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Work begins in Ernest to save Shackleton's legacy

Work begins in Ernest to save Shackleton's Antarctic legacy

A group of international experts in heritage conservation has arrived in Antarctica this week. It's task? To ensure the conservation of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Nimrod Hut - one of the few remaining wooden buildings built on the frozen continent during the golden age of Antarctic exploration at the start of last century.

Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island, is listed on the World Monuments Fund's World Monuments Watch list of 100 most endangered sites. A USD100,000 grant from American Express to the World Monuments Fund has helped enable work to finally begin this Antarctic summer on a detailed conservation plan.

American Express is a founding sponsor of WMF's World Monuments Watch program, established in 1995 to draw attention to the plight of imperilled historic, artistic and architectural sites worldwide and ensure their preservation.

The endangered hut was built for Shackleton's 1907-09 British Antarctic Expedition, during which Shackleton led an attempt on the South Pole. He turned his team back just 156 kilometres from their destination (the furthest south anyone had been at that time) when bad weather and dwindling supplies threatened their safe return. It was a decision that is now regarded as one of the finest ever made in the history of Antarctic exploration.

During the expedition, Shackleton's team also made the first ascent of the world southern-most active volcano - Mount Erebus.

The hut was built with no expectation of surviving beyond the requirements of the initial mission. That it remains largely intact and little changed from the great age of Antarctic Exploration a century ago, is where its conservation value lies.

But the hut is in a precarious state. The ravages of extreme weather constantly threaten its existence, as well as provide unique challenges for those tasked with ensuring conservation of the great explorer's legacy.

The New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust has developed and is implementing the conservation plan.

Leading UK conservation architect Michael Morrison has criticised the British Government for not contributing more fully to the conservation effort.

Source: American Express

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