Ross Sea Party improvised gear

Credit: Canterbury Museum

By Sue Bassett

The artefacts conserved by the Trust that remain in Scott’s Cape Evans hut tell something of the harrowing ordeal endured by Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party in 1914-17.

Continuing their futile mission to lay depots to aid Shackleton's planned crossing of Antarctica, the ill-equipped Ross Sea Party was forced to improvise clothing and equipment in order to survive.

Stranded at Cape Evans, they also used Captain Scott’s old Discovery Hut at Hut Point as a staging post for their depot-laying sledge trips. After one such trip, a group waited at Hut Point for over two months for the sea ice to harden so they could walk back to Cape Evans and join the rest of the team. During these months the men recovered from ill health, improvised games and made tools out of salvaged materials.

Lamps were made out of old food tins and fuelled with seal blubber, offering 'a flickering glimmer of light in the dark interior'. Snowshoes were made out of old plywood supply boxes, such as this one that once held Spratt's dog biscuits, and clothing such as this jacket was repaired with materials and fabrics scavenged from inside the hut - all testaments to remarkable resourcefulness and determination through extreme hardship.

An improvised snowshoe made from plywood boxes by Shackleton's Ross Sea Party members
A makeshift jacket made by the Ross Sea Party members

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