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Antarctic conservation blog archive

Hut Point

Nicola, Thursday 23 March 2006

Discovery hutWe did get to Hut Point yesterday, where Scott’s Discovery Hut is. It’s relatively easy, we can drive there because it’s on an exposed promontory right next to Mac town, but boy was it cold! Minus 21oC but windy, it cut right through you.

The hut was re-used by Shackleton after Scott’s first expedition. This was where the store-laying party returned when he tried to cross the continent and had to turn back, and they were left to survive over winter, which they barely did.

I think actually it’s the most atmospheric hut. Royds and Terra Nova (Cape Evans) are clean inside, but at Discovery they were burning seal blubber for heat and light (and eating it as well) so the inside is covered with black soot.

Sea ice from Discovery HutThey were weak and starving, but the hut had filled with ice so they had to dig out a small area inside it to live in and left the rest of the hut full of ice. And the ice here is really hard, it really is like iron or concrete, even icicles are hard to break, and if you bring one in to the lab the next morning it still hasn’t started to thaw.

We went there to put out some test samples of metal coatings that we will revisit throughout the winter to see how they function in the extreme low temperatures, mainly to see how brittle they get.

At the hut we are just testing the flexibility of various clear surface coatings that we have and use for conservation - including Paraloid and Microcrystalline wax of course! We expect that as the temperature decreases the coatings become more brittle and they are not designed for temperatures down to –40oC and we don’t want to use coatings that will ping off during the winter, as the objects expand and contract with the thermal change. So I’ve put the coatings on flexible plastic sheet and we will go periodically through the winter and bend then to see how they do. Hopefully we’ll test them down to -40oC, but that will be a cold trip.

‘Trivia Night’ last night so the Americans came over to play, there were seven teams and we came third - from the bottom!

One Response to “Hut Point”

  1. fiona mcintosh says:

    Oh, how wonderful to see the ‘Aurora’ group getting a mention! The store-laying party are largely forgotten in the history of the huts so I was really thrilled to see your bit about them. Capt Mackintosh is a distant relative of mine so your description of the blubber soot gave me a shiver up the spine! Their story is just as amazing as Scott’s and Shackleton’s so thank you for ‘putting them in the picture!’