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Explorers of the Ice


The Ross Sea is one of the less-visited regions of Antarctica, but it is definitely one of the most fascinating. The shores along the frigid sea are scattered with historic huts left from century-old expeditions, and their windblown, lonely skeletons hold the stories of the legendary explorers that have been drawn to this frozen land for over a century.

In 1904, the Southern Cross expedition, headed by Captain Borchgrevnik landed at Cape Adare and constructed two wooden huts. Ten explorers spent a lonely Antarctic winter in them, accompanied by 90 dogs and with no other human habitation on the continent. The huts today reflect the difficult living situations: they are tiny, roughly constructed, and appear very chilly. A cruise stop here will reveal the ghostly huts surrounded by an Adelie penguin colony. The expedition biologist’s grave (who died during that winter) is still intact on a ridge above the huts.

The Northern Party Huts on Cape Adare are now nothing but ruins. Although they were built twelve year later, the eastern winds off the Cape have ravaged the main structure.

Cape Hallet hosted a research base later in the century; it was set up in 1957. 8,000 Adelie penguins were transported to another part of the Cape to make space for the construction, and after it fell into disuse 20 years later, the penguins have slowly made their way back.

If you’re looking for a semblance of something like civilization, the bases on Ross Island are it. New Zealand’s Scott Base is located there, as is the United States’ massive McMurdo Station, which accommodates up to 1,200 people. Aside from these industrial settlements, Ross Island is worth a visit to see the famous Robert Scott’s Discovery hut. Scott’s National Antarctic Expedition constructed the shelter in 1902. It was a pre-fabricated building built in Australia, and so it is surprisingly comfortable-looking. It was only used for supplies, however, as it was found too difficult to heat sufficiently. Scott’s hut from the Terra Nova expedition, on the other hand, is much more interesting. This was the explorer’s starting base for his famous South Pole journey, in which he was beaten to the Pole by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. There are still the white skeletons of dogs keeping watch outside the building, and the walls inside remain adorned with pony harnesses, heavy furniture, and sledging pennants.

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