Robert Falcon Scott’s first foray into the Antarctic occurred as leader of a British National Antarctic Expedition onboard the Discovery. After leaving England in August 1901, the arrived in the Ross Sea in February 1902. They had brought with them a pre-fabricated hut from Australia where they had passed on the way south. Unfortunately, the style of hut they chose was a four-side verandahed hut designed for the toasty Australian outback, not for the chilly Antarctic conditions. Furthermore, their positioning of the hut in a saddle of a point looking out over McMurdo Sound, now known as Hut Point, resulted in the wind whistling through and making the hut a miserable spot to reside. As a result, Scott’s party more commonly stayed onboard the Discovery, which was stuck in the ice offshore. Scott’s poor positioning however was a benefit for us, being just a short walk from ‘downtown’ McMurdo, and a prime seal or penguin spotting point.
The hut had more use from Shakleton’s Nimrod expedition of 1908 based out of the nearby Cape Royds, and Scott’s fateful Terra Nova expedition of 1911 based out of Cape Evans. It was from this hut that Scott launced his first assault on the Pole. Accompanied by Shackleton and Edward Wilson, due to lack of preparation and skill, they only made it as far south as 82°16’30”S, before having to turn back.
The hut has been restored by the Antarctic Heritage Trust to regain its former glory. Laying under one of the verandahs lies the remnants of a seal. From which expedition it originates is unclear, but given the sub zero conditions and lack of pests to scavenge, the carcass remains largely undisturbed.
Inside the hut, the drafty central room is caked with a black soot from the seal blubber stove that the men used to try and warm themselves. Chests marked with the inscriptions of the various expeditions to use the hut, and denoting their unappetising contents. Bovril, Huntley and Palmer’s Digestive crackers, canned Herring, Cabin biscuits, oatmeal and cocoa containers can all be found, alongside snow shoes, hay, seal skeletons and more blubber. Part of the ceiling is missing, apparently due to fire stoking tendancies when things got too cold.
Up on the point, overlooking the hut lies Vince’s Cross, in memory of Abel Seaman George T Vince who perished during Scott’s Discovery expedition, whilst in a snowstorm when he fell off an ice cliff in McMurdo Sound.