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21 September, 2003

Discovery Hut

In the year 1902 Captain Scott and his crew constructed a hut made of prefabricated jarrah wood at a point near the sea by McMurdo. It is a very short walk out to this historic site. The hut design was common in Australia's outback and known for its ability to keep people cool. Unfortunately, it was too cold for people to live in it permanently though several parties stayed here long periods at a time. During Scott's famous Terra Nova Expedition in 1910, this hut was used as an advance staging camp for the journey to the South Pole.

The first thing I notice walking into the hut is the dead seal on the front porch. It has been lying there almost 100 years. It likely was stored with the rest of the seal blubber and mutton carcasses for fuel and food. Opening the front door (locked, you get the key from the NSF office), I smell the interior, a musty barn like smell, it is dark as the windows are covered with snow, I accidentally trip on something on the floor, looking back I notice it is frozen seal blubber. My eyes adjust quickly. The walls are built solidly, in tongue and groove fashion. Stacked along side are the cans of goods, some are labeled cocoa or gooseberries. Crates labeled dog biscuits are everywhere. There are rusted cans, bottles; a wooden porch for sleeping, mittens, long johns, canvases still lay about the room. The hut is quite spacious, though not for the 16 men that once lived here. There is a backroom where a blubber stove sits, pieces of meat still in the pan. The ceiling is blackened. Snow has blown in through every open crack. Everything is frozen solid in time.

Today was Sunday. We did not have a balloon launch. The science lecture tonight was given by Seth; he spoke about twenty or more experiments he tends to around McMurdo. They include a device that listens to Infrasound. These are frequencies so low that they can travel great distances around the world. An instrument located in Alaska can actually hear the Space Shuttle take off in Florida. It snowed on Saturday, a very light drift, and it is getting warmer now. The medivac has landed at the Pole and as I write should be on its way back to Rothera if weather permits. I hope the best for them.

The hut is located close to the sea ice and built of wood grown in Australia. The wood is in perfect condition.

A dead seal greets you at the entry.

Lots of snow has blown in but the windows are solid.

Old cans of food still sit on shelves and against walls.

Seal blubber was used to heat the stove.

I spotted this New Zealand Kiwi hiding behind the gooseberries, he looks very tired, I wonder how he got here?

I wonder if the Kiwi was eating the 100 year old dog biscuits?

A physics penquin and a Kiwi share a few stories over a box of dog biscuits.

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