. Environmental Microbiology 8:1212-1219.
Held, B. W., J.A. Jurgens, S.M. Duncan, R.L. Farrell
and R.A. Blanchette. 2006. Assessment of fungal diversity and deterioration
in a wooden structure at New Harbor, Antarctica. Polar Biology 29:526-531. Published
on line as DOI 10.1007/s00300-005-0084-3.
Held, B. W., J. A. Jurgens, B. E. Arenz, S. M.
Duncan, R. L. Farrell and R. A. Blanchette. 2005. Environmetal factors
influencing microbial growth inside the historic huts of Ross Island,
Biodeterioration and Biodegradation 55:45-53.
R.A. Banchette, B.W. Held, J.A. Jurgens, D.L.
McNew, T.C. Harrington, S.M. Duncan, and R.L. Farrell. 2004. Wood-destroying
soft rot fungi in the historic expedition huts of Antarctica. Applied
Environmental Microbiology 70:1328-1335.
Blanchette, R. A., B. W. Held, J. A. Jurgens, J.
Aislabie, S. Duncan and R. L. Farrell. 2004. Environmental pollutants
from the Scott and Shackleton expeditions during the 'Heroic Age'
of Antarctic exploration. Polar
Farrell, R. L., R. A. Blanchette, M. Auger, S.
M. Duncan, B. W. Held, J. A. Jurgens, and R. Minasaki. 2004. Scientific
evaluation of deterioration in historic huts of Ross Island, Antarctica.
In: S. Barr and P. Chaplin (Eds.), Polar Monuments and Sites: Cutural
Heritage in the Arctic and Antarctica Regions. ICOMOS Monuments
and Sites Number VIII. Available from the International
Polar Heritage Committee
Blanchette, R.A., 2003. Deterioration in Historic
and Archaeological Woods from Terrestrial Sites. In: Koestler, R.J.,
Koestler, V.R., Charola, A.E., and Nieto-Fernandez, F.E., (Eds.),
Art, Biology, and Conservation: Biodeterioration of Works of Art.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 328-347. PDF
Blanchette, R. A., B. W. Held and R. L. Farrell.
2002. Defibration of wood in the expedition huts of Antarctica:
an unusual deterioration process occurring in the polar environment.