Discovery Hut


Discovery Hut was the first building built on the Antarctica continent by Robert Falcon Scott in 1902. The building consists of Australian jarrah wood and was based on a design used in the hot climate of the Australian outback. After being preassembled on the west coast of New Zealand, it was packed aboard the ship Discovery and transported to it’s present site at the southern tip of Ross Island–the southernmost open water on the planet. This hut was used by Scott twice in his attempt to reach the pole. Ernest Shackleton was a member of this expedition and when he came down with scurvy was perceived by Scott to be unfit for the expedition. Shackleton was sent back to England where he was considered a hero, being the first to return. This brought fame and money his way and a rivalry developed between the two. Shackleton returned on the “Nimrod” in 1907 -1909, established a camp at Cape Royds 20 miles north and reached within 91 miles of the Geographic South Pole….

Meanwhile, Scott prepared for his final attempt between 1910 and 1913 building a third hut at Cape Evans as he was not able to reach the Discovery Hut due to ice. This is referred to the “Terra Nova” expedition. Scott was unsuccessful and his party all died on the return. Amundsen, taking a more eastern route through the Ross Ice Shelf, shortened Scott’s route by 60 miles and beat Scott to the pole by a month. Scott’s fatal mistake was his inability adapt to the Antarctic environment. One of three snow tractors promptly fell through the ice when unloaded from the ship (Shackleton had a similar machine four years earlier at Cape Royds). His Indian Army Mules could not negotiate the ice on Oates’ home-made “horse-snowshoes” and his ultimate mistake was dividing his party unequally weakening both the pole bound party of five (not enough tentage, fuel and food) and the lighter returning supply party of three. Amundsen used proven technology of dogs and skis taking only two months to negotiate the distance from the lip of the Ross Ice Shelf to the Pole. While Amundsen claimed the prize of being the first, Scott, in his demise, became “the hero” in the sense his name is remembered perhaps as much or more that Amundsen’s. He was both a promoter and forceful leader. Many people compared him with Captain James Cook for his scientific interests and in fact, on the sled found near the tent with his frozen body was 35 lbs. of rocks they had waist-hauled across the Ross Ice Shelf in their incredibly weakened condition. Today, Scott’s party is embedded 30 feet below the surface of the Ross Ice Shelf which is drifting slowly to open water. Next will be a description of the Cape Evans “Terra Nova” hut.

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