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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 17:22 GMT
Rescue plan for Shackleton hut
By Christine McGourty
BBC science correspondent

A plan has been unveiled to conserve the hut used by the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton during his 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition to Antarctica.

Shackleton's Hut, Cape Royds, F Wills
The harsh environment is taking its toll (Image by F Wills)
The hut at Cape Royds, like others in the region, is in a state of serious disrepair as a result of the harsh weather and the wear and tear caused by visitors. Many artefacts have been stolen.

Under the plan, produced by the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, the hut will be restored to reflect the condition it was in when Shackleton abandoned it in 1909, following his failed attempt to reach the South Pole.

The work is expected to take five years and could cost about 2m. A major fund-raising initiative is underway to obtain the necessary funds.

State of decay

Alexandra Shackleton, grand-daughter of the explorer, said she was "extremely excited" by the proposals.

"It's wonderful to think that if it all goes to plan then my grandfather, if he was alive, would be able to walk back in there and find everything just as he left it in 1909," she told BBC News Online.

At Cape Royds there are thousands of tins of food and they are decaying to the point that the tins are exploding
Michael Morrison
The conservation plan was drawn up by experts in New Zealand, Australia and Britain.

The British architect Michael Morrison, who has been involved in the project, spent more than a month in Antarctica last year visiting Cape Royds and the other huts there.

"The fabric of the huts themselves isn't the problem," he said. "The big problem is the vast quantity of artefacts there.

"At Cape Royds there are thousands of tins of food and they are decaying to the point that the tins are exploding. The skua population is starting to snack on the maize. It is becoming a hazard in its own right.

"They've been doing some good work down there on the huts but they're only just beginning to stem the tide of decay never mind turn it back," he added.

Restoration programme

The new plan includes proposals to reconstruct parts of the stables and a garage, which was built to house Antarctica's first car. Replica artefacts may also be introduced to replace those that have been lost.

The plan was launched by the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at Lyttleton in New Zealand, the port to which Shackleton returned after his Antarctic expeditions.

Rob Fenwick, chairman of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, said the plan established the key principles for conserving the hut for future generations.

Sir Ernest Shackleton
Some of the artefacts in Shackleton's hut have been stolen
He described it as "a first step on the road to preserving an iconic piece of heritage on Antarctica for future generations" and invited comments from interested parties.

Implementation and funding of the restoration work has still to be agreed, but it is hoped that the UK and the US will provide the majority of the funds for the work.

The Cape Royds hut, which measures just six by seven metres, was built in London before being transported to Antarctica and erected in 1908.

It was named after Lieutenant Charles Royds, the meteorologist of the Discovery expedition.

Its renovation is intended to be the first step towards a comprehensive restoration of all the historic huts in the region, including Captain Scott's huts at Hut Point and Cape Evans, and a shack built at Cape Adare by the Norwegian-born Australian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink, said to be the first person to make a confirmed landing on Antarctica in 1895.

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