18 Mar 2015

Trust to restore Hillary's Hut

9:54 am on 18 March 2015

The trust responsible for restoring Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott's Antarctic Huts says Sir Edmund Hillary's hut is next in its sights.

Hut in the antarctic

Sir Edmund Hillary's hut. Photo: SUPPLIED / Antarctic Heritage Trust

Sir Ed's Hut, which sits at the front of Scott Base, was built to help the British during the Trans-Antarctic Expedition - the first crossing of Antarctica from one side to another over the '57/'58 summer.

The team was tasked with dropping food and fuel for the British, but famously overshadowed the expedition when they decided to race them to the South Pole, and beat them by 15 days.

The Hut, named the TAE, now has a leaking roof, melt-pools forming under the floorboards, asbestos lining and memorabilia showing signs of damage or corrosion.

Food box

A food box from the 1960s. Photo: SUPPLIED / Antarctic Heritage Trust

The Antarctic Heritage Trust needs to fundraise $1 million to do the work and maintain it for 25 years.

It hopes to have completed the restoration before Scott Base's 60th anniversary in 2017.

Conservation Q&A

With Antarctic Heritage Trust's Conservator Lizzie Meek and Programme Manager Al Fastie

Q: Why does the hut need to be restored?

A: It's 58 years since the hut was built: it's part of New Zealand's identity on the ice, and part of Antarctic history.

Q: What conservation work needs to occur inside the Hut and Why?

A: The building needs to be made weather-tight, removal of asbestos, deal with melt-water pooling under the hut, re-paint to match original yellow and orange, conserve and document the c. 350 artefact collection.

Q: This expedition only occurred 60 years ago, have the items been damaged much in that time?

A: Some items have wear and tear from their time in use. Most of them were retired from use before becoming severely damaged.

Q: How many items are there, and do you know who they all belong to?

A: There are approximately 350 objects in the hut at the moment. They comprise a range of items relating to the TAE era, as well as later decades of Scott Base history up to the 1980's. Most of the items are general issue, however there are some personal items which belonged to or were used by expedition members.

Clothing from the Hut.

Clothing from the Hut. Photo: SUPPLIED / Antarctic Heritage Trust

Q: What will the conservation work entail?

A: Objects will be assessed for treatment, photographed and catalogued onto a museum database. Any necessary conservation treatments to stabilise objects, e.g. remove corrosion, will be carried out by trained conservators using the Trust's purpose built conservation facilities at Scott Base.

Q: Will the items all remain in the hut after the work is complete?

A: In general yes, but some of the more modern items will be assessed against the TAE

Conservation Plan collection policy and removed if necessary.

Q: How long will it take and how many people will you have working for you?

A: The intensive programme of work will go across the 2016/17 Antarctic season, with a team of nine or more specialists.

Q: How bad is the level of asbestos?

A: Not bad, and it is being actively managed until removal.

Q: How will it be removed in such an environmentally conscious area?

A: It is planned to have Asbestos Specialists working as part of the conservation team to ensure the environmental and personal risks associated with this type of work are mitigated.

Q: What will the asbestos lining be replaced with?

A: All removed sheet material is to be replaced with fibre cement board to match the appearance of the original materials.

Q: How much will it cost?

A: We estimate less than $1 million to weatherproof, remove asbestos lining, conserve and catalogue the entire artefact collection, and put a 25 year maintenance fund in place.