Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Historic Huts of the Ross Sea Region

My next adventure was to Cape Evans and Cape Royds, home of Scott’s ‘Terra Nova’ and Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod’ historic huts. This journey took me to the east of Scott Base ~50km along the shores of Ross Island.

Together with six others, I headed off across the sea-ice in the back of a Hagglund. A few hours passed by until the Hagglund finally came to halt. I clambered out from the dark canopy and stood in the bright sun with a fine view of Mt Erebus and a small wooden hut about 100m away. Beside us sat a green wanagan (shipping container converted into a mobile home) with a New Zealand flag set on a pole and a second flag bearing the letters ‘AHT’.

This was the camp of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, a non-profit organization responsible for the care of the expedition bases associated with the first explorers of the Ross Sea region. The conservation team housed within had the somewhat ominous task to restore and conserve what remained of Scott’s infamous ‘Terra Nova’ hut, for which lay some meters in the distance.

Al Fastier, the Trust’s Programme Manager came out and greeted us beside the Hagglund. There was a stiff breeze blowing down off Mt Erebus so Al ushered us over to the entrance of the hut where he informed us of the history and conservation work he and his team had embarked on over the summer month. We were then invited to enter into the hut.

Stepping into the hut was like stepping back in time. I had expected it to be just some old run-down hut with nothing of particular interest. However, as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness I began to sense that this was not just any old hut.

The room inside was large, perhaps 15m across by 8 wide. In the centre sat a large dinning table, to the right was a kitchen fully stocked with supplies, bunk beds lay to centre left and right of the dining table. Towards the rear I could make out a laboratory and photographic darkroom. In the far left corner I recognized something I had seen before in a photograph. It was the bunk and desk of Robert Falcon Scott. An airy sensation ran down my spine as I looked around and recognized more features from the historic photos. From within these walls lay the memories of men whose adventure, discovery and endurance was on a magnitude I could hardly begin to imagine. I sat myself down on the floor and looked up into the rafters searching for the ghosts that haunted these walls.

The experience of visiting the historic huts left me awestruck for the next few days. It also made me appreciate the work and effort of the AHT team to protect these huts for future generations as a vestige of Antarctica’s heroic age and early explorers.

A Visit to The Historic Huts of the Ross Sea Region

A Visit to The Historic Huts of the Ross Sea Region

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