Nestled alongside Scott Base in Antarctica, is Hillary's Hut - a small building that's played a big role in New Zealand's history. Hillary's Hut was the first building constructed at Scott Base. It was built by a team led by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1957 and it was from here that Sir Ed later led the historic expedition to the South Pole. Sadly, the hut now has a leaking roof, asbestos that needs removing, melt pools under the floor boards and the artefacts within it are showing signs of damage and corrosion. But work is now underway to save it.

Sir Edmund Hillary who led the New Zealand side of the 1957 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) returned to Scott Base for a last time in 2007. He and his team built the TAE hut and overwintered there in 1957. (Photo: P. Reid)
Sir Edmund Hillary who led the New Zealand side of the 1957 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) returned to Scott Base for a last time in 2007. He and his team built the TAE hut and overwintered there in 1957. (Photo: P. Reid)

The New Zealand government will commit $180,000 towards urgent conservation work on Sir Ed Hillary’s historic hut at Scott Base in Antarctica. The New Zealand Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry visited the hut and made the announcement in person during her visit to Antarctica at the end of November. “This funding will allow the Antarctic Heritage Trust to complete vital restoration work on the hut in time for its 60th anniversary in eight weeks,” Ms Barry said.

The hut, also known as Hut A or the TAE Hut, was built by Sir Ed Hillary’s team during the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) in January 1957. It was the first New Zealand base in the Ross Dependency and the origin of what became Scott Base itself.  Now the hut requires urgent repairs, careful removal of heritage asbestos material and the conservation and digitisation of 350 different objects inside.

Raising the New Zealand flag at Scott Base, 20 January 1957 in front of the TAE hut. Standing at the flagpole are members of the New Zealand and US expeditions. Photo: John Claydon.
Raising the New Zealand flag at Scott Base, 20 January 1957 in front of the TAE hut. Standing at the flagpole are members of the New Zealand and US expeditions. Photo: John Claydon.

“During my visit to Antarctica I’ve gained an insight into the extraordinary challenge of preserving heritage in what is one of the world’s most difficult working environments”, Ms Barry said. “The trust’s specialists bring the past alive through the use of digital technology and this project will enable them to make more of this vital history available online.”

Hillary and his team from the Trans-Antarctic Expedition travelled with 20 Ferguson tractors to the South Pole, accomplishing the third overland trip to the Pole, following in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. The drivers of the original tractors that made the journey to the South Pole included Sir Ed Hillary, Peter Mulgrew, Jim Bates, Derek Wright and Murray Ellis. (Photo: Canterbury Museum)
Hillary and his team from the Trans-Antarctic Expedition travelled with 20 Ferguson tractors to the South Pole, accomplishing the third overland trip to the Pole, following in the footsteps of Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott. The drivers of the original tractors that made the journey to the South Pole included Sir Ed Hillary, Peter Mulgrew, Jim Bates, Derek Wright and Murray Ellis. (Photo: Canterbury Museum)

While the Trust receives an annual operational grant from the Government, it also depends on fundraising to support its activities. “Most recently, the Trust completed a journey from Piha to Aoraki/Mt Cook on three tractors – two of the same model used by Sir Ed’s team during their expedition,” Ms Barry says. “Through this and other fundraising it raised $784,000 - $180,000 short of what is needed for the work. I am very pleased to be able to make this additional contribution to allow the Trust to reach its target.” The Trust has a Conservation Plan to save the hut and its artefacts and preserve them for the next 25 years.

As a fundraising initiative three Ferguson Tractors, the same models used by Sir Ed’s team, travelled from Piha in New Zealand’s North Island to Aoraki/Mt Cook in the South Island, a distance of 2012 km, exactly the same as same as Sir Ed and his team travelled from Scott Base to the South Pole. Sir Ed’s son, Peter Hillary on one of the tractors kicked off Expedition South, helping to save his father's Antarctic hut. (Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan)
As a fundraising initiative three Ferguson Tractors, the same models used by Sir Ed’s team, travelled from Piha in New Zealand’s North Island to Aoraki/Mt Cook in the South Island, a distance of 2012 km, exactly the same as same as Sir Ed and his team travelled from Scott Base to the South Pole. Sir Ed’s son, Peter Hillary on one of the tractors kicked off Expedition South, helping to save his father's Antarctic hut. (Photo: RNZ / Mohamed Hassan)

Source: New Zealand Government