Friday, November 18, 2011

An Antarctic Time Machine...

As I've alluded to in other posts and if you are unaware, Ross Island is rich with history.  Names like Ross and Shackleton are everywhere.  When expeditions began venturing further and further south some 150 years ago they determined at some point they would need to winter over through the harsh elements on the continent.  This island is effectively as far south as you can travel via ship if the sea ice is broken up enough.  

Here at McMurdo, is where one of these permanent structures lies,  preserved perfectly for the past 110 years in the dry, arid air this continent offers.  The sight is known as Discovery Hut, named after the Discovery, Scott's first expedition ship. The hut was built in 1902, and acted more like a storage or logistics hub and part time laboratory.  The party used the ship for their quarters.  Other huts on the Island (Cape Evans, etc) are larger and purpose built for sleeping.
Scott's Discovery Hut
As stated earlier, these huts were left as they were the day these parties went out on their often ill fated journeys.  Even on the outside, are stored tents, skis and seal carcasses (for food, lamp oil, etc).  The true museum is on the inside however.
A seal carcass draped atop a stack of mountain tents

The seaward facing side of the hut
Centennial plaque commemorating the historic site
The huts are historic sites. Locked up for their protection and preservation.  The entry is controlled by the National Science Foundation here and tours are extremely limited as the natural wear of foot traffic damages the wood floors inside.  I was lucky enough to get on one of the open tours this season yesterday.
Upon entry to the hut
 Once inside the threshold, I was instantly transported by 100 years. There's not much more I can say than look at what is inside.  Stacks of dry stores on the shelves, clothing hung up to dry on clothes lines, the smell of seal blubber permeated the wood around us.

 The site is being preserved  / conserved by Antarctic Heritage Trust which is painstakingly restoring and cleaning all the huts on the island for future study.  Follow that link or further details here.

So all in all a very amazing glimpse back in time, stepping on the same floorboards as Scott's Discovery Expedition, Shackleton's Nimrod expedition and Scott's failed Terra Nova Expedition was an experience to be remembered.

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