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Expedition huts in Antarctica: 1899–1917

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 October 2009

Michael Pearson
Australian Heritage Commission, GPO Box 1567, Canberra, ACT 2602Australia


During the ‘Heroic Era’ of Antarctic exploration, which lasted from 1895 to 1917, nine huts were erected in Antarctica, three of Scandinavian design, three British, and three Australian. Although all of the huts were specially designed to house expedition personnel, each group drew on different precedents, regional architectural influences, and degrees of conscious innovation for polar conditions. Of particular note was the use of different insulation materials, some of which were traditional and some of which were new or experimental. The three groups of huts were very different in concept and construction, yet within each group there were successes and failures in terms of providing adequate comfort for their occupants. This paper looks at the details of design and construction of each hut, and at the factors that might have contributed to the success or failure of a particular hut. These factors included the theoretical thermal efficiency of the design and the construction materials, the effectiveness of the heating and ventilation systems installed, and the amount of floor space available to each man. It is concluded that efficiency depended on a combination of these factors rather than on any one, and that the ‘Heroic Era’ was probably too short a period of time for the best combination (if one existed) to be recognised and adopted to produce a consistently efficient Antarctic hut design.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1992

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