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    Research at the Historic Expedition Huts of Antarctica

Discovery hut at Hut Point

Hut Point on Ross Island is the location of Robert Scott's first hut built in Antarctica during the Discovery Expedition. This large hut was built in 1902.

Discovery hut is a large wooden structure that is surrounded on three sides by a verandah. This hut also was used by other later expeditions.
View inside Discovery hut as it looks today
Container of biscuits inside Discovery hut
Field camp set up outside of the historic boundaries to Shackleton's Cape Royds hut. Helicopter transport by the National Science Foundation allowed access to this remote site on Ross Iland.
Cape Royds hut built by Shackleton and crew of the Nimrod in 1908.
View from the door of the Cape Royds hut showing the Transantarctic mountains, the Ross Sea and large Adelie penguin colony near the hut.
Interior view of Cape Royds hut.
Cape Evans hut built by Robert F. Scott and crew in 1911.
Interior of the Cape Evans hut showing the galley area.
Professor Blanchette examining some of the food storage boxes left inside Cape Evans hut.
Scientific materials left in the hut by scientists on the expedition who carried out numerous experiments while in Antarctica.
Problems in the hut include extensive mold growth on wood, textiles, and other artifacts. In this photo fungi can be seen growing on the surface of wood inside the hut. Our investigations are in the process of identifying these microbes and determining methods to prevent their growth in the future.
Data loggers placed at several locations in each hut record environmental conditions every hour throughtout the year. Here University of Minnesota and University of Waikato researchers are examining data being downloaded for analysis. High relative humidity within the huts is responsible for the blooms of mold growth occurring in the huts. For more information see research paper published in Int. Biodeterioration and Biodegradation.
This photograph shows severe deterioration occurring on the exterior boards of Cape Evans hut due to a chemical attack caused by high salt concentrations and the unique Antarctic environment.
A closer view of deterioration on exterior wall boards of Cape Evans hut shows the unusual degradation taking place. The wood becomes defibrated and the outer layers detach in white masses of fibers. For more information on the cause of this attack view our publication that appeared in the journal Polar Record.

A photo of the exterior of Cape Royds hut showing stores of expedition supplies still present at the hut and University of Minnesota graduate student Brett Arenz examining wood in contact with the ground. Unusual fungi have been found decaying wood at this hut and also at Cape Evans hut. For information on these fungi and the decay taking place see our recent publication in Microbial Ecology


Antarctic Mountains
The diversity of microbes in Antarctica is just starting to be identified and better understood. Our studies are providing important new information on these little known organisms and how they function in the extreme Antarctic environment.
The explorers brought newly developed motorized vehicles with them on their expeditions and fuel depots left at the huts have contaminated the sites. This photo shows historic fuel containers near the Cape Evans hut that have leaked into the ground. Our investigations have identified the petroleum products and other environmental pollutants left in Antarctica and provide recommendations for remedial action. For more information see PDF reprint on Environmental pollutants at the historic huts.
©2015 Robert Blanchette. All Rights Reserved.