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Scott and Shackleton’s huts, Antarctica

Conservation projects at the ends of the Earth

Location: Antarctica

Conserving polar expediton history

The huts of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton are enshrined in polar exploration history, established during the period known as the Heroic age of Antarctic Exploration.

A brief history of early polar exploration…

Both men first travelled to the Polar region on the Discovery expedition 1901-1904, Scott as Captain, Shackleton as a third officer.

Shackleton returned to lead his own, Nimrod expedition between 1907-09 and established the base hut, located at Cape Royds.  Shackleton and his men built their hut to be as robust as possible – after all, it was their refuge from extreme Antarctic conditions for 14 months. The fact that the main part of the hut is still standing today is testament to their efforts and the skill of the designers.

The 33 foot long, 19 foot wide hut was prefabricated and first assembled by Humphreys Limited of Knightsbridge in London in 1907, with the itemised parts marked for re-erection on site.

His expedition achieved a number of firsts.  In March 1908 a party of five was the first to climb Mt Erebus and in late 1908 Shackleton led a party of four in an attempt to be the first to reach the Geographic South Pole.  After man-hauling for two and a half months, and less than 97 nautical miles from the Pole, he made a decision considered the finest in early polar history – to turn for home.

“The hut was not exactly a palatial residence, but on the other hand, it had been our home for a year that would always live in our memories”
Ernest Shackleton.

Scott’s Terra Nova expedition 1910–1912 was his second and final attempt at reaching the ‘prize of the day’ – the geographic South Pole.
After stopping to resupply in New Zealand, the Terra Nova anchored at Cape Evans and the base was quickly established.

Scott’s hut is the largest of the historic huts in the Ross Sea region and was erected between 4 and 17 January 1911.

Prefabricated in London, a trial erection took place in Lyttelton, New Zealand before being shipped to Antarctica.  Construction took nine days, and the hut was home to 25 members of Scott’s Shore Party.

Insulation was provided by seaweed sewn into a quilt, placed between double-planked inner and outer walls.  The roof was a sandwich of three layers of plank and two layers of rubber ply enclosing more quilted seaweed.

Scott described the hut’s feeling of comfort: ‘The word hut is misleading.  Our residence is really a house of considerable size, in every respect the finest that has ever been erected in the polar regions’

On 1 November 1911 Captain Scott and his men set out to reach the South Pole, arriving on January 17 1912.  Upon reaching the pole, they discovered that they had been beaten by Norwegian rival, Roald Amundsen.  All members of the polar party perished on their return journey.

This expedition gave rise to some of the most inspirational and harrowing stories associated with polar history. It was also instrumental in laying the foundations of modern science in Antarctica.

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