Stonington Island Hut

Stonington Island Hut A brief history

Situated at 68°11'S, 67°00'W, Base E, Stonington Island Hut is our southernmost base and is one of the most idyllic. Positioned in the striking Marguerite Bay, banked by vast snow slopes and the imposing 800m-high peaks of the Roman Four Promontory, Stonington operated from 1946 to 1950 and again from 1960 to 1975 after which the base permanently closed. In 1995, Stonington was designated Historic Site and Monument no. 64 and has been managed by UKAHT since 2014.

Multi-storey Met Office

Two-storey and sprawling, the current building at Stonington is the second British hut built on the site. The site’s first building, Trepassey House, was constructed in 1946 and was originally used as a base for sledging operations in the area but only its foundations remain, with their visibility varying according to snow cover. Stonington, as we know it today, was built as a double-storey building in 1960, extended five years later and extended again in 1972. Important scientific research took place at Stonington including in geology, meteorology and biology.

Fair-weather friends

Stonington is sited just 250 yards from the abandoned US East Base (1939-41). East Base was constructed by the US in the late 1930s, but its personnel had left before Stonington was built and inhabited by the British. On return, the Americans found that the British had appropriated a variety of materials from their building leading to acrimony between the two parties. As such, American personnel were banned from having social contact with their British counterparts, prompting clandestine meetings.

Female first

Stonington saw the first women overwinter in Antarctica. Americans Edith ‘Jackie’ Ronne – whose husband Finn Ronne was the base leader – and Jennie Darlington spent the 1947-48 winter at Stonington on the way to becoming the first women to spend a year in Antarctica. The Ronne Ice Shelf would later be named in honour of Edith.

The site today

Stonington is by far our biggest base with a capacity of around 30 bunks, and further bunk rooms which were never finished. The generator shed still houses the generator itself. The building is considered to be poorly designed with awkward structural issues – for example, the top floor is set back from the bottom floor leading to snow build-up along its ledges. Sadly, the building is permanently shuttered and cannot currently be unshuttered. There are no artefacts inside after the British Antarctic Survey removed everything in 1991. The remains of US tanks can be found nearby, along with the graves of two early BAS staff who died on the glacier there. The site can receive over 3,000 visitors a year.

Photography courtesy of BAS Archives; Mike Cousins (1965); Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (Public Domain).