|That, my friends, is a century-old seal carcass|
|Old supply boxes inside Discovery Hut|
|The primitive "kitchen" inside Discovery Hut|
We worked our way around the central axis of the hut to an area partitioned with hanging fabrics. This area was the kitchen, or the closest equivalent, and the blankets were meant to retain heat from the stove. An old metallic bowl held charred bits of something that reminded me of burnt bacon - leftover pieces of seal meat, abandoned where they lay for over 100 years. Our instructor pointed out the crude wooden planks where two of Scott's men had lain and been tended to just prior to their deaths. He showed us the short brick chimney where the scientist, Wilson, had done his first studies on magnetism in an attempt to locate the magnetic south pole.
The latter point is actually a defining characteristic of Scott's expeditions: he brought a scientist with him. Roald Amundsen, the other famous Antarctic explorer, was much more efficient and successful (Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole) but did no science along the way. Scott's expeditions were the first real foray into Antarctic research, but each expedition was more ill-fated than the last, culminating in the deaths of him and his entire team. After seeing Discovery Hut, I must admit: I do not wonder why Scott died. Amundsen showed up with professional skiers and sled dogs and fur coats; Scott's men had no such training and pulled their gear on sleds themselves. I respect their raw grit but marvel that Scott ever convinced men to follow him, much less to return with him, to the Antarctic.
The contrast is best summarized by a famous quote attributed to Raymond Priestley: "For scientific discovery, give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel, give me Amundsen."
It was a rare privilege to see inside Discovery Hut, and I was grateful for the opportunity. The historic hut provides a poignant view of the continent's history and valuable lessons for modern research.