Stonington Island – Base E
Base E, on Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay, was established in 1946 and operated from 1946-50, briefly for a year during IGY in 1958-59 and then again from 1960-1975 after which the base permanently closed. It was the centre for much of the early mapping of the Antarctic Peninsula using skilled dog teams to access the region. The Base Commander in 1948-49 was Sir Vivien “Bunny” Fuchs – who later went on to lead the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition and become the director of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) which became the British Antarctic Survey.
Base E is 250 metres from the US Antarctic Survey Expedition’s East Base which was built in 1939, occupied for two years and then revisited in 1947-48 by the privately funded American Finn Ronne Antarctic Expedition. The Finn Ronne expedition used East Base in collaboration with the FIDS team at Base E – using the highly skilled British dog teams to provide ground control for American aircraft carrying out aerial photography and survey work around the peninsula. Base E reopened in 1960 when Horseshoe closed and became the centre for southern Antarctic Peninsula fieldwork until Rothera Research Station was built in 1975. The FIDS teams used East Base buildings as stores and workshops during their last occupation of the site.
The original 1948 building, Trepassey House, was burnt down in stages between 1973-4 after the current building was erected in 1961. It was the first two-storey building to be erected by FIDS and was also the first to use a steel frame construction. Due to its position as the most remote of the British HSM’s on the peninsula, it has rarely been visited since its closure and the building contains most of its original fixtures & fittings and a whole wealth of artefacts from the early era of modern Antarctic Exploration. Due to its historical significance during the exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula and the relatively good condition of the site and artefacts it was designated HSM 64 in 1995 under the Antarctic Treaty.
Conservation Management at Stonington
In early 2018 we plan to deploy a conservation team in to Stonington to carry out a similar program to those completed at Horseshoe in January 2017. This will include emergency repairs, an artefact survey and a comprehensive conservation and sampling survey of the site to inform our long-term management plan for the Base. At this stage, we are in discussions with the US Antarctic Program to assist with a similar survey at East Base (HSM 55) to make the most of our skilled team on the ground as this has been on their agenda for some time. The main building is larger, more complex and of a completely different construction to Horseshoe and will require more work in research and planning and more time on the ground. We will send in a bigger team for a longer season to enable them to fully complete the survey and works.
Logistics and Support
Stonington is the most remote HSM that we manage and therefore has more complex and challenging logistics and access than the other sites. We already know that HMS Protector and the British Antarctic Survey will play a significant role in our support and at the time of writing are liaising with several other organisations to finalise the best way to get our team and their supplies in and out from Stonington. We look forward to sending out updates about the project in e-bulletins and the next edition of the Antarctic Times.
you can read more about Stonington Island on our website.