Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Discovery Hut

I had the opportunity to explore Discovery Hut, which is located near McMurdo base on Hut Point.  The Discovery Hut was built in 1902 by members of The Discovery expedition on Ross Island.   It was prefabricated by James Moore in Sydney Australia and was intended to house small landing parties.  It was built of Australian materials according to a design used to keep cool in the Australian Outback.  Needless to say, 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.

The artifacts inside the hut remain in good condition. The cold, dry air prevents decay and there are no pests to destroy the building or its contents.   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.  Scott and his men failed to reach the South Pole on the Discovery Expedition.

The Discovery Hut proved useful as an emergency shelter and storage space for later expeditions, including Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913. This expedition was based at Cape Evans, about 14 miles north of Hut Point. Discovery Hut was used as an advance camp for the southern journeys.   This time, Scott’s expedition did reach the Pole, but it was a month after Amundsen’s team.   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.

In addition to the search parties for those who didn’t return from the Pole, eight men occupied the hut while they built the Memorial Cross atop Observation Hill, from January 20-21, 1913.

Shackleton organized his own expedition to the South Pole. Shackleton’s 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.

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2 responses

  1. Kelly

    wow! I just learned a ton! What a place of history. Sounds like many stories are preserved in those three walls. Love you.

    October 17, 2010 at 10:14 AM

  2. dana

    great pictures! that looks fun. love you!

    October 17, 2010 at 12:39 PM

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