Borchgrevink’s Huts

Historic Site in Cape Adare

In February 1899, four years after Kristensen’s landing here, Borchgrevink was back at Cape Adare as the leader of the Southern Cross expedition. It took the men two weeks to erect two prefabricated structures, the remains of which can be seen today just back from Ridley Beach, which Borchgrevink named for his mother. These two huts are the oldest buildings in Antarctica.

Southern Cross departed to winter in New Zealand, and the 10 men left behind were the first to winter in Antarctica. Although they were the only humans on the continent, they had the company of 90 sledge dogs, the first ever used in Antarctica. The expedition also pioneered the use of kayaks for sea travel, and the Primus stove, a lightweight, portable pressure stove that had been invented in Sweden six years before that was carried by nearly every expedition that followed. It is still in use today.

The group experienced a death, an almost disastrous fire and a narrow escape from coal-fume asphyxiation. For the full tale, read Borchgrevink’s First on the Antarctic Continent.

Borchgrevink’s huts have outlasted the ‘Northern Party’ huts, though they are 12 years older, because they were built from sturdier materials: interlocking boards of Norwegian spruce.

The accommodations hut, which housed all 10 men, was 5.5m by 6.5m. Upon entering, an office-storeroom is to your left and a darkroom is to your right. Both were once lined with furs for insulation. Continuing inside, a stove stands to the left, a table and chairs are on the left past the stove, and five of the double-tiered coffin-like bunks line the remaining wall space. Borchgrevink’s bunk was in the back left corner, on the top. The hut had papier-mâché insulation and a single double-paned window. Be sure to look out for the fine pencil drawing of a young woman on the ceiling above one of the bunks.

The stores hut, to the west, is now roofless. It contains boxes of ammunition that Borchgrevink brought in case the expedition encountered large predators such as polar bears. (He was the first to winter on the continent, remember. He didn’t know what might be out there.) Coal briquettes and stores barrels litter the ground outside this hut.

Today the huts are completely surrounded by an Adélie-penguin colony, and care must be taken to avoid disturbing the birds. The NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) conserves the huts, and only four people (including the AHT representative, who will accompany your cruise or come over from Scott Base) are permitted inside the Cape Adare huts at one time. Only 40 people are allowed in the area of the huts at a time.