Saving Hillary's Hut

Credit: JWW

Nestled alongside Scott Base, is Hillary's Hut - a small building that's played a big role in New Zealand's history.

Hillary's Hut, also known as Hut A or the Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) Hut, was the first building constructed at Scott Base. It was built by a team led by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1957 and it was from here that Sir Ed later led an historic expedition to the South Pole. The hut was Hillary's home as he wintered over on the Ice in 1957.

Sadly, after a period of minimal maintenance, the hut had a leaking roof, asbestos that needed removing, melt pools under the floor boards and the artefacts within it were showing signs of damage and corrosion. 

The Trust believed it was critical to restore this important part of Antarctic history so we developed a comprehensive Conservation Plan, which detailed the preservation of the huts and its artefacts for the next 25 years.

Sir Edmund Hillary revisits the original hut for the Scott Base 50th anniversary in 2007.

In 2016 a major fundraising drive Expedition South, helped to raise almost $1 million to put the plan into action. Our intrepid team drove tractors (like Sir Ed did to the South Pole) from Piha to Aoraki Mt Cook, sharing the story of Sir Ed in Antarctica and collecting donations along the way. With help from thousands of Kiwis from across the country, New Zealand Government, Lottery Grants Board, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, corporate sponsors and donors, the Antarctic Heritage Trust raised more than $960,000 to save Sir Ed’s hut and the hundreds of artefacts inside it.

Over the summer of 2016-2017 the Trust team on the Ice worked hard to restore the hut and conserve the artefacts within it. More than 5700 hours were spent delivering this project in sometimes freezing conditions.  

The hut has been painted back to its original colours with Dulux New Zealand recreating the colours from scratch as they were no longer available. The colours have been named by the Trust’s conservation team with the yellow being called ‘Pram Point’. This is the name for the geographical location of Scott Base: named after the Norwegian ‘pram’ (small dinghy) which Robert Falcon Scott’s team used to row around on the sea locally. The orange paint has been named ‘Sno-Cat’, after the Tucker Sno-Cat tracked vehicles used in the early days of Scott Base.

Programme Manager Lizzie Meek says, “Heritage conservation in Antarctica involves many logistical challenges; the cold temperatures can freeze or change the materials, and weather can prevent outside work. But these challenges have been met and overcome by our fantastic  the right team of skilled conservators and craftspeople.”

We want to ensure the hut is kept safe for future generations.  Since it is in one of the harshest environments on the planet it will involve ongoing work and any further donations will help conserve this building into the future.

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