Magnificent desolation

When it snowed on 29 February, all hands were put to lining roof and walls and fixing shelves for cooking and other utensils. Next day,

An attack was made on the transport of stores … As a result of 12 hours' work, five and a half tons of coal were dragged up and stowed under the veranda. It was Hoadley’s birthday, and the cook made a special feature of the dinner. With extra dainties like figs, cake and a bottle of wine, we felt that the occasion was fitly celebrated. On March 2, more stores were amassed round the house; Hoadley, Harrisson and I doing odd jobs inside, opening cans, sorting out stores, fitting bunks, shelves and the acetylene gas plant.

The work was not without its surprises. ‘While undoing some packages of small boards,’ said Wild, ‘Hoadley found that a space had been arranged in the centre of one of the bundles, and a box of cigars inserted by some of the men originally employed upon the construction of the hut in Melbourne. Enclosed was a letter of hearty good wishes.’

The finished hut stood proud, surrounded on all sides by the level ice — a tiny piece of civilisation in the magnificent desolation of Shackleton Ice Shelf. Within a few days their new home would be all but buried in the snow from a two-day blizzard, making it necessary to cut a shaft through the snow and build a ladder to negotiate it.

But the snow brought them one blessing — the building was not going to blow over. Wrote Wild, ‘for very soon the snow piled to such a depth in our immediate vicinity that, even with a wind of hurricane force, there was scarcely a tremor in the structure.’