Cape Royds- Shackleton’s Hut

Dec. 29, 2013

Last week one of my two teammates went on a sampling trip to collect pond algae for her research, so the three of us took a trip out to Cape Royds on the coast of Ross Island, Antarctica and were able to visit Shackleton’s ‘Nimrod Hut’ while we were there. Ernest Shackleton lead his first of three British expeditions to Antarctica in 1907-1909, overwintering with his crew at Cape Royds and building Nimrod Hut (named after his ship) at this coastal spot near McMurdo Sound. After Shackleton’s arrival at Cape Royds in February 1908, fifteen men spent nine months in the hut over the dark, harsh Antarctic winter until a four-man expedition to the South Pole was attempted in October 1908.While Shackleton’s initial goal had been to reach the South Pole, he never made it quite that far, reaching 97 miles from the pole before turning back. Nevertheless this attempt beat all previous records at the time until Amundsen claimed the South Pole in 1911.

IMG_8046bOutside of Nimrod Hut- the ‘boxed area’ served as a stable where the crew kept ponies, which they favored over sled dogs in their march towards the South Pole

IMG_8049bPlaque on the door of the hut

IMG_8051bThis hut served as nine-month living quarters for fifteen men

IMG_8076bStanding in to show scale

IMG_8052bCots and bedding

IMG_8062bSocks still left hanging on a clothesline

IMG_8069bThe other side of the hut

IMG_8056bAfter their expedition Shackleton left a note at the hut letting any future explorers know that they’d left enough supplies behind to last 15 men one winter season in case anyone needed to use their hut again

IMG_8072bAlthough no future expeditions stayed at Nimrod hut, the supplies are still in remarkable condition over 100 years later

IMG_8058bWhile it’s sunny out now during Austral summer, I can’t imagine how bleak it would have felt to spend nine months here, six of which would have been in total darkness

IMG_8079bNimrod hut and Cape Royds. Mount Erebus, an active volcano also located on Ross Island, is visible within the clouds behind the hut (on the right). Shackleton’s men were the first explorers to reach the summit of Mt. Erebus in 1908.

Last year I visited Discovery Hut, the location of Robert Falcon Scott’s storage depot in 1902 which is also located on Ross Island 23 miles away from Nimrod Hut. (The fact that Shackleton chose to build Nimrod Hut on the same island as Discovery Hut was a point of contention between the two explorers, who had previously agreed to stay away from each others’ landing sites.) I snapped a few photos of that site here, but unlike Shackleton, Scott’s men didn’t live at their hut, choosing instead to overwinter on their ship frozen within the ice and simply using Discovery Hut as a storage space/ emergency bunker in case anything were to happen to the ship itself. In my opinion this makes Nimrod hut more interesting because we were able to gain a much more vivid picture of life lived within the hut 105 years ago.

Cape Royds also has a penguin colony quite close to Nimrod Hut, and we were fortunate enough to visit right after the season’s new penguins have hatched. I’ll write another article about baby penguins and the rookery soon. Until then, happy New Year!


Posted on 2013, in *Season 3: Life in the Dry Valleys, 2013 (12/29) Cape Royds- Shackleton's Hut. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Okay, for me this would be the pinnacle of my visit to Antarctica. What a fantastic opportunity for you. Thank you for sharing this.

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