Scott and Shackleton's abandoned huts in Antarctica

31 marzo 2008

Shelves are still stocked with tins of cabbage, veal or onions. All these objects have been preserved by cold for the last 100 years. Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton left them here in their way to the South Pole, in the beginning of the XX century. But none of them was able to come back.

1. Scott's hut

On November 1, 1911, British explorer Robert Falcon Scott departed from Cape Evans on his Terra Nova Expedition, trying to become the first man to reach the South Pole. But the captain and his companions never returned to camp—they died on the return journey after having been beaten to the pole by Amundsen.

Scott and his men left behind a prefabricated, seaweed-insulated wooden cabin and its outbuildings, as well as scientific equipment used to measure the continent's fearsome climate. The cabin would be later occupied by Sir Ernest Shackleton during his Imperial Trans Arctic Expedition (1914-1917), and supplies from both expeditions are still at the camp, historic remains from the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. [1]

Scott's hut is located on the north shore of Cape Evans on Ross Island in Antarctica. Although abandoned in 1913, the hut and its contents are remarkably well preserved today due to the constant freezing conditions.

One of the purposes of the Scott expedition was to collect biological samples. Next to the door, there is a crate of Emperor Penguin Eggs that they collected, but that never got shipped out.

2. Shackleton's hut

On January 1, 1908, the Nimrod the Nimrod Expedition, led by Ernest Shackleton, arrived to Cape Royds, about twenty miles from Hut Point. Shackleton believed the site to be perfect and the men began unloading supplies at once. During the next three weeks, they erected the prefabricated hut, built a stable for the ponies and hauled tons of provisions over the floes to shore.

Time capsule of sorts, the hut appear to have been recently vacated by the men who built them, with food on the shelves and socks hanging on laundry lines. Shackleton's hut was found intact, with bread still on the tables just as they had been left.

While the preservation of food in the freezing temperatures and dry climate has been noted, bacterial decay still occurs. Besides, the World Monuments Watch describes it as one of the hundred most endangered sites in the world, and New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) has been working in the last years to preserve it from corrosion.

The work involves restoring some of the wooden planks used to build the hut, and repairing and replacing some of the artefacts inside- the cooking pots and food, the laboratory equipment, the skis and sledges.

Inside the hut there are still some interesting surprises. This is Ernest Shackleton's signature. It is very hard to find, and not very many people know where it is.

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7