A small depot left by a 1930s United States expedition has been found by a New Zealand research team in Antarctica.

The depot was left behind by Admiral Richard Byrd's second Antarctic expedition from 1933 to 1935.

It was found on a small rocky promontory near Durham Point, close to the mouth of the Scott Glacier less than 480 kilometres from the South Pole, by members of a University of Canterbury and University of Waikato research team in January.

The team was looking for mosses, lichen and invertebrates in the southern Trans Antarctic Mountains.

The depot contained three crampons and a set of wooden extendable survey poles. Two crampons were stamped with the initials QAB indicating they belonged to Quin A Blackburn. The remaining crampon was engraved with RR, having belonged to Richard Russell.

A second RR crampon was found on its own about 100 metres away from the depot. One survey poles had the name Cox burned onto the surface.

Blackburn was the leader of a party from Byrd's second expedition to Antarctica, which investigated the geology of the neighbouring Queen Maud Mountains and sledged the length of the Scott Glacier onto the Polar Plateau.

Russell was a member of a party, of which Cox was the carpenter.

Professor Bryan Storey, director of the Centre for Antarctic Studies and Research at University of Canterbury, said it was amazing to find traces of a previous expedition.

"In some ways you hope to be the first people to set foot on such a remote location but you know that early explorers have been there previously.

"The crampons were in remarkable condition considering that they have sat there for nearly 80 years, the straps have disintegrated but the buckles remained. There was no rust due to the dry windblown environment," Prof Storey said.

The depot was left intact bar a single crampon which was removed and will be donated to a museum, most likely in New Zealand.

Adm Byrd (1888-1957) was credited with adding a larger region to the map of Antarctica than any other explorer and he was also largely responsible for modern-day United States involvement in the continent.

In his first Antarctic expedition (1928-1930), Adm Byrd made what was believed to be the first flight over the South Pole. His second expedition (1933-35) added to scientific and geographic knowledge about Antarctica, and pioneered the successful use of tractors on the continent.

- NZPA