Scott’s Terra Nova Hut
When Captain Robert Falcon Scott first explored Antarctica in 1901-1904, his crew picked up a prefabricated hut in Australia that was easy to assemble. This became the Discovery Hut, located near today’s McMurdo Station. However, that hut was not able to keep people warm, and the crew ended up staying in the ship rather than the hut to keep warm. Having learned a lesson from this, Scott brought his own prefabricated hut from England, which had a much better insulated roof and provided relatively warm and cozy living quarters: the Terra Nova Hut.
The Terra Nova Hut became the center of several expeditions between 1910 and 1913. The name comes from it serving as the base for Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, which was his ill-fated journey to the South Pole. The hut is located near Cape Evans, about 20 km (12.5 miles) north of McMurdo. Compared to the site of the Discovery Hut, the site near Cape Evans was supposed to provide more reliable access by ship late in the summer season, after the melting of the sea ice, to bring in new provisions and move men.
The historical huts in this region were initially restored and are now maintained and protected by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust. Visiting the hut was an amazing transition back in time, as many of the items still stood around the space as if left yesterday. We saw the relatively spacious living quarters, with the dining table in the middle. We also saw lots of chemicals for experiments, medicine, and developing photos in a darkroom. There was even scientific equipment for titrations that looked the same as what we use today! The hut was warmed by the kitchen stove and a central coal stove near the table.
A separate region of the hut housed the stables, which provided a warm place for the ponies and the dogs. It was also the place where patches of seal blubber were stored for heating the hut. Back in the main quarters, we discovered all the artifacts of an Antarctic expedition from a hundred years ago, like fur boots and reindeer sleeping bags. We also saw a toothbrush and coffee cups standing as if Scott and his comrades were just outside and could come in at any moment. Following in the footsteps of these early Antarctic explorers, we could sense the hardship they endured and the comradery that it took to survive under these conditions. While we started to develop this deep respect for their adventure, we also began to truly appreciate the support we receive here at McMurdo Station a hundred years later. Without these early adventurers, we never could have imagined the amazing wonders that await those of us willing to put up with some frosty days in one of the planet’s last frontiers of discovery.
Written by: Lars Tomanek