A conservation expert from South Oxhey discovered an unexpected piece of Watford history in Antarctica, while restoring artefacts left by Captain Robert Scott's doomed polar expedition.

Georgina Whiteley and a team of three other conservators have spent the last year working for New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust, restoring artefacts to mark the centenary of Scott's trip to the south pole.

The project has centred on restoring items from photographer Herbert Ponting's darkroom, who used glass plate negatives, even though film had been in popular use for at least 20 years.

Ms Whiteley, 30, said: “The majority of plates are by the Paget Prize Plate Company, an old Watford-based manufacturer.

“The company was not in existence for very long, which makes these packages very rare indeed. It was a very nice surprise to be working on so much Watford material out here.

“As the paper conservator on the team, my work has focused on the paper-based items including approximately 150 packages of these glass-plate negatives remaining in the darkroom.”

2010 is the hundred year anniversary of The Terra Nova Expedition, where Captain Robert Falcon Scott led a team of four in a race to reach the South Pole.

The doomed expedition set off from Cardiff in June 1910, and after a short spell in New Zealand headed for Antarctica.

After years of preparation Scott's team reached the pole on January 17, 1912, only to find they had been beaten by Roald Amundsen and his Norwegian team, who got there 33 days before them.

Scott and his entire party then died on the return journey, discovered by a search party eight months later.

Ms Whiteley, who has braved -60 degree temperatures while on the southern most continent, came to conservation from an art and history background, and studied at Camberwell College in London.

Specialising in paper and mixed-media organic materials, she has worked in museums, archives and collections maintenance, including for the Museum of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and London Metropolitan Archives.

She added: “We have had about three and a half months of night, but the sun is due to rise above the horizon again in a few days and then I shall be flying home soon after.”