Conservation in Antarctica

The Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project is an international project led by the Antarctic Heritage Trust to conserve the huts and artefacts left in Antarctica by the explorers of the ‘heroic era’ (1895-1917).

The conservators are conserving the artefacts from Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1911 hut at Cape Evans, and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 hut at Cape Royds. Both huts have been listed on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World.

In a world first for cultural heritage conservation, 3 hardy conservators set out in early 2006 to spend the harsh winter months in Antarctica. They were followed by others who are now on the ice, telling their story through the Antarctic conservation blog.

The conservation work

The conservators are currently working to save Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s base at Cape Evans, which he used for his 1911 race for the South Pole. The hut itself is at risk from snow build-up and contains over 8,000 artefacts. These are items left behind by the explorers who lived in the hut - cans of food, equipment and clothing which tell a touching tale of life in one of Earth’s most unforgiving environments.

This hut has remained frozen in time but is now undergoing conservation. Work is undertaken on the hut each summer and the Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators have so far managed to conserve over half the objects and are working to conserve the remainder. An incredible task which is being undertaken in some of the harshest conditions the world has to offer, with freezing temperatures, hurricane-force winds and, in winter, the challenge of 24-hour darkness.

The conservators are based at New Zealand's modern Antarctic research station, Scott Base.

Follow their story on the team's Antarctic conservation blog

Shackleton's hut

Past teams of conservators have also worked on the hut at Cape Royds where Shackleton and 9 other team members left their ship, the Nimrod, to winter on Ross Island in Antarctica's McMurdo Sound on 22 February 1908.

Designed and pre-fabricated before the mission, the cabin is big enough to house 15 people in a single room. There is also an improvised garage and stable made from packing boxes for the ponies and dogs.

The hut still houses Shackleton’s team’s equipment and many of their personal possessions including clothing, books and food, some canned, some preserved by the freezing environment. Over 5,000 of these artefacts have now been conserved as part of the Antarctic heritage and the work on the hut is now almost complete.