4 Jun 2020

Voices from Antarctica 2: Scott Base

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 4 June 2020

In the Scott Base episode of Voices from Antarctica, Alison Ballance gets some tips on how to sleep warmly and go to the toilet out in the field, and gets a tour of Hillary Hut with Antarctic Heritage Trust conservator Al Fastier.

Hillary Hut was the first building erected at Pram Point in what would become the New Zealand Antarctic station of Scott Base. The hut is named in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary and was a kitset erected in 1957. It was recently repainted in its original colours of yellow and orange.

Hillary Hut or Hut A was the first building erected at Pram Point, on Ross Island, in what would become the New Zealand Antarctic station of Scott Base. The hut is named in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary and was a kitset erected in 1957. It now serves as a museum and was recently restored and repainted in its original colours. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

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Scott Base is New Zealand’s Antarctic station, situated at Pram Point, Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island in McMurdo Sound. Its exact location is 77°51’S and 166°46’E, and it is 10 metres above sea level. The United States’ McMurdo Station lies a few kilometres away.

Scott Base is a series of interlinked buildings, and is painted a distinctive shade of green, Resene Chelsea Cucumber.

Scott Base is a series of interlinked buildings, and is painted a distinctive shade of green, Resene Chelsea Cucumber. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Hillary Hut, was known as Hut A in the original Scott Base, and was constructed as a kitset in January 1957.

It is officially known as the TAE / IGY hut. This stands for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition – International Geophysical Year.

Hillary's Hut now serves as a museum.

A much-photographed AA sign in front of Scott Base indicating distance to other locations.

A much-photographed AA sign in front of Scott Base. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Hillary Hut was built to house a team of New Zealanders, led by Sir Edmund Hillary, who were supporting Sir Vivian Fuchs’ effort to cross Antarctica. Sir Ed and his team were just meant to lay supply depots for Fuchs, but they ended up driving all the way to the South Pole in Massey Fergusson tractors where they met ‘Bunny’ Fuchs and his team who had crossed from the other side of the continent.

Conservator Al Fastier works for the Antarctic Heritage Trust. He is standing next to one of his favourite artefacts in Hillary Hut, also known as Hut A from the original Scott Base - the water-maker used to melt glacier ice.

Conservator Al Fastier works for the Antarctic Heritage Trust, and he has been involved in the restoration of five historic huts in the Ross Sea region. He is standing next to one of his favourite artefacts in Hillary Hut, also known as Hut A from the original Scott Base - the water-maker used to melt glacier ice. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

The original Scott Base was intended to be a temporary camp only, but in 1962 the New Zealand government decided to make it a permanent Antarctic Base.

Over time, the old base has been mostly replaced by new buildings.

This anemometer was used by Sir Vivian Fuchs during the Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition, and is now in the Hillary Hut museum at Scott Base.

This anemometer was used by Sir Vivian Fuchs during the Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition, and is now in the Hillary Hut museum at Scott Base. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has recently restored Hillary’s Hut, as part of a multi-year mission to restore five historic huts in the Ross Sea region.

The piano housed in Hillary Hut was acquired from the Americans in the late 1950s and lived in the Scott Base bar for many years.

The piano housed in Hillary Hut was acquired from the Americans in the late 1950s and lived in the Scott Base bar for many years. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

In 2011, Alison Ballance reported on the restoration of Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds.

This iconic photo shows the Scott Base pian , shortly after it was acquired by the New Zealanders, being played on the sea ice.

This iconic photo shows the Scott Base pian , shortly after it was acquired by the New Zealanders, being played on the sea ice. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

In 2007, Veronika Meduna reported on the restoration of the Nimrod Hut and Scott's Hut at Cape Evans.

A photo of the original Scott Base built in 1957. The glacier in the background no longer exists.

A photo of the original Scott Base built in 1957. The glacier in the background no longer exists. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

The kitchen in Hillary Hut, which is officially known as the TAE / IGY hut. The ice melter for making water is at the rear on the right.

The kitchen in Hillary Hut, which is officially known as the TAE / IGY hut. The ice melter for making water is at the rear on the right. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Voices from Antarctica – listen to the full series

Voices from Antarctica 1: Ice Flight

Voices from Antarctica 2: Scott Base

Voices from Antarctica 3: Flags to physics

Voices from Antarctica 4: Best journey in the world

Voices from Antarctica 5: Waiting for Emperors

Our Changing World’s Antarctic collection

Listen to a wide range of stories recorded in and about Antarctica from our archives.