By Kim Griggs
in Wellington, New Zealand
The New Zealand government has urged its counterparts in Britain and Norway to help fund the restoration of huts used by Antarctica's early explorers.
Scott's Discovery Hut is the least damaged, but most pilfered building
The NZ-based Antarctic Heritage Trust has launched plans to safeguard huts built for expeditions led by Robert Falcon Scott and Carsten Borchgrevink.
The constructions on Ross Island and Cape Adare are slowly deteriorating.
These restoration works will cost many millions of NZ dollars and the UK and Norway are being asked for donations.
"It has to be remembered that while here in New Zealand the [Antarctic Heritage] Trust and the government has taken a great interest in the subject, this is also the common history of mankind," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said.
"It is an international collaborative effort.
"We have been making representations in the United Kingdom and I am optimistic of support from there. We have also mentioned the project in Norway when I visited at the beginning of June.
"So it's a question of just gathering speed."
Prime Minister Clark was speaking at the launch of the restoration plans, developed by the Trust, to safeguard the two huts built on Ross Island for the expeditions led by Captain Scott, and a hut built for a British expedition led by Norwegian-born explorer Carsten Borchgrevink at Cape Adare.
The Trust last year launched a similar conservation plan for the hut on Ross Island used by Ernest Shackleton in his abortive attempt to reach the South Pole.
"The significant thing about these plans is that they are the first serious look at what needs to be done to protect these places in perpetuity," says Chris Cochran, a conservation architect who worked on the plans.
"There has been very good maintenance and repair work done in the past but it's been done on a year-by-year basis. This is a long-term strategic look at the future of the huts."
Despite withstanding the battering of Antarctic weather for 100 years or so, the huts are slowly but surely falling apart.
The Cape Evans hut is threatened by snow creeping up its south side
At Cape Adare, the roof needs to be replaced; the hut at Cape Evans, to which Scott never returned, is threatened by snow building up on the south side of the building and by ice heave below the floor.
Scott's Discovery Hut, which is close to the US base of McMurdo, is the least structurally damaged of all the historic buildings, but is the most pilfered.
So far the Trust has received government funding from New Zealand and from the government of British Antarctic Territory and has raised a total of about NZ $1m from a variety of other sources.
But many more millions will be needed if the Trust is going to be able to carry out the restoration plans it launched this week.
The estimate for the work to conserve the Shackleton hut alone is NZ $5m.
"These early expeditions faced challenges in raising funds and ironically 100 years later we are still facing those challenges," says Nigel Watson, the Trust's executive director.
But if the Trust is unable to carry out its plans, then the future for these aging repositories of heroism is grim, says the Trust.
"If the attention that we are asking for is not given, they will fall over and this heritage will be destroyed," says Rob Fenwick, chairman of the AHT. "There is nothing surer than that."
"I hope interested governments, agencies and individuals around the world will help the Trust in this cause.