The Cape Evans hut

"‘Whatever the conditions of darkness, cold and wind might be outside, there was comfort and warmth and good cheer within." - Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World

Setting up base

Cape Evans was chosen as the main base for the men that would stay on mainland Antarctica, the Shore Party. The work to offload the supplies – the hut, the ponies, food for men and animals, scientific instruments and sledging equipment – took several days.

Before returning to New Zealand to overwinter, the ship dropped a smaller party about 700 kilometres north, now known as the Northern Party, where they would explore and undertake scientific investigation.

Only then did they find out that Amundsen had also located his base in the Ross Sea region, on the Great Ice Barrier. Undeterred, Scott’s parties began to set up, making their huts habitable. They would be cut off from the outside world until Terra Nova returned, many months later.

Unpacking Scott by hut

Getting base camp in order, 23 January 1911, with Mount Erebus in the background
© H Ponting photograph, Pennell collection Canterbury Museum, New Zealand

Life at Cape Evans

The wooden hut at Cape Evans was the main base of the Shore Party from January 1911 to January 1913.

It was a shelter from the cold and wind, and provided safe living quarters during the Antarctic winters. From here, expedition members took sledge journeys to explore the geology and geography of nearby areas, made regular visits to meteorological stations and placed supplies along the route to the South Pole.

More than a century on, Scott’s original hut still stands in Antarctica, full of thousands of the original supplies and equipment they left behind. It is cared for by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust on behalf of the international community.

Jane Ussher Photo, Modern Hut interior

The Cape Evans hut today
© Jane Ussher MNZM

The Shore Party

  • Robert Falcon Scott
    Robert Falcon Scott
    Expedition leader. Scott had major plans for exploration and scientific work. One of his main goals was to reach the South Pole.
  • Edward Evans
    Edward Evans
    Second-in-command. Evans had been to Antarctica before. He served on Morning, the relief ship that brought supplies to Scott's Discovery expedition.
  • Edward Wilson
    Edward Wilson
    Chief of scientific staff and zoologist, a skilled illustrator who recorded the Antarctic landscapes and wildlife. He was a member of Scott's first expedition, 1901-1904.
  • Edward Atkinson
    Edward Atkinson
    Expedition surgeon who also had the role of parasitologist and bacteriologist.
  • Victor Campbell
    Victor Campbell
    Lieutenant in command of the Northern Party, based at Cape Adare in a second smaller hut. This group of six explored and undertook scientific investigation where they were based.
  • Apsley Cherry-Garrard
    Apsley Cherry-Garrard
    Assistant zoologist and editor of the expedition's magazine, the South Polar Times, which was produced by the expedition members during the winter.
  • Henry Bowers
    Henry Bowers
    Expedition storekeeper. He was initially one of the ship's officers, but Scott was impressed by his skills and asked him to join the Shore Party.
  • Bernard Day
    Bernard Day
    Motor engineer who had experience of working with motors in Antarctica from Shackleton's Nimrod expedition, 1907-1909.
  • Frank Debenham
    Frank Debenham
    Geologist who took part in two journeys that explored the land and geology to the west of the Cape Evans base.
  • Tryggve Gran
    Tryggve Gran
    Norwegian ski expert, employed to train the expedition members to ski.
  • Murray Levick
    Murray Levick
    Surgeon of the Northern Party, based at Cape Adare.
  • Cecil Meares
    Cecil Meares
    Dog handler in charge of the expedition's dogs, which he had purchased in Siberia.
  • Edward Nelson
    Edward Nelson
    Biologist who had joined as an invertebrate zoologist.
  • Lawrence Oates
    Lawrence Oates
    In charge of the expedition's ponies. He spent a great deal of his time taking care of these animals.
  • Herbert Ponting
    Herbert Ponting
    Official expedition photographer. He documented the expedition in detail and also trained other members to use the camera.
  • Raymond Priestley
    Raymond Priestley
    Geologist of the Northern Party, based at Cape Adare. He had been to Antarctica before as a geologist on Shackleton's Nimrod expedition, 1907-1909.
  • George Simpson
    George Simpson
    Meteorologist who carried out a detailed programme of meteorological observations. He was the first to use a weather balloon in Antarctica.
  • Griffith Taylor
    Griffith Taylor
    Geologist, led two journeys that explored the land and the geology west of the Cape Evans base.
  • Charles Wright
    Charles Wright
    Physicist, who experimented with ice formation and took part in one of the journeys that explored the land and geology to the west of the Cape Evans base.
  • Thomas Williamson
    Thomas Williamson
    He had been a member of Scott's first expedition, 1901-1904, and joined for the 1912 winter.
  • George Abbot
    George Abbot
    Member of the Northern Party, based at the Cape Adare hut, where his group of six explored and undertook scientific investigation.
  • Walter Archer
    Walter Archer
    Joined for the 1912 winter and took over the duties as cook after the first cook, Clissold, left Antarctica.
  • Frank Browning
    Frank Browning
    Member of the Northern Party, based at Cape Adare.
  • Thomas Clissold
    Thomas Clissold
    Expedition cook who prepared the meals and baked the bread eaten by the Shore Party at the Cape Evans hut.
  • Thomas Crean
    Thomas Crean
    Took part in many of the sledge journeys. His work also involved adjusting the sledging equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents and sledges. He was on Scott's first expedition, 1901-1904.
  • Harry Dickason
    Harry Dickason
    Member of the Northern Party, based at Cape Adare.
  • Edgar Evans
    Edgar Evans
    Took part in many of the sledge journeys. His work also involved adjusting the sledging equipment.
  • Robert Forde
    Robert Forde
    Took part in one of the sledge journeys that explored the land and geology to the west of the Cape Evans base.
  • Demetri Gerof
    Demetri Gerof
    Dog driver from Russia who joined after meeting expedition member Cecil Meares in Siberia, where he had travelled to buy the expedition's dogs and ponies.
  • Patrick Keohane
    Patrick Keohane
    Took part in several sledge journeys. He was also responsible for making adjustments to the sledging equipment.
  • William Lashly
    William Lashly
    Took part in many of the sledge journeys. His work also involved adjusting the sledging equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents and sledges.
  • Anton Omelchenko
    Anton Omelchenko
    Had experience of handling horses and helped to look after the ponies. Originally from Russia, he had travelled with the ponies between Siberia and New Zealand, where he joined the expedition.

Divided into sections

Naval routines were followed and when the party settled into the hut, naval customs and hierarchies used onboard Terra Nova were transferred to land. It was a way of maintaining discipline and order as everyone knew their role.

The expedition hut was divided into six sections by partitions created from boxes of supplies. Different areas were set aside for the officers, scientists and their laboratories, and for the lower-ranking members of the expedition.

In their areas of the hut, the lower-ranking carried out important work on the sledging gear. They adjusted tents and sleeping bags, perfected sledges, and improved foot gear and clothing to make sure any equipment used on the expedition’s journeys was safe and efficient.

Man at sewing machine

Petty Officer Evans at the sewing machine
© H Ponting photograph, Pennell collection, Canterbury Museum, New Zealand

A place to sleep

Each person in the Shore Party had a bed surrounded by a small personal space they could make their own. Many put up photos of loved ones and shelves for books they had brought with them.

In the first winter, 25 men stayed in the Cape Evans hut and although crowded it was relatively comfortable. Beds were arranged in bunks to get the most out of the space, sometimes with a working area or storage underneath. Scientists slept next to their laboratories, the photographer in his darkroom and the cook in his kitchen. The beds had mattresses, but how warm they were depended on the location in the room – the upper bunks and the beds near the stove were cosy, others were much colder.

"At the end of the north wall in the officers’ quarters was an open-ended enclosure of the most modest architectural merit. This, in great simplicity, housed Cavalry Captain Oates, Lieutenant Bowers, Dr Atkinson, the zoologist Garrard and the dog expert Meares." - Tryggve Gran, diary
Bunks photo The Tenements

Cherry-Garrard, Bowers, Oates, Meares and Atkinson slept in these five bunks which were known as The Tenements
© H Ponting photograph, Pennell collection, Canterbury Museum, New Zealand