Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Coconut Conservation

I am currently preparing exhibits for the new Quayle Gallery at the Nautical Museum. The idea of the gallery is to tell the story of Peggy and of George Quayle during the absence of the boat itself.
We are planning to show some of the objects from last year's archaeological dig. Some, like this coconut (one of two), are rather unusual.

Drinking coconut with marine accretion

It would appear that the conservation of marine archaeological coconuts is a new or at least rare discipline! Would the two hundred year-old coconuts (fashioned as posh drinking cups) shrink and crack when dried out? Would sea salt destroy them as they dried?
To counter any possibility of the latter they have been soaked for several months in clean water. I measure the amount of salt in the water regularly to see at what point it is at a negligible level.
One of the coconuts was squashed and split when we found it. I am now allowing this one to dry, and I'm recording the width of the cracks and splits to see if they change as it does so. I'm not expecting any dramatic changes, after all and as my colleague Matthew Richardson pointed out, coconuts have evolved to withstand long periods floating in the sea - it's a primary means of propagation.

Monitoring the split coconut while it dries

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