Saturday, November 10, 2012

Shackleton's Hut

Shacklton's hut as it stands today.
My Antarctic experience is now a little more complete.  Last Saturday, I went with Dale, who never had a brother, and whom I know call "Brother," went to Cape Royds to set up a solar system for the small hut there that is used by the Adelie penguins.  Dale does not get to fly as much as other folks as he is a snow mobile mechanic (and a damn good snow mobile rider) and I love flying with him because  he gets as excited to fly as I do.

Dale's my brother here, since I have never been able to get a real brother or sister down here.  He's the one to whom I sometimes say, "Nothing can get in my way..." or when standing in a door frame, triumphantly tell, "None shall pass..."  It gives the day a little good cheer as it's always good to have reminders of siblings back home.

So Brother and I were dropped off at Cape Royds and efficiently worked through our tasks of connecting and testing solar panels, batteries, inverter and charge controller that we might have a bit of time to visit Ernest Shackleton's hut built in 1908.  I had seen the hut a few times before but had never had the opportunity to go inside.  This time, I was armed with a key as a certified hut guide.  I had been in Scott's two huts at Hut Point and Cape Evans, but it was Shackleton's hut that I really wanted to walk inside, seeing what "Shacks" saw only a hundred and four years later.

When we got to the hut, there were some New Zealanders doing some conservation work, but they graciously allowed us to enter and look around.  The place is fascinating.  The boots, the coats, the books, the canned goods, the stove, the view from the window, all the little details including a signature on one of the crates by Ernest Shackleton himself.  Dale and I took pictures and tried to memorize all the details of this little hut.  It was incredible to imagine the men and man that I've read so much about standing where I stood, gazing out the window and seeing exactly what he saw.  It is a remarkable thing to step out of the door and have the surroundings be exactly the same as 100 years ago, the conditions, the cold, the rocks and the little ponds and penguins all the same.  I certainly haven't done what Shackleton has done, but to stand where he stood and see what he saw and experience the cold as he did, I feel connected to him through the brotherhood of the Antarctic.  It's as though we are both alive in the same time, for just a moment...a special one that I shall always remember.  I can now sleep a little easier.  Thanks, Shacks.

The portraits are of the king and queen.

Boots in a box.

Still there are biscuits inside!

The real men at work.  Shackleton is in the back, second from the left.
It was this Nimrod expedition that Shackleton claimed the furthest south, turning back 100 miles from attaining the pole, giving up the heroism of getting there first in order to get himself and his companions back alive, where Scott risked everything and eventually sacrificed himself and his companions.  For that, and for getting all his men back alive from the Endurance expedition, Shackleton gets my respect and awe.  One of the most famous Antarctic quotes goes: "Scott for scientific method, Amundsen for speed and efficiency but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton."

It was a blustery day and so Dale and I called on the radio to say we were ready for our helicopter pick up.  We were told 30-45 minutes before our helo would arrive so I went for a little hike to a nearby rise to see the open water that always does wonderful things for my soul.  A ran there, being carried with the wind and upon descending the little hill could lean down the slope (and into the wind) like I never have before.  As I ran down I had the exact same feeling as when you hold two opposing magnets near each other to feel the repelling force between them.  I was a human magnet in opposition to the wind.  It was very cool.  I've never been a magnet before...

Here's a little bit of the wind:
Cape Royds Wind

That's it for now.  Thanks for reading!