South: the story of Shackleton's last expedition, 1914-1917/Appendix 2

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APPENDIX II

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 McMURDO SOUND

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 south.

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 livingroom 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 previous Expedition.