Blaiklock Island Refuge

Blaiklock Island Refuge A brief history

Blaiklock Island Refuge (67°32'S, 67°12'W) was established in 1957 and used intermittently from 1957 to 1958 as a refuge and satellite base for survey and geological parties from nearby bases. Blaiklock is considered an integral part of Base Y, Horseshoe Island. In 1995, they were collectively designated Historic Site No. 63 and have been managed by UKAHT since 2014. Although not an independent heritage site, Blaiklock is the smallest building we manage.

Wild and remote

Located on a wild and rocky island only accessible by ship, tiny Blaiklock Island Refuge is one of the most remote places on Earth. It was built and used by pioneers who charted the first maps of the region and is a rare example of a designated 1950s British sledging refuge. It provided men a place to shelter and rest with their dogs in bad Antarctic conditions.

What’s in a name?

It was explorer Ken Blaiklock who, in 1949, first determined that Blaiklock Island was indeed an island hence why it was named in his honour. Later, Ken was a member of the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic expedition that completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica via the South Pole. He led the first party to drive a dog team to the South Pole since Roald Amundsen in 1911. He also held the record for the longest cumulative time spent in Antarctica – some 14 years in total across the decades.

Museum in miniature

Consisting of just a simple bunkroom-cum-kitchen and an adjoining workshop, Blaiklock is a museum in miniature. Despite its size, the hut is rich in original artefacts that once supported basic survival: cooking equipment, tinned food, beds, table and chairs, books, workshop materials and a dog sledge. Measuring just 20ft by 10ft, Blaiklock is the smallest heritage building we manage.

Snowshoe Lodge

Blaiklock Island Refuge encapsulates life and survival in Antarctica during the early scientific age. It was used by scientists based at three research stations: Base Y, Horseshoe Island; Base W, Detaille Island; and Base E, Stonington Island. All have made vital contributions to our understanding of science and climate change today. Those sheltering there optimistically referred to it as ‘Snowshoe Lodge’ and the surviving base diaries tell powerful and evocative stories.

The site today

Blaiklock is the only British Antarctic refuge remaining from the 1950s and has remained largely untouched since it was abandoned. It tells a vivid story of life, survival and scientific discovery in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. During the 2024/25 austral summer, UKAHT will send a conservation team to Blaiklock to complete essential repairs to the building, catalogue artefacts and secure the site to make it safe for years to come.

Photography: George Lamour, 1957, BAS Archives, AD6/19/3/C/Y11; UKAHT/Phil Wickens, 2020; Ken Blaiklock, Public Domain; Ruth Mullett, 2022.