Credit: Mike Gillies

Ducking for Cover

A large focus for the AHT team over the last couple of weeks has been catching up on jobs associated with the TAE/IGY Hut, also known as Hillary's Hut. Hillary's Hut was part of the original Scott Base. It was built under the leadership of Sir Edmund Hillary during the Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition/International Geophysical Year 1956–1957.

This hut was lovingly restored by the team at AHT during the summer of 2016/17. It now serves as an opportunity to experience Scott Base as it was 60 years ago. The hut is filled with artefacts from the early years of the New Zealand Antarctic Programme.

Hillary's (TAE/IGY) Hut with the junction box and linkway in the foreground

With the restoration of Hillary’s Hut, the team at AHT also built a replica junction box, which attaches to an original section of corrugated iron linkway, and onto the cold porch of the hut. The recreated junction box and linkway floor was plywood, so this week I was tasked with building duckboard similar to what would have been around back in the original Scott Base.

Opening the junction box front door for the first time and experiencing the small space of the linkway with its low passageway and dim lighting really gives the visitor insight into a different world, and is a great entrance into the hut itself.

Linkway at Scott Base

The original Scott Base was a series of prefabricated 'huts' separate from one another, but joined together with covered linkways. The linkways consisted of corrugated iron passageways, with square plywood junction boxes wherever two linkways met.

Junction box plywood floor before installation of new duckboard

There were multiple reasons for these covered linkways: they allowed Scott Base personnel to walk between buildings without being exposed to the Antarctic weather; in the event of a fire separate buildings with non-combustible passageways meant a fire could be contained to one hut only; and they allowed services e.g., electricity and communications, to be run between different huts. However, because Scott Base is built on scoria, personnel needed a flooring of sorts to walk on between buildings when travelling through the linkways. Walking on scoria all the time is no fun.

The solution: duckboard!

Before: The original linkway duckboard

Using historical photos of the duckboard in the original Scott Base such as the one above as reference, we scaled the measurements, selected matching timber and confirmed how it was constructed. 

After: The linkway after the installation of new duckboard

The end result - a nice new walkway in the entrance to the hut, in keeping with the original linkway duckboard.

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