Antarctica Comes to Oamaru

GREAT SPOT: Antarctic historian David Harrowfield and Tourism Waitaki event development officer Jan Kennedy were thrilled to see an original hut from Scott Base in Antarctica given a permanent place on a terrace overlooking the Oamaru Harbour. PHOTO/REBECCA RYAN

Oamaru has long had a connection with Antarctica. Not only was Oamaru the port that the Terra Nova of the ill-fated Scott Expedition of 1910-1912 came to after returning from Antarctica, but there have been numerous other connections between Oamaru and the world’s southernmost continent. Now visitors to Oamaru will be able to experience a bit of Antarctica right here in town, with the installation this past week at the Oamaru Harbour of a decommissioned hut from the Antarctic Scott Base. The hut was used as accommodations for scientists working at the McMurdo base in Antarctica until 1910, when it was given to Oamaruvian and Antarctic historian David Harrowfield. Dr Harrowfield worked with Tourism Waitaki to find a permanent home for the hut, which will serve as a museum and educational centre.

You can read more about the hut and its new home in this article from the Oamaru Mail from 23 August 2012, which you can also read online here:

Gift from the ice

Rebecca Ryan | Thursday, August 23, 2012 13:03

A hut from Scott Base in Antarctica was given a permanent home at the Oamaru Harbour yesterday.

After being stored at the de Geest Construction yard for two years, it was placed in location by a crane among the Red Sheds, where it will be opened as an educational centre and tourist attraction.

Oamaru Antarctic historian David Harrowfield said he was thrilled an ideal location had been found for the hut.

He saw its potential in Oamaru as a further means of nurturing the significant link the town had with Antarctica, to provide something of additional interest to visitors and a link with the town’s history.

Dr Harrowfield was gifted the hut in 2010, courtesy of Antarctica New Zealand chief executive officer Lou Sanson, and the 2013 Scott centenary commemoration provided the perfect opportunity to permanently install the hut as an Antarctica educational facility for locals and visitors, he said.

The hut, built at Scott Base, is fitted out with fibreglass insulation and was once used for accommodation.

Affectionately known as “The Swamp”, it was mounted on a sledge from the US McMurdo Station above 2.5-metre thick sea ice in McMurdo Sound for one of the first New Zealand drilling programmes, in 1984.

Tourism Waitaki event development officer Jan Kennedy has supported Dr Harrowfield in the project.

“It’s going to be like a tourist attraction as well as an educational facility for children,” she said.

“It enhances what they are trying to do with the Harbour area and it just adds to everything that is here now.

“It also helps bring Scott’s expedition into the present.

” It brings some relevance to it. Now we’ve got our own educational centre and attraction.”

There was still a lot of work to be done before the hut could open for the public this summer, Dr Harrowfield said.

“When it was used for accommodation, there were two bunks at the far end, a dressing table and a settee and a little table.

“I’m going to make inquiries and find out where the dressing table may be.

“I’d like to set it up the way it was, with photographs and maps.

“I’ve arranged to get my desk from Scott Base that I did my university undergraduate study on, so that will come up on the ship this summer and people will be able to sit on a chair that I have at home from Scott Base.”

As well as having historical significance, there were many nice anecdotes linked with the hut.

“Rumour has it, it had a double bed in it at one stage but that’s another story,” he said.

Following the Scott centenary celebrations in February 2013, the hut will become an integral part of a tour around the Oamaru Harbour area.

The two-year drilling programme in 1984, Cenozoic Investigations of the Ross Sea (CIROS), involved scientists from New Zealand, the United States and Japan.

Drilling by a seven-man team, along with surveyors and camp support staff, resulted in obtaining important cores to help interpret the glacial history, climate and environment of 4 million years ago.

Following CIROS, the hut was towed back to Scott Base where it provided additional accommodation hosting, for one night, the late Sir Edmund Hillary and his mountaineer friend George Lowe.

One of the last buildings associated with New Zealand’s early Antarctic science programmes, it then became surplus to requirements at Scott Base and was returned to Christchurch.


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