Commonwealth TAE Hut
Hillary’s Hut, Scott Base

During the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58 a major expedition to cross Antarctica was planned by Dr Vivian Fuchs. This expedition was to cross the continent from the Weddell Sea via the South Pole. Fuchs enlisted the support of a party from New Zealand, led by Edmund Hillary, who would lay supply depots from the Ross Sea to the South Pole for Fuchs’ party to use on their northward leg. This was the first expedition to reach the South Pole since the heroic era, forty six years earlier.

Sno-Cats and Tractors

Fuchs’ and his team of twelve set out from their base in the Weddell Sea in November 1957 in their convoy of Sno-Cats, Weasels and a tractor. On the other side of the continent Hillary and his team had set up Scott Base and constructed a small group of huts which would provide shelter and science facilities for the wintering party. This would also be Fuchs’ final destination for the crossing.

Race for the Pole

Hillary’s party with their iconic Ferguson Tractors successfully laid the supply depots towards the Pole. It was never intended that Hillary’s party would travel as far as the South Pole, but he saw the chance to reach it overland for the first time since Scott in 1912, and took it. He reached the South Pole on 3rd January 1958. Fuchs’ team reached the Pole two weeks later, meeting Hillary, before heading on to reach Scott Base on the 2nd March 1958. The crossing took 99 days and covered 2,158 miles.

Endurance and Science

Not only was this an extraordinary expedition of human effort, but it was also collected a huge amount of scientific data. Supporting parties undertook geological surveys, mapped new areas and studied glaciers, all of which contributed significantly to the IGY and underpinned future science programmes.

The TAE Hut today

One hut remains of the original ‘Scott Base’ and is now part of the modern New Zealand-run science station of the same name. The historic hut is now cared for by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust who are embarking on a conservation and restoration programme. The project was launched in 2015 by the NZ Prime Minister and UKAHT is proud to be a supporter of the project.

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