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Antarctic huts conservation plans launch - PM Spch

Tuesday 27 July 2004

Rt Hon Helen Clark

Prime Minister

Launch of the

Antarctic Heritage Trust's

Antarctic huts conservation plans

Te Papa


4.30 pm

Tuesday 27 July 2004

Welcome to Te Papa. This exhibition in which we stand today bears testimony to the enduring interest in the exploits and achievements of the Antarctic explorers.

We are here today to announce a very important development in the campaign to protect heritage sites in Antarctica.

When the Antarctic Heritage Trust was established in 1987 it had one clear purpose. That was to conserve the legacy of adventure, discovery and endurance associated with mankind's epic journeys of discovery in Antarctica.

What Shackleton, Scott, Amunsden, Borchgrevink, and the other explorers set out to do excites awe and admiration to this day.

The explorers took on the world's most unforgiving continent. They did so without the benefits of modern technology. Some never lived to tell the tale, but their story continues to be told, because of the timeless fascination with their courage and endeavour.

Behind them, the explorers left the huts which were the bases for their exploration. They were not designed to last a century, but, albeit in poor shape, some of them have.

In themselves, the huts are relatively ordinary structures, but they were built in extraordinary circumstances in an extraordinary environment by extraordinary men. Above all, these huts tell us stories of extraordinary feats.

It now falls to us in the 21st century to conserve their legacy so that others too may know of the wonder of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration.

Last year I had the pleasure of launching the Shackleton Hut conservation report prepared by the Trust. Today, the Antarctic Heritage Trust is launching the conservation plans for:

- Scott's Hut at Cape Evans;

- Discovery Hut at Hut Point;

- and the huts at Cape Adare - the first man-made structures ever built on the continent.

I'll tell you a little about each of the huts.

Scott's Hut was built during his 1910-1913 expedition. The expedition base was built at Cape Evans on Ross Island in January 1911, and was occupied until January 1913. It was also occupied through two winters by men of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917. The hut still stands today.

Discovery Hut was built at Hut Point on Ross Island in February 1902 during Scott's National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04. While the men lived on board the Discovery moored nearby, the hut was used for many ancillary purposes until the departure of the expedition in February 1904. It was subsequently used by three other heroic era expeditions, all of which left their mark on the hut and its contents, so that today it encapsulates, more than any other historic site in the Ross Sea region, the history of the early exploration of the continent.

The historic huts at Cape Adare were built by the British Antarctic Expedition of 1898-1900 led by Carsten Borchgrevink which landed at Cape Adare on 17 February 1899. The party of ten men, five Norwegians, two Laplanders, two British and one Australian, wintered over at Cape Adare in two small huts.

The legacy of the 1898-1900 expedition is two modest timber huts that were procured as a "kit of parts' in Norway. The huts each measure approximately 5.5 x 6.5 metres, a very small space indeed for ten men to occupy for a year, and are identical in terms of their construction. They are made of thick tongued-and-grooved boards laid horizontally, which fit snugly into one another and are notched together at the corners. These huts are, today, surrounded by a large quantity of boxes, sacks of coal, barrels and other miscellaneous stores, most of which are in very poor condition.

The New Zealand government has supported the development of these plans and the work of the Antarctic Heritage Trust because of the importance of restoring and preserving these amazing heritage sites. We will continue to work with the Trust as it seeks international funding to implement these plans.

The preservation of these huts is a fantastic heritage cause. Antarctica is a vast, beautiful, unforgiving continent. One cannot fail to be inspired by the stories of the great and heroic adventures by those discoverers who built these huts.

I welcome the launching of the conservation plans for the Discovery Hut, Scott's Hut, and the huts at Cape Adare. I congratulate the Antarctic Heritage Trust, and all those involved with the development of these plans, on this most important project.


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