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The Most Extreme Restoration Project In The World

TV shows such as Restoration Man and Restoration Home make for great television but when it comes to finding the most arduous and extreme restoration project in the world, there has to be only one winner. The brutal conditions of wind, cold and ice found at on Antarctica mean that doing pretty much anything there is difficult, but when it comes to restoring a piece of history that is in danger of being destroyed by the elements, it doesn’t get much tougher.

Work was recently completed on three huts found on the Great White Continent in order to protect them for generations to come. They have stood proudly in this icy wilderness for over a hundred years now, and a decade of work has ensured that they will do so for many more years to come. The project was headed-up by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, but throughout the ten years from 2005 over 60 people from 11 different countries have contributed to the efforts.

A Viscous Cycle

Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Falcon Scott

The huts in question are those used by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton during their Antarctic expeditions between 1910-1913 and 1914-1917 respectively. The two structures built for Scott lie at Cape Evans and Hut Point, whilst Shackelton’s famous cabin can be found at Cape Royds. Each was built to act as a safe place to shelter during these expeditions that contributed to a period in history known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, and each still stands today.

Along with many others, one of the most gruelling things that the huts have to endure is the constant cycle of ice and thaw. In the winter months they are covered in snow and ice which slowly suffocates them. Then when the sun reappears in the summer the relief of them being free from their icy constraints is quickly distinguished by the rising tide of meltwater. Add to this the driving winds and ferocious blizzards and you can see how remarkable it is that they are still intact and how much of a task the restoration team had on their hands.

Maintaining Historical Accuracy

The conservation effort involved bringing parts of the huts back to their former glory whilst protecting both the exterior and interior areas against the conditions. Subterranean barriers were added to help combat the flooding, the roofs were renovated, and the walls were made waterproof. Items inside were also treated to help them cope with the effects salty seawater can have on them over time. All of this work was done in temperatures that often reached -13 and throughout regular periods of constant darkness followed by constant light.

As the huts represent important parts of history, care was made at all times to stay true to their heritage. Reproductions were made of the original doors and windows before being installed and, although the floorboards themselves were revived, knife marks that were made in them when seals were cut up for food were left as they are. Maintaining historical accuracy will hopefully allow people to get a better idea of what these courageous men went through, and doesn’t sugar-coat what would have been a tumultuous existence.

Unearthing Treasure

Scott's Hut Interior

Along the way, many discoveries were made inside the cabins. Items including cans of food, a hand-made stove, the first bicycle on Antarctica, and even what is thought to be the world’s oldest slab of butter were all unearthed. Other items found included the notebook of one of Scott’s crew members, a book of negatives with images of icebergs and members of the exploration teams, and crates of whisky and brandy. In all, over 18,000 artefacts were discovered which enable the cabins to act as museums in their own right.

Now that the work is completed, tourists in this part of the world will be able to see for themselves just what Scott and Shackleton’s teams would have gone through. You can visit all three of these huts when you book with Fred Expeditions. Some of our itineraries that explore the Ross Sea area will take you to Cape Evans, Hut Point and Cape Royds so that you can follow in the footsteps of these great explorers. The Antarctic Heritage Trust is now planning to turn their attention to conserving Carsten Borchgrevink’s hut at Cape Adare and Sir Edmund Hillary’s Hut at Scott Base.

If this blog post has whetted your appetite for adventure then please call us today. We have polar cruises to both Antarctica and the Arctic that offer the chance to take part in a variety of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.