Compared to McMurdo’s ‘urban sprawl,’ just 3km away by gravel road, New Zealand’s Scott Base looks positively pastoral. An orderly collection of lime-green buildings, Scott Base – named for Robert Scott – was established in 1957 by Edmund Hillary as part of Vivian Fuchs’ Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE).
Three original buildings from that era survive: two small magnetic huts, and another structure built in 1956 and known variously as the Mess Hut, Hut A or the TAE Hut. It housed not only the mess but also the base leader’s room and the radio room. It was restored (2015–16) and is a historic monument maintained by the NZ Antarctic Heritage Trust (www.nzaht.org).
Scott Base accommodates 11 winterovers and up to 85 people in summer. In 2004 New Zealand built the Hillary Field Centre, a two-story, 1800-sq-meter heated storage building, the largest single construction project ever undertaken at Scott Base.
The base flagpole incorporates an interesting historic relic: part of the flagpole from Scott’s Discovery hut, found on the ground near the hut and presented by the Americans at McMurdo to Hillary in 1957.
As part of a major wind-power project, three wind turbines were installed on Crater Hill and became fully operational in early 2010. The turbines, which are also connected to McMurdo’s grid, should reduce the diesel required for power generation by approximately 463,000L per year and should cut annual CO₂ emissions by 1242 tonnes. Currently they provide about 90% of Scott Base’s power and 15% of McMurdo’s. Toilets at Scott are flushed with seawater to reduce freshwater consumption.
Tourists can easily overwhelm a smaller Antarctic station like Scott Base, where staff must dedicate themselves to visitors when a ship is in. Still, the New Zealanders are very friendly and several hundred people visit annually. Once a week, Scott Base hosts ‘American night,’ when McMurdo residents are welcome; it’s a way to contain visits from its more populous neighbor. Conversely, the relatively few Kiwis have an open invitation to events at McMurdo.
Although there are no mail facilities at Scott Base, there are two public telephones in the foyer of the Command Centre. Use phone cards purchased at the base shop, call collect (reverse charges) or use a credit card. The shop accepts New Zealand and US currencies, Visa, MasterCard and American Express.