Posted by Cricket
Date: 20 October 2010
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Temp with wind chill: -26C
Sunrise: 3:24am (!!!)
Sunset: 12:07am (!!!!)
Shortly after the arrival of the new summer base staff, a week of daily and sometimes twice-daily fire drills began. When a fire alarm sounded, the protocol for those of us not on fire crew duty was to hurry to the flag pole to get checked off the roster and then assembled in the historic TAE/IGY hut until we were cleared to go back to work. The drills allowed us time to admire the interior of the first building at Scott Base, which has been preserved and maintained for the public. It includes much of the old equipment and fixtures as well as displays of early clothing, food stuff and even a big metal bathtub.
TAE/IGY hut © Cricket/AHT
The history of the TAE/IGY hut and the original complex at Scott Base is interesting. The idea began in 1953 when the British announced the beginning of the International Geophysical Year program and their intent to cross Antarctica. Such a polar crossing required support bases on opposite ends of the continent, one in the Weddell Sea and the other in the Ross Sea. Dr. Vivian Fuchs, the leader of the trans-Antarctic expedition, selected the already famous Sir Edmund Hillary to head the Ross Sea group and construct Scott Base.
The four-room TAE/IGY hut was completed in 10 days on January 20, 1957 and was the first of six interconnected buildings. It was the most important building in the complex because it housed the galley, radio room and served as Hillary’s office and bunkroom. Originally called the ‘A’ Hut, it was renamed to its current name in 2001 to reflect its original purpose of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) and International Geophysical Year program (IGY). At that time it was also officially registered under the Antarctic Treaty as a historic monument.
Panorama of the interior © Cricket/AHT
One on my favorite features, and this is likely influenced by the reason for our visit, is the fire escape hatch. The hatch is a small red square door near the top of one wall with an industrial refrigerator door latch. After a week of throwing around reasons for what seems like an awkward and inconvenient design, our best guess was that it was placed high, rather than low near the ground, to allow egress without obstruction from potential snow drifts. We wondered, though, why so small, how would you get up there quickly (there was no ladder) and, if there were no snow drifts outside, would you get hurt diving through?