Hut Caretakers in the Antarctic

Huts of more historic significance have loomed large in the society's affairs through the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, if the society became identified with anything at all through the 1970s it was with the huts of Scott and Shackleton on Ross Island.

Its association with their maintenance goes back to 1960 when the Antarctic Division of DSIR invited the society to nominate volunteers for the first hut restoration party. Les Quartermain, then on the division's staff and a man with a long record of interest in such things, was selected as the leader. Reporting later, he wrote:

'As the most historic hut of all, the home of Scott's last expedition and of the marooned Ross Sea party in 1915-16 at Cape Evans, was practically full of hard ice and compacted snow, it was evident that several months' hard work would be needed.'

In early December 1960 four men were flown by helicopter to Cape Evans and set up a tent camp near the hut. After Christmas the society's two volunteers, Eric Gibbs and Graeme Wilson, joined the project, which gave the Royds hut some attention too.

In 1963-64 Gibbs returned with society members Rodney Smith, Baden Norris and Grant Hurrell to clean up and restore the older Discovery hut at Hut Point, and in the following summer Gibbs and Smith returned for a few weeks to complete strengthening of the hut and arrange stores and equipment in the most effective way.

For the next four years the huts were left to mind their own business.

Then in the 1969-70 summer the era of ≥hut caretakers≤ began. Canterbury members Peter Skellerup and Michael Orchard were the first volunteers selected first volunteers selected to go south. Through the 1970s the exercise was repeated each summer. Never before had the society been called on to supply manpower for work on tl e Ice in such a regular way, as one of the events in the annual programme set by the Ross Dependency Research Committee. The volunteers, unpaid, going south for the love of it, were drawn from the membership, one criterion being that they had not previously served in an expedition. They were new chums and by and largely they revelled in the experience.

By the mid-1970s, though, it was becoming apparent that a piecemeal approach would not do the huts much good in the long run. John Cross, Richard McElrea and Randal Heke were among those who provided reports urging better management.

In 1975 the RDRC set up the Historic Hut Restoration Committee and called on it to prepare a management plan. In 1980 the committee was enlarged and renamed the Historic Sites Management Committee.


1960 L.B. Quartermain, M.M. Prebble, E.R. Gibbs, G.C. Wilson
1963 E.R. Gibbs, R. Smith, G. Hurrell, B.N. Norris
1964 E.R. Gibbs, R. Smith, N.T. Greenhall
1969 P.J. Skellerup, M. Orchard
1970 C.A. Satherthwaite, S.W.M. Smith
1971 R.G. McElrea, H.W. Burson
1972 P.L. Wilson, V.J. Wilson
1973 L.E. Kerr, G.E. Madgwick
1974 K.J. Smith, G.D. Sylvester
1975 Cancelled
1976 A.W. Burton, J. Sutton-Pratt
1977 D.L. Harrowfield, C.C. Buckley
1978 C. Patterson, J.C.A. Oliver
1979 Cancelled (Mount Erebus disaster)
1980 Cancelled
1981 No Antarctic Society team
1982 G.J. Dougherty

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