We we boarded the helicopter at noon for Cape Royds, site
of Shackleton's 1908 Hut and
an Adelie penguin rookery. The weather was excellent, warm and sunny. We took a net and bottles
in the hope that we would have easy access to some water, but due to a shift of the wind since
we checked the site (on the excursion to the ice edge), the ice had compacted and frozen
over. We saw seals and penquins along the edge, though.
There is a large Adelie penguin rookery at Cape Royds,
of about 4000 birds. Access is restricted,
and we had to view from about 100 yards. Both male and female guard the nest
(unlike Emperors). The chicks hatch in late December. These Adelies are most engaging birds.
A view of the rookery:
We had been entrusted with a letter for two researchers,
Hannah and David, living in tents
on Cape Royds, which we duly delivered, and were offered tea and cake in one of the larger tents.
They also had a smaller Scott tent, which they preferred in bad weather. The Scott tent is
pyramidal, and supported by four poles forming the edges and joined at the vertex. Access is through
a round tube at the front. It is the ideal tent for strong Antarctic winds:
The two researchers were tracking the diving and feeding
habits of the birds by means of a clever bridge
they constructed, so that the birds have to cross on foot
to get to the water. Sensors allow the movements and weight gain and loss of the birds to be tracked.
Some views from Cape Royds follow. The hills
overlooking the sea ice are covered with volcanic basalt boulders.
I walked down to the edge of the sea ice to look, without
success, for open water. I did find a few Weddell seals, and lots of ice.
Skuas were everywhere; we were hiking in the vicinity
nests. They let us know when we got too close.
The Hut was built by the British Nimrod Expedition
led by Ernest Shackleton (1907-09).
This was Shackleton's first Antarctic expedition. In late January of 1908, he was
unable to land at King Edward VII Land and instead entered McMurdo Sound. Ice conditions
prevented him from reaching hut point, and he instead established the expedition's winter
quarters at Cape Royds. The party began to erect the hut in February of 1908. It is a prefabricated
structure, set on pile in cement and cinders. It is insulated with felt and granular cork. The space
between the walls and provision cases was filled with gravel.
Light in the hut comes from two double glazed windows
with shutters in the north wall, and by lamps
fed by this carbide acetylene generator installed above the door.
Stables were added along the north wall for the four surviving
Manchurian ponies and a garage buile alongside
for an Arrol-Johnston motor car, the first motor transport to be used in Antarctica.
Shackleton has a small "private" room. Other members of
the expedition were accommodated in two-man cubicles
with improvised beds and curtains hanging from wires. The hut also has a small darkroom and laboratory.
Cape Royds was later visited by members of Shackleton's
Ross Sea Party (1915-17),
who had been marooned at Cape Evans. They cam to forage for matches, soap, and tobacco
and to supplement their own meager supplies.
Here is the layout of the hut:
Approaching the hut. Shackleton knew how to shelter a
The rookery is in the background:
Views of the remains of the stables, the garage of the
Arrol Johnson car, and the latrine.
The car was not ver successful in the Antarctic. Note the two doghouses.
This is what you see when you enter:
This hut has homey feel. It's centerpiece is the stove:
I have wondered about the size of the "biscuits"
which are mentioned by Antarctic explorers.
In the sea journey following the loss of the Endurance,
Shackleton mentions reducing rations to 1/2 biscuit per day.
Here they are, about 4 inches square:
There is a good stock of food left in the hut. Several hams hang on the wall nearby.
On the way out, I saw the carbide acetylene generator above the door.