Antarctic Huts – Frozen Time Capsules of the Heroic Age.

Antarctic Huts.

Scott’s Discovery Hut – Hut Point Antarctica.

Discovery Hut was built by Robert Falcon Scott during the Discovery Expedition of 1901–1904 in 1902 and is located at Hut Point on Ross Island by McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Visitors to Antarctica, arriving at either the US Base at McMurdo or New Zealand’s Scott Base are likely to encounter Discovery Hut as both are located on Hut Point. Discovery Hut is just 300m from McMurdo Base. The hut has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 18), following a proposal by New Zealand and the United Kingdom to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. Some confusion arises because Discovery Hut can correctly be referred to as Scott’s Hut, in that his expedition built it, and it was his base ‘ashore’ during the 1901–1904 expedition. But the title ‘Scott’s Hut’ correctly belongs to the building erected in 1911 at Cape Evans. WikipediaContinue Reading →

On This Day – February 3rd 1903

Scott, Shackleton and Wilson return to Discovery

Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904

On February 3rd 1903, Scott, Shackleton and Wilson made it back to their ship Discovery, after their arduous Southern march, which had commenced on November 2nd 1902. The objective had been, according to Wilson’s Diary “to get as far south in a straight line on the Barrier ice as we can, reach the Pole if possible, or find some new land”,  but it is safe to suggest it was never really likely that the Pole would be attained on this particular excursion. The men lacked the skill and experience required with dogs, and indeed the ice, and from the offset progress was slow, and planning poor.

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Tom Crean – Christmas Day 1902.

On This Day – December 25th 1902.

A First Christmas On The Ice Of Antarctica.

The Discovery Expedition (1901 – 1904).

Relatively speaking, Antarctica has only two seasons – Winter and Summer, and they occur contrary to the seasons in the northern hemisphere. The austral summer peaks in the months of January and February, and because of this, most of the endeavours of Antarctic explorers are plotted around a November to March timeframe.

This was no different in 1902, by which stage Tom Crean was well into his first venture to Antarctic climes, with Captain Scott’s Discovery Expedition. In November of that year he was part of a 12 man team selected to lay a supply route for what would be Scott’s first tentative attempt to reach the South Pole, with Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, accompanying him.

Cape Crozier - Watercolor by Wilson
“The great ice barrier – looking east from Cape Crozier.” Watercolor by Edward A. Wilson

On November 11 1902, Crean and a number of the depot laying team, under the command of Michael Barne, had achieved the honour of establishing a new farthest south record, when they passed the 78°50’S spot reached by Carsten Borchgrevink, on 16th February 1900.
When their mission was successfully completed they returned to Hut Point, having spent 35 difficult and labourious days on the ice. They would however, not rest for long, as a pre-planned exploration of the continents southwest, was next on their agenda. As Scott, Shackleton and Wilson laboured vainly towards the pole, Barne led out his six man team, including Tom Crean, on December 20th 1902.

They hauled well in excess of 1,000 lbs of supplies and equipment with them, on two sledges, but despite the immense physical demands of dragging five weeks supplies in their wake they nonetheless made good progress. Meanwhile, Scott’s southern party were relaying their supplies, dragging half their load forward, one mile at a time, then plodding back a mile, before hauling the remainder forward again. In short, for every geographical mile they had covered, the weary men had walked a distance of three miles.

Scott’s sledge party, which reached the furthest southern latitude on his national Antarctic expedition, celebrating Christmas. Lieutenant Ernest Shackleton, left, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, centre, and Dr Edward Adrian Wilson, right. Original Publication: Illustrated London News – pub. 1903

On December 25th 1902, Crean and his five companions crammed into one of the three-man tents they shared, to celebrate Christmas Day, on Antarctica’s great Ice Barrier. Dinner had been eaten and spirits were high as cards, which had been written by their Discovery shipmates were read aloud.
Barne noted that each man did a ‘turn’ during what he described as a ‘concert.’ It was without doubt the most unique white Christmas to date. Their tent, a tiny speck on the vast, unforgiving ice plains, emanating the alien sounds of songs stories and laughter, to blend with the eerie silence, or bewailing winds – the only other sources of sound, in the dominion of their splendid isolation.

In his excellent biography of Tom Crean, Michael Smith notes – “Crean was well known for breaking into song even under normal circumstances and now his voice was lubricated by a special gift which had been smuggled onto one of the sledges.”
Barne revealed:
“Our efforts were simulated by a bottle of port which had been brought for the purpose”

Source – An Unsung Hero, Michael Smith.

So wherever you celebrate Christmas, this year, spare a thought for the brave and bold pioneers of Antarctic exploration, who, on this day, 113 years ago, despite being enveloped by the harshest continent on the planet, somewhere deep within it’s icy interior, still took time to pause in their efforts and salute this most very special of occasions.
It was a bleak and dangerous place. They were at the foot of the world, in the midst of the last great unknown, but it was white and it was Christmas.

Source – An Unsung Hero – Michael Smith

Tom Crean Infographic – Discovery

Tom Crean Infographic

The Discovery Expedition

Tom Crean For Kids

A Tom Crean Infographic, featuring key Tom Crean dates, focusing on those of his very first Antarctic expedition, with Robert Falcon Scott, aboard the ship Discovery. You can download the PDF of this infographic below.

Tom Crean For Kids - Tom Crean Infographic.

Tom Crean For Kids – Tom Crean Infographic.




Information SourceTom Crean An Illustrated Life, Michael Smith.

On This Day – September 10th 1904

Discovery Arrives at Plymouth.

British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04.

Generally known as the Discovery Expedition, The British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, was Britain’s first official foray into Antarctic climes since the 1839-1843 voyage of James Clark Ross, with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
On 4 February 1902, Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, landed on the Barrier and unloaded an observation balloon which Scott had brought along for the purpose of achieving aerial surveys. Scott himself was first to climb aboard the balloon and it rapidly ascended to a height of 180 m, but thankfully the balloon was firmly tethered. Ernest Shackleton piloted the second ascent, and as with Scott, the only thing observable, even at that height was the seemingly endless expanse of icy whiteness that constituted the Barrier. The expeditions junior doctor and zoologist, Edward Wilson privately noted that he thought the flights to be “perfect madness”.
The Discovery Expedition succeeded in its quest to undertake scientific studies in Antarctica, in fields as diverse as biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. On the Western Journey, Antarctica’s only snow free valleys were discovered, in the western mountains of Victoria Land, and became known as The Dry Valleys.

Bull Pass - Antarctica

The Dry Valleys in the western mountains of Victoria Land, discovered during the expedition’s western journey.

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On This Day, January 3rd 1902 – Tom Crean Crosses the Antarctic Circle.

Tom Crean’s enters the Antarctic Circle

Scott’s Discovery Expedition

January 3rd 1902

On January 3rd 1902, Tom Crean sailed into Antarctic waters for the very first time, aboard the Discovery, which was commanded by Robert Falcon Scott. The British National Antarctic Expedition, as it was officially known had a somewhat unexpected crew member, in Crean, who only joined the Discovery after its last port of call at Lyttelton, New Zealand.
Tom Crean was assigned to the Ringarooma, which was also in the area, and its crew were helping Scott with final preparations, before departure for Antarctica.
One of the Discovery crew, a man named Harry Baker, was involved in a dispute, and struck an officer. Baker fled, rather than face his punishment and now Scott’s crew was a man short.

Realising his only hope of replenishing his crew lay with Captain Rich of the Ringarooma, Scott approached him with the request for one of his men. When the call went out for a volunteer, it was Tom Crean who took up the challenge. Continue Reading →