Our Far South: a tale of two huts

Our Far South: a tale of two huts

Not Lower and Upper Hutt, but instead the story of two attempts at the pole. That of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the voyage of the Nimrod, and Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the Terra Nova expedition.

Sunset on Mt. Erebus. Photo Anton van Helden, copyright Te Papa.

We awoke to another extraordinary day at anchor off Cape Royds. The lunar landscape, derived from the explosive outpourings of Mt Erebus and the glacial action of some 20,000 years, producing remarkable scenery to walk through from Black sand beach to the Nimrod hut, or Shackelton’s hut as it is also known. This hut was a delight to look inside.

Shackleton’s Nimrod hut. Photo Anton van Helden, copyright Te Papa.

There is something about Shackleton that inspires, although he came some 90 miles short of getting to the pole on this expedition he did say on his return “better to be a live donkey, than a dead lion”. The hut situated in a great sheltered location adjacent to an Adelie penguin colony was sturdy and brilliantly maintained.

We had the great fortune of seeinga pod of about nearly a dozen Type-C killer whales just off shore . Three Killer Whale types have recently been documented in the Antarctic. Type A looks like a “typical” Killer Whale, living in open water and feeding mostly on Minke Whales. Type B is smaller than Type A. It has a large white eyepatch and a patch of grey colouring on its back, called a “dorsal cape”. It feeds mostly on seals. Type C is the smallest type and lives in larger groups than any other type of Killer Whale. Its eyepatch is distinctively slanted forwards, rather than parallel to the body axis. Like Type B, it has a dorsal cape. Its only prey observed so far is the Antarctic Cod. DNA work is currently being carried out to determine if these different types represent separate species.

Type C killer whale. Photo Anton van Helden, copyright Te Papa.

After regrouping we moved again South to Cape Evans and the Terra Nova hut, the base from which Scott and his men left from on their ill fated attempt on the pole.

It was great to be able to get out and really stretch our legs.

Terra Nova hut. Photo Anton van Helden, copyright Te Papa.



It was extraordinary to stand in the very places where these extraordinary characters from history once stood and to see the beds they slept in.

Even with all our modern gear on a very calm and pleasant day it was still bightingly cold.
Scott’s bunk. Photo Anton van helden, copyright Te Papa.

Whatever anyone could ever say about them, they were people of remarakable bravery and courage.

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