12-28-06 Ross Island, McMurdo, Scott's Discovery Hut – A place where history and modern exploration meet

"The heroic age of exploration lives on in Antarctica".

Many years ago, Greek writers imagined a large mass of land in the south of the world to 'balance' the land they knew about in the northern half of the world. They named this imagined land Anti-Arkitos, meaning the opposite of the Arctic.

The American McMurdo base is built on the southern end of Ross Island. Ross Island was the base for many of the early expeditions to find and explore the Southern continent.

Ross Island, discovered by Sir James Clark Ross in 1841, is an island formed by volcanoes. The dormant volcanoes Terror (3230 m) and Erebus (3794 m, 12 448 ft) are the southernmost active volcanoes on earth. Ross Island was and still is the southernmost island reachable by sea. Thanks icebreaker Oden for breaking the ship channel in 2007 to supply Antarctic research bases!

We stopped at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) administrative office in the "chalet" at McMurdo for a quick tour around the research base, to Scott base, NZ, and for a visit of Scott's Discovery hut.

NSF administrative office in the "Chalet" at McMurdo

Coming here to a place where many historical expeditions started makes me feel connected with the legendary explorers who raced to the South Pole during what is now known as the Heroic Age. Scott's 1902 Discovery hut is in walking distance from McMurdo.

Scott was a giant of the great age of exploration. The tale of Scott's last journey has inspired generations of youth. Read more about him in his book "The Voyage of Discovery".

Scott's discovery Hut at McMurdo with a protective shell around the original structure.

Rules to preserve the huts:

"....don't sit on any furniture, don't wear backpacks inside that could knock things off tables, wipe your feet before coming in…"

Scott's Discovery Hut

You may know the company...

*Kevin at Vince's cross. A cross was erected on the hill behind Discovery Hut in memory of George Vince who is buried here, having died in an accident nearby in 1902.

Vince cross "Discovery" expedition.*

Race to the South Pole in 1911 The great explorer Scott lost to the Norwegian Roald Amundsen in the race to be first to the South Pole. Amundsen got there on Dec. 21, 1911; Scott arrived on Jan. 18. Scott and his 4 men all died on the way back. Read more:


Scott's diary was later found. Here one of his famous quotes before he died:

"Great God! This is an awful place, and terrible enough for us to have labored to it without the reward of priority."

In his journal, published in 1913 as "Scott's Last Expedition" Scotts's thoughts turned toward home in the end. He wrote to his wife:

"Dearest ... cherish no sentimental rubbish about remarriage -- when the right man comes to help you in life you ought to be your happy self again. I hope I shall be a good memory; certainly the end is nothing for you to be ashamed of and I like to think that the boy will have a good start in parentage of which he may be proud. "

"Dear it is not easy to write because of the cold -- 70 degrees below zero and nothing but the shelter of our tent -- you know I have loved you, you know my thoughts must have constantly dwelt on you and oh dear me you must know that quite the worst aspect of this situation is the thought that I shall not see you again."

"The inevitable must be faced."

"Had we lived, I should have a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale."

Robert Falcon Scott, 1912

Ute Kaden

Read the word to my students in the next Post

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