Scott’s Discovery Hut

Historic Hut in Hut Point

Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition built this hut in February 1902 on aptly named Hut Point. The prefabricated building, purchased in Australia, is of a type still found in rural Australia, with a wide overhanging veranda on three sides. It was originally painted a terracotta color, but wind has scoured it bare.

Despite the building’s expense and the effort required to erect it, Scott’s men never used it for accommodations because it was difficult to heat efficiently. Instead, it was used for storage, repair work and as an entertainment center (called ‘The Royal Terror Theatre’). In fact, the Discovery hut was used more heavily by several later expeditions. Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition, based at Cape Royds, found it a convenient en-route shelter during sledge trips to and from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1908, as did Scott’s Terra Nova expedition in 1911.

The Ross Sea party of Shackleton’s ill-fated Endurance expedition benefited most: they holed up here from time to time in 1915 and 1916. The men, unaware of vast quantities of stores buried in the ice that had accumulated in the hut, nearly starved – despite the hidden bounty lying literally underfoot. They did find a bit of food, cigars, crème de menthe, sleeping bags and a pair of long underwear. The interior of the hut is soot-blackened and smells from the smoky blubber stove they used trying to stay warm.

Because it is the hut closest to McMurdo Station and has received the most visitors (and light fingers) over the years, the relatively barren Discovery hut is the least interesting of the three Ross Island historic sites. The AHT estimates that 1000 people visit the hut each year and there are few remaining artifacts. The hut sharply conveys the hardships endured by the early explorers. As you enter, stores line the right-hand wall. The central area is occupied by a stove, piles of provisions and a sleeping platform. A square hole in the floor was used for pendulum experiments. A mummified seal lies on the open southern veranda.

For conservation purposes, only eight people are permitted inside at a time, and only 40 are allowed in the area of the hut.