Ross Sea: history

The last part that makes the Ross Sea special is its history. The Ross Sea has been used as a starting point by several expeditions. The first was Borchgrevink’s expedition in 1899-1900, which was the first expedition who wintered on the continent of Antarctica at Cape Adare. Their hut, the first building erected on Antarctica, still stands in the middle of a large Adelie Penguin colony. At the moment all artefacts are in New Zealand for conservation, so the hut is quite empty. Very difficult to imagine ten people living in such a small hut.

Inside Borchgrevink’s hut

The next major expedition visiting the area was Captain Scott’s Discovery expedition in 1901-1904. They stayed most of the time in their ship, but had a hut ashore that was mainly used for storage. This hut is built at Hut Point, close to the American McMurdo research base.

The most memorabele years in the history of the Ross Sea are 1911-1912 when both Amundsen (from the Bay of Whales) and Scott (from Cape Evans) started their expeditions to the South Pole from the Ross Sea. Amundsen places his hut on the Ross Ice Shelf and the remains have long since fallen into the ocean when part of the Ross Ice Shelf broke off. Scott’s hut is still standing at Cape Evans and was for me one of the most special places I’ve visited.

Inside Scott’s hut at Cape Evans

The last important name connected to the Ross Sea is that one of Shackleton. He visited the area with Scott’s Discovery expedition, but also lead his first own expedition on the Nimrod. The hut they used during that expedition still stands at Cape Royds (and is the only one in this story that we couldn’t visit). This is also the place where the famous Shackleton Whiskey was found, several boxes of whiskey left behind by Shackleton in 1909 that were discovered in 2010 during restoration of the hut.

The second time Shackleton’s name shows in the Ross Sea history books is in 1914-1917 during the famous Imperial Trans-Antarctic (or Endurance) Expedition. Shackleton himself never made it to the Ross Sea, he got stuck in the Weddell Sea on the other side of the continent and barely managed to survive with all of his crew. But as the original plan was to cross Antarctica he also had a party in the Ross Sea, setting up supply depots for him for his last part of the voyage. This party didn’t make a hut themselves, but used both of Scott’s huts (at Hut Point and Cape Evans). In both of these huts you can find things from this expedition as well.


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