Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Fungi That Came in From The Cold

A while back i declared my undying fascination  for all things arctic exploration, those stories are so incredible.
From folks who tried to take a microcosm of the their world with them, right down to button polishing boards (mustn't get polish on the uniform old chap - you never know who might drop by to inspect us). To the wisdom of abandoning all preconceptions and doing as the locals do, traveling fast and light by dogsled dressed in the time served apparel of the indigenous people.
E.W. Bingham in his bath with Kernac 

So i thought this was an interesting follow up. Basically the historic sites of Antarctic exploration are being eaten by mould. Yes there are fungi that have been hanging on in there living on penguin droppings and guano for millennia, just waiting for someone to build them a nice wooden hut to eat! 

A scientist call Robert Blanchette may have discovered as many as three new fungi where no one believed they existed or could exist and he says they're feasting on the historic wooden huts built a century ago by legendary British explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott. The small buildings, constructed during Shackleton's and Scott's efforts to explore Antarctica and reach the South Pole between 1901 and 1915, are considered invaluable links to the "heroic age" of polar exploration, between 1895 and 1917. 

The huts, among the only remaining structures from attempts to inhabit the continent, are cared for by the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust, so scientists, eco-tourists and history buffs can visit the structures, and marvel at the litter the fathers of polar exploration left behind— newspaper clippings, cans of food and clothing— all abandoned by Shackleton's and Scott's expedition members. When conservationists noticed signs of decay in the huts—rotting planks and wooden crates covered with black speckles they assumed the moulds were contamination brought in from warmer climes. But according to Robert Blanchette's research they turned out to be the only forms of fungi ever found that can live in the deep freeze. Every day's a school day eh! Who'da thunk it?