Base W, Detaille Island

Ron Niebrugge Antarctica, Photos, Travel 6 Comments

Few Antarctica trips have the time to attempt so head South of the Antarctic Circle.  Of those, ice keeps many from making it.  Of the few that are able to reach this remote portion of Antarctica, most don’t have the permission to visit this amazing historical site that is been pretty much left undisturbed for over 50 years!   We were very fortunate to make it this far South, and that our EL Hugh Rose was able to work out permission to visit!  It was fascinating seeing just how people lived down here so many years ago.  Here is the interesting story on this location taken from the sign on the side of the building:

This relatively unaltered British scientific base from the late 1950’s provides an important reminder of the science and living conditions in the Antarctic during this period.

It was established in 1956 by the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (FIDS) as Base W and closed in 1959.  The base was primarily built for ongoing survey, geology and meteorology work, and contributed to the science programme of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957.  The normal occupancy of the base was 8 to 10 people.

The location of the island contributed to the base’s short history, as the sea ice was seldom firm enough to allow travel to the peninsula.  Ironically, when the time came to relieve the base in 1959, difficult ice conditions meant that the ship was unable to reach the island.  The base was secured for winter and the FIDS team were forced to sledge over 30 miles over the sea ice in order to reach the ship, taking with them only the minimum of their belongings and scientific records.  Apart from being briefly occupied for 6 month in 1965/66 by a visiting party of three from Stonington Island, who became stranded when the sea ice went out, the base has remained unoccupied since 1959, and much of the original contents are in place.

The site remains in relatively good condition and consists of the main hut, emergency store, dog pens, anemometer tower and two steel radio masts.  Many original materials can be found inside the main hut and scattered around externally, providing an evocative insight into the way the base was occupied during this period.

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