A plan to conserve Sir Edmund Hillary's hut in Antarctica has been announced. The hut built in 1957/58 forms part of New Zealand’s first scientific facility at Scott Base. The Antarctic Heritage will have to raise 1 million dollars to complete the work.

The hut used by Sir Edmund Hillary on his Trans-Antarctic expedition is a rather modern structure compared to other huts in the area used by Scott or Shackleton (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)
The hut used by Sir Edmund Hillary on his Trans-Antarctic expedition is a rather modern structure compared to other huts in the area used by Scott or Shackleton (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)

A plan to conserve Sir Edmund Hillary's hut in Antarctica has been announced in March by New Zealand Prime Minister Rt Hon John Key at Parliament. The event included surviving members of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-58 and International Geophysical Year 1957-58 and members of Sir Edmund Hillary’s family.
Hillary’s Hut, ‘Hut A’, forms part of New Zealand’s first scientific facility at Scott Base. It is the original remaining building established with the support of the New Zealand Government for the country’s involvement in the Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-58 and International Geophysical Year 1957-58.

Many artefacts are remarkably well preserved. Nonetheless, increasing moisture and temperatures are slowly taking its toll and the artefacts have to be preserved (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)
Many artefacts are remarkably well preserved. Nonetheless, increasing moisture and temperatures are slowly taking its toll and the artefacts have to be preserved (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)

The hut was built to help the British with the first crossing of Antarctica from one side to another over the summer of 1957/58. Fresh from conquering Mount Everest in 1953, Edmund Hillary was enlisted to lead the New Zealand party that would lay supply depots from the Ross Sea towards the South Pole. The New Zealand team then famously overshadowed the expedition led by Dr Vivian Fuchs when they decided to race the British to the South Pole beating them by 15 days.

Today the hut is designated as a Historic Monument under the Antarctic Treaty in recognition of its importance in the history of exploration and science in Antarctica. The Antarctic Heritage Trust, responsible for restoring Ernest Shackleton and Robert Scott's Antarctic Huts, says Sir Edmund Hillary's hut urgently needs repairs. The Hut has a leaking roof, melt-pools forming under the floorboards, asbestos lining and memorabilia showing signs of damage or corrosion.

The clothing back then shows striking similarities to today’s outdoor garment. (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)
The clothing back then shows striking similarities to today’s outdoor garment. (Photo: Antarctic Heritage Trust)

This conservation work is of great significance to New Zealand’s history. “Sir Ed was the patron of the Antarctic Heritage Trust up until his passing. We are honoured to have the opportunity, in partnership with Antarctica New Zealand, to conserve the origins of Scott Base once we secure the necessary funding,” says Nigel Watson, Executive Director, Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Sir Edmund Hillary was a true explorer and was the first to climb Mt. Everest. Less known is his successful race to the South Pole against Vivian Fuchs beating the British by more than two weeks. (Photo: NZPA)
Sir Edmund Hillary was a true explorer and was the first to climb Mt. Everest. Less known is his successful race to the South Pole against Vivian Fuchs beating the British by more than two weeks. (Photo: NZPA)

The Antarctic Heritage Trust needs to fundraise $1 million to weatherproof the building, remove asbestos lining, conserve and catalogue the entire artefact collection, and put a 25 year maintenance fund in place. The intensive programme of work will go across the 2016/17 Antarctic season, with a team of nine or more specialists. The trust hopes to have the restoration completed before Scott Base's 60th anniversary in 2017.

Source: Antarctic Heritage Trust and Radio New Zealand