Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Student helps preserve Hillary's Antarctic legacy

Annika Andresen recently returned from the ice after joining an effort to work on the 60-year-old hut, as part of a scholarship offered by the Sir Peter Blake Trust. Photo / Supplied
Annika Andresen recently returned from the ice after joining an effort to work on the 60-year-old hut, as part of a scholarship offered by the Sir Peter Blake Trust. Photo / Supplied

It's far from your average do-up and even further from nearest civilisation.

But helping restore a piece of Kiwi history, Sir Edmund Hillary's original hut at Scott Base in Antarctica, has proven a dream job for a young Auckland architecture student.

Annika Andresen recently returned from the ice after joining an effort to work on the 60-year-old hut, as part of a scholarship offered by the Sir Peter Blake Trust, Antarctica New Zealand and the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

The hut was New Zealand's first presence in Antarctica and was built by Hillary and others in the summer of 1956-57, during the famous Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE).

The legendary explorer and his party of 23 spent the next winter in the small shack on Pram Point, which became the cornerstone around which Scott Base expanded in the following decades.

Andresen, 22, described the hut, comprising a kitchen and several rooms with a stunning view out on to the Ross Ice Shelf, as a "time capsule".

On the walls are a weather advisory board, portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip and a small square hatch in the wall that served as a fire exit.

Still preserved in the kitchen is a recipe for rolled oats and scrambled eggs, radio transmitters, pick axes, a cake mixer, tins of coffee, honey and butter, and a "meat bar", produced and packed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Auckland University student Annika Andresen at Hillary's original hut at Scott Base, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied
Auckland University student Annika Andresen at Hillary's original hut at Scott Base, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied

Next to the front door is New Zealand's southernmost letterbox and, in a show of dry Kiwi humour, an old radio telephone hangs from a wall with the designated call-sign: "Eh?"

Auckland University student Annika Andresen working on Hillary's original hut at Scott Base, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied
Auckland University student Annika Andresen working on Hillary's original hut at Scott Base, Antarctica. Photo / Supplied

But with a leaking roof, asbestos, melt pools under the floor boards and artefacts showing signs of damage and corrosion, it's become part of a new conservation and development plan between the Antarctic Heritage Trust and Antarctica New Zealand.

"I was sent a few pamphlets about it, but it actually wasn't until I got down there that I fully realised what amazing work the trust is doing," said Andresen, who is studying toward a Masters of Architecture at the University of Auckland.

"It was a huge learning curve and the best history lesson I could have ever got."

Sixty-year-old artefacts preserved inside the hut. Photo / Jamie Morton
Sixty-year-old artefacts preserved inside the hut. Photo / Jamie Morton

She got to work helping replace the hut's foundations and pulling down and rebuilding a wall inside.

"As we had to use original building techniques, we couldn't use a nail gun, just a hammer, and we were hand-painting because we couldn't use rollers."

Old radio receivers inside the hut. Photo / Jamie Morton
Old radio receivers inside the hut. Photo / Jamie Morton

Andresen felt it an honour to have helped preserve an important part of New Zealand's heritage for future generations.

"It's a weird sensation, wondering what people will think of the original hut when they come here in 100 year's time."

Sir Edmund Hillary outside the Hillary hut at Scott Base, Antarctica in January 2007. Photo / File
Sir Edmund Hillary outside the Hillary hut at Scott Base, Antarctica in January 2007. Photo / File

New Zealand will mark the 60th anniversary of Scott Base this month with a TEDxtalk at the outpost to be broadcast around the world, and a celebratory dinner with surviving members of the TAE.

- NZ Herald

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