Hillary’s Hut, Scott Base
Scott Base was established during the summer of 1956–57 with the support of the New Zealand Government to plan and oversee New Zealand’s involvement in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition and the International Geophysical Year.
A party of 23 men, under the leadership of Sir Edmund Hillary, wintered over, including five scientists. The goal of the expedition was to lay supply depots from the Ross Sea towards the South Pole for Dr Vivian Fuchs, who was crossing the continent from the Weddell Sea.
Learn about life on the ice
Fresh from conquering Mt Everest in 1953, Edmund Hillary was enlisted to lead the New Zealand party to lay supply depots for the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic expedition.
Scott Base was established with the support of the New Zealand Government to plan and oversee New Zealand’s involvement in the CommonwealthTrans-Antarctic Expedition and the International Geophysical Year during the summer of 1956–57. A party of 23 men, under the leadership of Sir Edmund Hillary, wintered over, including five scientists. The goal of the expedition was to lay supply depots from the Ross Sea towards the South Pole for Dr Vivian Fuchs, who was crossing the continent from the Weddell Sea.
The TAE/IGY Hut is part of the cluster of green, flat-roofed buildings making up New Zealand’s scientific facility, Scott Base. It is sited on the outer south-western side of the base, standing separately but visually still a part of the group of base buildings. Scott Base is situated on Pram Point, at the southern tip of Ross Island. Mt Erebus is the dominant feature that forms the backdrop of the base.
Scott Base has been listed as an Historic Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, in recognition of its importance in the history of exploration and science in Antarctica. It still serves a useful purpose in the management of the base, principally as a refuge. Huts G and H, the small detached magnetic huts of the original base, survive too and are still in use. The Trust’s conservation plan for Hillary’s hut was launched at New Zealand Parliament on 17 March 2015. An implementation plan has been prepared and, over the summer of 2016/2017 the hut was restored.
History of the Expedition
Trans-Antarctic Expedition and International Geophysical Year
In 1955, the announcement was made of a Third Polar Year, to be known as the International Geophysical Year (IGY), 1957–58; this was to involve many nations worldwide, and was to focus on geophysical observations around the globe. It was considered that a station on Ross Island ‘would represent an important link in the chain of Antarctic Circumpolar stations and in the meridional chain consisting of the South Polar Plateau stations, Ross Island, Campbell Island, Macquarie Island, Invercargill and Christchurch.’
The New Zealand Government was invited to establish a station on Ross Island as part of the network of stations that would be making geophysical, upper atmosphere and other observations around the globe.
Scott Base is situated on Pram Point, at the southern tip of Ross Island. Mt Erebus is the dominant feature that forms the backdrop of the base.
The TAE/IGY Hut is part of the cluster of green, flat-roofed buildings making up Scott Base. It is sited on the outer south-western side of the base, standing separately but visually still a part of the group of base buildings.
The site today is ‘modern’, bearing little resemblance to its appearance in 1957, when the base consisted of six single-storey buildings connected by a long covered way with the buildings arranged on either side. There were a further three small (and detached) science buildings.
Today the number and scale of the buildings have increased, although the base is still dwarfed by the grandeur of the landscape. Hut A has been moved 40m closer to the shore from its original site, retaining its original orientation so – with the aid of a site plan – you can still picture the original layout of the buildings either side of the spine formed by the covered way.
The Trust has partnered with Auckland University of Technology to create a ground-breaking virtual reality experience of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Antarctic hut. Launching soon, people will be invited to step inside Hillary’s (TAE/IGY) Hut and to explore the first building at what is now New Zealand’s Scott Base. A fully immersive experience, which includes a guided tour through the hut, it celebrates New Zealand’s first leadership presence in Antarctica as part of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition and International Geophysical Year.
The Trust recently finished conservation on the hut and is pleased to be able to share this iconic piece of Antarctic history. Stories of Hillary’s 23-man team and their mission to further science and exploration in the world’s most extreme environment will feature within the experience and through accompanying material.
The virtual reality experience will be freely available at selected institutions around New Zealand, as well as being accessible online internationally.
The Trust gratefully acknowledges principal sponsor Ryman Healthcare, as well as Antarctica NZ (logistics) and Staples VR (technical).