Frozen in Time: Scott’s Antarctic Legacy

Journey through Scott’s carefully conserved Terra Nova Hut

Scott’s Terra Nova hut has a history steeped in both triumph and tragedy that is proudly on display at Cape Evans.

Step inside and you will find the building in good health with more than 11,000 artefacts left behind by expeditions of Scott and Shackleton carefully conserved.

Those who visit often remark that it looks as though Scott and his men have just stepped outside and will be back at any moment.

It feels, as Sir David Attenborough described, frozen in time.

Walk inside and despite over 100 years in the harsh Antarctic environment, you will find the building and the more than 11,000 artefact sit contains, in remarkable condition.

That is due to the expert conservation work undertaken by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust, who in 2007 began a seven year journey to conserve the wooden hut and the artefacts left behind by expeditions of both Scott, and Shackleton.

The conservation programme was painstaking in its detail – nails numbered, removed and put back in their original holes. Every artefact documented, conserved and carefully returned to place.

Conserving history in one of the world’s harshest environments takes perseverance, experience and innovation.

Join the Trust’s Chief Operations Officer, Francesca Eathorne as she visits the hut, speaks to the conservation experts and hears how they worked within the world’s most extreme environment to save this important piece of Antarctic history.

Full podcast available on all the usual podcast platforms including Spotify, iHeartRadio and Apple Podcasts.

This iconic base was built by Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition when they arrived at Cape Evans in January 1911.

Construction took just nine days.

Measuring 15 by 8 metres, the hut is the largest of the historic bases in the Ross Sea region. It served as a base for Scott’s expedition until January 1913 and was later used by Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–1917).

Prefabricated in London, a trial erection of the hut took place in Lyttelton (New Zealand) when Scott’s expedition stopped to gather supplies en-route to Antarctica.

The hut is clad in weatherboards and the roof is covered in Ruberoid. The floor, walls and roof are insulated with Ruberoid and a finely shredded seaweed known as Gibson Quilting.

An entrance porch was built on the western end of the hut with stables for the expedition ponies constructed along the northern side.

Learn more about Scott’s Hut, Cape Evans

Scott’s Terra Nova hut has a rich history.

It was from this hut that, in November 1911, Scott and his polar party (Dr Edward Wilson, Captain Lawrence Oates, Lieutenants Henry Bowers and Edward Evans) departed for the South Pole – a journey from which they would never return.

It was here that the rest of the expedition sombrely waited for news of Scott and his men, enduring their second winter in the hut before they were able to start a search in November, eventually finding the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers in the tent where they had died.

And it was to this hut that Scott’s Northern Party returned after spending a miserable winter stranded in a cave at Evans Cove after ice prevented the Terra Nova from picking them up. They arrived back to the hut as the search parties were out looking for Scott.

In January 1913, the Terra Nova returned to Cape Evans and picked up the remaining expedition members and the hut was closed up – but not for long.

The final expedition of the ‘heroic era’ was Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–1917) and Scott’s hut at Cape Evans played a key role.

While Shackleton’s men planned to cross Antarctica but became stranded on the Endurance in what has been called ‘the greatest story of survival ever told’, Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party used the Cape Evans hut as a base.

They were charged with laying supply depots for ‘the Boss’ and spent two summers on Ross Island when their ship blew out to sea and was unable to return. They continued to lay supply depots without realising Shackleton was never coming.

One man died of scurvy and two men were lost trying to cross the sea ice. Shackleton finally returned to rescue the Ross Sea Party in January 1917.

In 1947 the hut was visited by the American navy during Operation Highjump – it was found largely filled with drifted snow and ice.

There were efforts to save it in the 1950s-1980’s, but it wasn’t until HRH Princess Anne launched the Trust’s Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project in 2002 that its future became more secure.

Once listed by the World Monuments Fund as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites on Earth, Terra Nova hut is now protected under the Antarctic Treaty System and its condition carefully monitored and maintained by the Antarctic Heritage Trust’s annual conservation programme.

View photographs taken by the Ross Sea Party

Read photographer George Murray Levick’s notebook, which was left behind a century ago at Cape Evans.

You can support the Trust’s mission to conserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration by donating online.

Frozen in Time: Scott’s Antarctic Legacy

Interviewer: Francesca Eathorne (Chief Operations Officer, Antarctic Heritage Trust)

Al Fastier (Programme Manager Antarctic Heritage Trust)
Nicola Stewart (Conservator, Antarctic Heritage Trust)
Sam Bamford (Field trainer, Antarctica New Zealand)

Archival audio courtesy of RNZ from material preserved and made available by Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. ID\28712 Scott of the Antarctic (1962) and ID\27585 Tom Clissold on Scott’s Expedition (1961).

Archival audio: Sir David Attenborough. Credit Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Scott’s voiceover: Julian Anderson

Technical Support: Great Scott PR

Photos: Antarctic Heritage Trust. Canterbury Museum. Fiona Shanhun. NEED TO ADD FULL LIST

Music: On Satin Waters by Inspiring Explorer Ihlara McIndoe and The Frozen Wild by Inspiring Explorer Marco de Kretser.

Photos credits with thanks to: Canterbury Museum. Dr Fiona Shanhun. Lizzie Meek. Ciarán Lavelle. Nicola Stewart. Francesca Eathorne. Alasdair Turner.

With thanks to Antarctica New Zealand.

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©All rights reserved 2021 Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Interior Cape Evans hut with Al Fastier