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Inside Discovery Hut (Scott’s Hut)

Antarctica is the only continent on earth where man’s original buildings remain. On February 9, 2010, I was privileged to take several members of the New Zealand Defense Forces (NZDF) on a tour of Captain Scott’s Discovery Hut.

Discovery Hut, located just to the west of McMurdo Station, was built in February 1902 by the members of Captain Robert F. Scott’s Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904. Built of Australian jarrah wood according to a design used to keep cool in the Australian Outback, the hut turned out to be too cold to live in. As a result, the hut was used for storage, emergency shelter and a theater to keep the crew’s morale up. The crew actually lived aboard the Discovery, in Winter Quarters Bay where the current ice pier is located.

Captain Scott's Discovery Hut at Hut Point, Ross Island, Antarctica.

Captain Scott's Discovery Hut at Hut Point, Ross Island, Antarctica.

The artifacts inside the hut remain in fairly good condition considering some have been there for a hundred years. The cold, dry air prevents decay. There are also no vermin or other pests to destroy the building or its contents. While Scott and his men failed to reach the South Pole on this journey, Discovery Hut provided as an emergency shelter and a supply depot for later expeditions, including Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913. While they reached the Pole, they did so a month after Amundsen and his team from Norway. Scott and his men died on the way back. Discovery Hut was used as a base for the search party that located the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers.

Inside Discovery Hut.

Inside Discovery Hut.

Seal blubber.

Seal blubber.

Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913 was based at Cape Evans, about 14 miles north of Hut Point. Discovery Hut was used as an advance camp for the southern journeys. After positioning supplies at depots for the late 1911 attempt at the Pole, sixteen men lived in the hut from March 5 to April 21, 1911. In addition to the search parties for those who didn’t return from the Pole, eight men occupied the hut while they erected the Memorial Cross atop Observation Hill, from January 20-21, 1913.

Various supplies, including oil cans.

Various supplies, including oil cans.

During the Discovery Expedition, Scott and Dr. Wilson brought Shackleton back to Hut Point after being stricken with scurvy. Shackleton was then sent home as an invalid, creating his rivalry with Scott. Shackleton then organized his own expedition to the South Pole. Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition of 1907-1909 was based at Cape Royds, about 20 miles to the north of Hut Point, but used Discovery Hut for storage and as an advance camp. Shackleton again used the hut during his and Mackintosh’s Aurora Expedition from 1915-1917. Several men spent five months recovering from scurvy at Discovery Hut. Two of them, Mackintosh and Hayward, attempted to reach Cape Evans, 14 miles to the north, over thin sea ice. A storm blew the ice out to sea and the two were never seen again.

Food on the stove, probably from Shackleton's Aurora Expedition 1915-1917.

Food on the stove, probably from Shackleton's Aurora Expedition 1915-1917.

Underbriches.

Underbriches.

Included in the supplies brought by ship at the beginning of the expeditions was livestock, some of which still remains in the hut.

Delicious Mutton. (Sheep and other animals were brought on ships at the beiginning of expeditions.)

Delicious Mutton.

These early Antarctic expeditions provided much in the way of scientific discovery. Oceanography, meteorology, biology, geology and other scientific disciplines were studied in addition to attempts at the South Pole.

Penguin bones.

Bones.

“We must always remember with gratitude and admiration the first sailors who steered their vessels through storms and mists, and increased our knowledge of the lands of ice in the South.” ~ Roald Amundsen. (1872-1928)

7 comments to Inside Discovery Hut (Scott’s Hut)

  • Chuck Pisano

    Amazing sites to see there. Did they look under the floorboards to see what they could find, like at Shackelton’s Hut?

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0205/shackleton.html

    It seems strange to say “see you in a few weeks” but we look forward to having you back. Enjoy the time you have left.

  • Kristen Kessel Ellison

    Very educational! Thanks for the photos; I’ve been wondering what’s in that Hut.

  • Mom

    I’m sure you’ve made a great tour guide on all your expeditions…very knowledgable and you make things interesting. Plus the fact that you are enjoying it so…which makes it that much more worthwhile.

    Just recently I checked out the books you’ve read while on this expedition…that’s quite an AMAZING list!

    Take care and enjoy!!!

  • Matt V

    Scott – I don’t think you will truly get a feel for what it was like unless you stay in the hut. How ’bout it?

  • Scott

    @ Mom: Yeah, I do a bit of reading here. To paraphrase lines from A Bronx Tale: “There are only two things to do here: Drink and get in trouble.”
    “What did you do?”
    “Me? I read.”

    @ Matt: No thanks, it’s too cold in there. Plus it smells like a barn. Must be all that mutton and seal meat. And anthrax.

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