THE EXPEDITION HUTS AT McMURDO SOUND
By SIR E. H. SHACKLETON
The following notes are designed for the benefit of future explorers who
may make McMurdo Sound a base for inland operations, and to clear any
inaccuracies or ambiguities concerning the history, occupation, and state
of these huts.
(1) THE NATIONAL ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION'S HUT AT HUT POINT—THE HEAD OF
This hut was constructed by Captain Scott in 1902, by the Expedition sent
out by the Royal Geographical Society, the Royal Society, the Government,
and by private subscription. Captain Robert F. Scott was appointed to the
command of the Expedition. I served as Third Lieutenant until February
1903, when I was invalided home through a broken blood vessel in the
lungs, the direct result of scurvy contracted on the Southern journey. The
Discovery hut was a large strong building, but was so draughty and
cold in comparison with the ship, which was moored one hundred yards away,
that it was, during the first year, never used for living quarters. Its
sole use was as a storehouse, and a large supply of rough stores, such as
flour, cocoa, coffee, biscuit, and tinned meat, was left there in the
event of its being used as a place of retreat should any disaster overtake
the ship. During the second year occasional parties camped inside the hut,
but no bunks or permanent sleeping quarters were ever erected. The
discomfort of the hut was a byword on the Expedition, but it formed an
excellent depot and starting-point for all parties proceeding to the
When the Discovery finally left McMurdo Sound, the hut was
stripped of all gear, including the stove, but there was left behind a
large depot of the stores mentioned above. I was not aware of this until I
returned to McMurdo Sound in February 1908, when I sent Adams, Joyce, and
Wild across to the hut whilst the Nimrod was lying off the ice.
On the return of the party they reported that the door had been burst
open, evidently by a southerly blizzard, and was jammed by snow outside
and in, so they made an entrance through one of the lee windows. They
found the hut practically clear of snow, and the structure quite intact. I
used the hut in the spring, i.e. September and October 1908, as a
storehouse for the large amount of equipment, food, and oil that we were
to take on the Southern journey. We built a sort of living-room out of the
cases of provisions, and swept out the debris. The Southern Party elected
to sleep there before the start, but the supporting party slept outside in
the tents, as they considered it warmer.
We still continued to use the lee window as means of ingress and egress
to avoid continual shovelling away of the snow, which would be necessary
as every southerly blizzard blocked up the main entrance. The various
depot parties made use of the hut for replenishing their stores, which had
been sledged from my own hut to Hut Point. On the night of March 3, 1909,
I arrived with the Southern Party, with a sick man, having been absent on
the march 128 days. Our position was bad, as the ship was north of us. We
tried to burn the Magnetic Hut in the hope of attracting attention from
the ship, but were not able to get it to light. We finally managed to
light a flare of carbide, and the ship came down to us in a blizzard, and
all were safely aboard at 1 a.m. on March 4, 1909. Before leaving the hut
we jammed the window up with baulks of timber, to the best of our ability,
in the storm and darkness. The hut was used again by the Ross Sea Section
of this last Expedition. The snow was cleared out and extra stores were
placed in it. From reports I have received the Discovery Hut was in
as good condition in 1917 as it was in 1902.
The stores placed there in 1902 are intact. There are a few cases of
extra provisions and oil in the hut, but no sleeping gear, or
accommodation, nor stoves, and it must not be looked upon as anything else
than a shelter and a most useful pied-à-terre for the start of any
Southern journey. No stores nor any equipment have been taken from it
during either of my two Expeditions.
(2) CAPE ROYDS HUT
For several reasons, when I went into McMurdo Sound in 1908 in command of
my own Expedition, known as the British Antarctic Expedition, after having
failed to land on King Edward VII Land, I decided to build our hut at Cape
Royds—a small promontory twenty-three miles north of Hut Point. Here the
whole shore party lived in comfort through the winter of 1908. When spring
came stores were sledged to Hut Point, so that should the sea-ice break up
early between these two places we might not be left in an awkward
position. After the return of the Southern Party we went direct north to
civilization, so I never visited my hut again. I had left, however, full
instructions with Professor David as to the care of the hut, and before
the whole Expedition left, the hut was put in order. A letter was pinned
in a conspicuous place inside, stating that there were sufficient
provisions and equipment to last fifteen men for one year, indicating also
the details of these provisions and the position of the coal store. The
stove was in good condition, and the letter ended with an invitation for
any succeeding party to make what use they required of stores and hut. The
hut was then locked and the key nailed on the door in a conspicuous place.
From the report of Captain Scott's last Expedition the hut was in good
condition, and from a still later report from the Ross Sea side of this
present Expedition, the hut was still intact.
(3) CAPE EVANS HUT
This large and commodious hut was constructed by Captain Scott at Cape
Evans on his last Expedition. The party lived in it in comfort, and it was
left well supplied with stores in the way of food and oil, and a certain
amount of coal. Several of the scientific staff of this present Expedition
were ashore in it, when the Aurora, which was to have been the
permanent winter quarters, broke adrift in May 1915, and went north with
the ice. The hut became the permanent living quarters for the ten marooned
men, and thanks to the stores they were able to sustain life in
comparative comfort, supplementing these stores from my hut at Cape Royds.
In January 1917, after I had rescued the survivors, I had the hut put in
order and locked up.
To sum up, there are three available huts in McMurdo Sound.
(a) The Discovery Hut with a certain amount of rough stores, and
only of use as a point of departure for the South.
(b) Cape Royds Hut with a large amount of general stores, but no
clothing or equipment now.
(c) Cape Evans Hut with a large amount of stores, but no clothing or
equipment and only a few sledges.
(4) DEPOTS SOUTH OF HUT POINT
In spite of the fact that several depots have been laid to the south of
Hut Point on the Barrier, the last being at the Gap (the entrance to the
Beardmore Glacier), no future Expedition should depend on them as the
heavy snowfall obliterates them completely. There is no record of the
depots of any Expedition being made use of by any subsequent Expedition.
No party in any of my Expeditions has used any depot laid down by a