New field camp for oldest site

Credit: Erik Bradshaw

A chance chat at a workshop between Trust Programme Manager Al Fastier and Queenstown adventurer Erik Bradshaw established a mutual interest in water tank huts.

Al was in the process of designing a remote field camp and Erik had built a prototype tank hut as an emergency backcountry ski hut.

From there, a desire was born to work together to design a ‘tank hut’ that would be suitable for the extreme Antarctic environment.

Erik worked with Al and the Trust’s structural engineer Win Clark to design the turks.  Each turk has a 10m2 floor area and the three structures form a living area, work shed and store room.

Based on this design Antarctica New Zealand then commissioned Erik to construct three huts, which Erik calls ‘turks’ – “not a hut, not a yurt not a tank, so it must be a turk”.

The turks would form part of a field camp at Cape Adare in Antarctica – a remote and wild place where temperatures can reach -30 degrees. The turks will serve as the temporary base for Antarctic Heritage Trust experts conserving the first building on the continent – early explorer Carsten Borchgrevink’s hut.

Al says this project was a great example of Kiwi ingenuity, right down to the idea of filling the bases with two tonnes of gravel so they don’t blow over in the 200km per hour winds that roar into Cape Adare.

The turks took six weeks to assemble, and were built in Lyttelton by Richard Harcourt, Gary Rochford and Dirk Passchier. They were transported on the Chinese National Antarctic Programme’s icebreaker Xue Long.

“Cape Adare is also home to the world’s largest Adélie penguin rookery, so we have to time the turks’ arrival for when the birds have finished nesting” says Erik.

The camp was successfully installed in February this year. The team consisted of Erik, Queenstown builder Doug Henderson, engineer and mechanic Jeff Rawson and Department of Conservation backcountry construction specialist John Taylor. Luckily, around 58 members of the Xue Long’s crew were available to assist, meaning the camp was installed in record time.

Cape Adare ‘turks’ team: Jeff Rawson, John Taylor, Erik Bradshaw, Doug Henderson.

Erik said he is confident the conservation team would like what they see when they walk into the huts next year. ‘’I think they’ll be really happy. Compared with staying in a canvas tent, its complete luxury.’’

A team of seven conservation experts will be working onsite at Cape Adare for a further two summer seasons to complete the conservation programme.

Executive Director Nigel Watson says, “We are very grateful to Antarctica New Zealand for their support on this important project and to the crew of the Xue Long for their assistance transporting and installing the camp in such a remote place. It provides the foundation for our work on this historically significant site that we care for on behalf of humanity.”

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