Frozen in Time: Scott and Shackleton

Wind Vane Hill at Scotts Terra Nova Hut

One of the most significant experiences of our trip to Antarctica was visiting the Shackleton ‘Nimrod’ hut at Cape Royds and the Scott ‘Terra Nova’ hut at Cape Evans.  These two famous explorers braved the then-uncharted Antarctic in the very same places that we were living and working.  Visiting their huts was an amazing experience of being ‘frozen in time’, as if the guys would be coming home for dinner at any moment.  Except, in the case of Scott, we knew that would never be true.  The ghost of Scott haunted me, and I still cannot understand the reasoning behind the passion that drove him to lead his men ‘into the great white alone’.

There is much available on the internet that you can read about the adventures and misadventures of these brave explorers:

Ernest Shackleton

The Nimrod Expedition

Robert Falcon Scott

The Terra Nova expedition

Ernest Shackleton

Captain Robert Falcon Scott

Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut

Ernest Shackleton's 'Nimrod' hut. Everything was literally 'frozen in time' as they left it

The Nimrod hut is being restored. See

The kitchen in the Nimrod hut was well-appointed with a wide variety of foods and a cozy cook stove.

Many of the crates that make up this bedroom 'set' were stamped with the expedition name, much like our equipment was stamped with K131.

Darned wool socks ... Just like them, we had to get out our sewing kit several times while we were there to make repairs and alterations to our gear.

Mr. Joyce in the Shackleton party was the dog handler. Not sure what local joke led to this original graffiti. For our team, who were constantly joking and joshing and laughing together, it seemed pretty clear that the Shackleton crew were also playing and laughing together. Not also the upside down writing on the lower box that advertises the Antarctic Nimrod expedition.

Boxes and crates were left stacked in the snow around the hut, still filled with provisions for the shore party.

An axe, some straw (probably for packing), a rusted metal box, and some white frozen blubber dot the rocks near the Shackleton hut. My guess? I think they were using the axe to hack away at the frozen blubber from a recent or not so recent catch, when they left it in the snow and lost it or left before using it again. The place seemed eerily as if Shackleton and his men had just gone out for the afternoon and would soon be back for supper.

For more pictures, click HERE.

Scott’s Terra Nova Hut

Wind Vane Hill at Scotts Terra Nova Hut

Scott's Terra Nova Hut

Another well appointed kitchen at Scott Hut.

Parts of an old weather station.

Yum, yum, yum!

Pony horse shoes! The ponies were used to haul the sledges, but they didn't work out all that well. They slipped on the ice, their feet sank into the soft snow, they kicked their handlers, and they fell into crevasses.

The laboratory. Scott's expeditions were scientific explorations in addition to gaining fame for himself and the British empire.

The VERY BAD DAY anchor from Shackleton's misadventure with the Aurora, that floated away. Read more about it here

For more pictures, click HERE.

When we returned to Christchurch, there was a fantastic exhibit — Into the Great Alone — at the historical museum.  They had 85 original photographs of the expeditions, plus the black and white ‘silent movie’ that was based on those photographs and original movie footage taken on the expeditions.  Watching Shackleton’s great ship, the Endurance, crushed to bits by the ice … Watching Scott’s men, at first singing and dancing and playing with the dogs and ponies, then strongly shouldering into the sledges as the trekked optimistically towards the elusive South Pole, later exploring Admunsen’s tent, the crushing blow that they had been beaten, all the while knowing that these men never returned to the wives and children they wrote of in their diaries… After seeing these photos and video, much of it in places we had just been living and working, places we now recognized, places that felt a sense of belonging … this was very humbling, haunting, thought and emotion provoking.  The world is a very, very, very big place.  Less than a hundred years ago, this place that we had just been, cocooned in a safety net of radio links and emergency support equipment, had been truly wild and free and rough and lonely, a place that tempted and teased adventurous men to risk everything to be the first to reach the bottom of our huge, wonderous earth.  This was a haunting experience for me, one that has rattled my cocoon a bit, one that has made me think and explore … What would be worth risking my life for?  What would I defend, want, do, desire so much that I would knowingly risk all that I have and all that I am and all that I ever will be for that one passion?  What is my life worth, and what can I do with it?  What do I most want to do with this one precious life I have been given?  When I tell my friends and family that this trip changed my life in ways I hadn’t anticipated, this is one of them.  I returned with a strong sense that life is worth a great deal because of what you can do with it.  I have always set out to make a difference in the world, and the haunting touch with these early explorers reminds me yet again in a way that touches me deeply that my life is here and now the only way I will ever have to make a positive difference in the other lives around me and the world in which they live.   That is the passion for which I can, will, and do risk the precious clock-ticking hours of my time.  Captain Scott wrote with brave and nakedly sincere words in the frozen days he knowingly awaited death in an icy tent with the wind howling to carry him away.  Those words will touch anyone who reads them, all in different ways.  Thank you to Captain Scott for reminding me again that a good life has a great passion, and reinvigorating mine.

Find out More about Antarctic Conservation of these historic sites HERE.


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