Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Historic Huts

This morning I enjoyed my last proper shower and shave for roughly four weeks, today I head out to Camp Evans, then Cape Royds the following day. It is at Royds where I will be working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust on conserving Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod hut, in particular installing a deflection dam around the hut and excavating unwanted ice from beneath the hut.

The road from Scott Base to both Evans and Royds is over sea ice, taking roughly three hours in total. Having spent the early part of the day unwrapping artefacts (transported to the Scott Base hangar for conserving over winter) I got set to take off for Evans. On arrival, we got straight into work with no time for sightseeing. The objective at Evans was to pack up gear that will be needed at Cape Royds for the following week. Simple as this seems, it was a slow and tireless process. The combination of careful thinking and physical activities dragged the packing at Evans from 2pm - 11:30pm. It was at this time I was given the opportunity to step inside Scott's Terra Nova hut and take some time for myself.

The site of the hut is brilliant. The Barne Glacier sits to one side and Mt Erebus to the other. I entered the hut not quite sure what to think. Having read Scott's diary from his last expedition and heard a lot about the hut from others, in the end I am uncertain of the overall impression I came away with. Firstly, the size and smell of the hut came to me, with the interior stained in the scent of soot and blubber. Every detail of the hut is genuine and builds on the atmosphere of the century old building. As I walked down the dining table I passed the cook's mess still surrounded in boxes and foodstuffs, I stared down towards Herbert Ponting's photography dark room and then Scott's separate sleeping quarters. As a Navy man he was a firm believer in rank and therefore gave himself a private bedroom, whilst his colleagues slept in bunks in the dining hall!

Aside from the historic stuffed emperor penguin laying in the study, the hut seemed a dark and distant place, overshadowed by the ultimate fate of Scott and his party of four others who perished on their return from the pole, having been defeated by the Norwegian, Amundsen, some 35 days earlier. However, thinking of the highs and lows over their years in the hut it is definitely an astonishing place!

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