Horseshoe Island Hut

Horseshoe Island Hut A brief history

Horseshoe Island Hut (67°48'S, 67°18'W) was established as a scientific base in March 1955 and closed in August 1960. Research carried out here included geology, meteorology and topographic surveys. Extensive survey trips covering hundreds of miles were undertaken using dog teams and sledges. In 1995, Horseshoe was designated Historic Site and Monument no. 63 and has been managed by UKAHT since 2014.

Horseshoe by name…

Located in Bourgeois Fjord, Marguerite Bay along the west coast of Graham Land, Antarctica, the small rocky island of Horseshoe was discovered and named by the British Graham Land Expedition under John Rymill who mapped the area by land and from the air between 1934 and 1937. It was named because of the U-shape of its mountains which climb as high as 900m (2,952ft).

A mid-century moment

The base on Horseshoe Island was established by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (the precursor to the British Antarctic Survey) in 1955. The site, along with several other bases opened during this period, was part of the push to increase UK scientific activity ahead of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), a worldwide program of geophysical research that was conducted from July 1957 to December 1958, which paved the way for the Antarctic Treaty in 1959.

The devil is in the Detaille

Those who cannot make it to Detaille will discover many similar charms at Horseshoe. The prefabricated base was built to the same specifications as Detaille, but with its generator shed angled in a different way. Indeed, those who evacuated Detaille went on to work at Horseshoe, where – due to the preferential conditions of the bay – the base had a longer history as a meteorological and geological survey base.

A time capsule

Though not as artefact rich as Detaille, Horseshoe Island Hut provides a fascinating time capsule of the life and science of the time and remains relatively unaltered from its times as a British scientific base in the 1950s. The site features a balloon shed, pup pens, an emergency store, two pram dinghies and a winch. Artefacts have been catalogued and stabilised to an extent. Blaiklock, a refuge hut located several miles away, is considered an integral part of the base.

The site today

Horseshoe was abandoned in 1960 (save for a four-month period in 1969 when it was reopened to complete local survey work) in favour of Stonington. The site was used occasionally by BAS personnel on field trips from Rothera (Station R). It was cleaned up by BAS in 1995 and designated Historic Site and Monument no. 63. Managed by UKAHT since 2014, Horseshoe receives over 2,500 visitors a year.

Photography credits: UKAHT; Jim Franks (1957); Malcolm Evans (1955-57); BAS Archives; Turkish Antarctic Expedition IV (2020); Pierre Malan (2023).