Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Scott’s Terra Nova Hut

The Terra Nova Hut (AKA Scott’s Hut) is located on the north shore of Cape Evans on Ross Island in Antarctica.  It was built in 1911 by the British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition, led by Robert Scott.  For the 1910-1913 Terra Nova Expedition, Scott and his men decided not to use Discovery Hut (prior post), because the hut was too cold.  In a prior expedition,Scott’s ship, Discovery had been trapped in Sea Ice near hut point.  He hoped to avoid both of these by moving further north.

The Terra Nova hut was prefabricated in England.  It is 50 feet long, 25 feet wide and set at the base of Mt. Erebus.  Seaweed between the wall provides insulation. Heat is from the kitchen and from a coal supplementary stove.  It was reported as being much warmer than Discovery Hut.  It is the largest historic building on the Antarctic continent.

25 men lived in this hut during the winter of 1911.  From here, Scott and his men set out for the South Pole.  The Scott party reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912 (5 weeks after Amundsen), but died on the way back to McMurdo sound.  Several men from the shore party remained at the Terra Nova hut for the winter of 1912 to search for the bodies the next spring.  In 1913, the Terra Nova expedition was over and the hut was left well supplied.

It was reused from 1915-1917 by men from Shackleton Ross Sea Party.  Plans called for a shore team to stay in the hut while the remainder of the crew wintered on the Aurora boat.  In May 1915, the Aurora broke free of its moorings in a blizzard, drifted north with the ice and was unable to return.  The hut was permanent quarters for the 10 men left behind.  Despite little provisions, they continued to lay supply depots per the original expedition plan.  Initially they carried supplies by hand pulled sleds.  Eventually they switched to dog/horse pulled sleds. The survivors were rescued by Shackleton and the Aurora in 1917 (after two winters) and the hut was again abandoned.  It remained untouched between 1917 and 1965 when US explorers dug it out of snow and ice.  It is very well preserved and remains much as it was in 1917.

Many of the clothing and food are the same as we found in the Discovery Hut.  I tried to pull out pictures from this trip that are different from the Discovery Hut photos.  There was much less seal blubber and meat around Terra Nova Hut.  Instead, they seemed to use more Penguin meat and eggs.

The London News in the foreground of this photo is from 1908.  This penguin was in the main living quarters.  In the barn, next to the stalls, there was at least 10 other penguins.

This hut was also much better stocked with medical supplies and chemistry equipment than the discovery hut.  I was expecting to find medical tools, but did not locate them on this trip.  The hut was quite dark.  I will need to return with a head light next time.

Despite the medications, men were still lost from environmental exposure and illness.

R.W. Richards was a 22 year old Australian Scientist who was a part of the Ross Sea Party, in support of Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition.  Richards was one of the folks rescued by Shackleton and died in 1981 at age 91.  Mackintosh and Haywood were never found after they left Hut Point on a sea ice crossing to Cape Evans where they planned to spend their second winter in Terra Nova Hut.

The remainder of the photos are of food/supplies that I did not see in the Discovery Hut, including Heinz Ketchup and Lime Juice.

This post would not be complete without cheese (red cartons) and a wine opener!  I could not find the wine though.

The BBC starts filming at the Terra Nova hut this weekend.  I was lucky enough to get a tour before the hut closes for filming.

3 responses

  1. martha

    wow … super interesting! So lucky you got to go in there and check it out. Read Shackleton’s story; amazing!

    November 3, 2010 at 1:01 PM

  2. dana

    Really neat. The dead penguins were sad but boy are they cute

    November 4, 2010 at 6:17 AM

  3. Wendy Mayer

    Jessie, I just got caught up in your latest adventures. Absolutely amazing. I was wondering what kind of medicine you have to practice. Has everyone been healthy or do you have many visitors to the Health Clinic. When do you see TJ again? I am so enjoying your adventure as I would never and I mean never do it myself. Love, Wendy

    November 4, 2010 at 12:15 PM

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