SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 2000

Conservation Investigation for Preservation of a Historic Timber Hut in Antarctica


There is a common presumption that the ‘dry’ cold in Antarctica will preserve historic buildings, but this has proved not to be true. Identified conservation problems include high humidity, fungi, salt damage, surface erosion by windborne particles and corrosion of metals.

This paper reviews assumptions about the behavior of timber in extremely cold climates and the structural effects of snow accumulation and extreme wind loading. The professional collaboration required to properly investigate the unusual preservation problems of the hut is discussed with particular reference to the abandoned huts of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Douglas Mawson during 1911–14.

Investigations required include structural modeling; erosion measurements; documentation and preservation of historic information contained in the timber cladding of the buildings; and special requirements for the preservation of the scientific integrity of the magnetic laboratories. Conservation monitoring and treatments developed for Antarctic sites may be applicable for historic buildings in Arctic and alpine regions.

Author Information

Hughes, JD
Cultural Heritage Research Centre, University of Canberra, ACT, Australia
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Developed by Committee: E06
Pages: 269–296
DOI: 10.1520/STP13388S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5415-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-2497-4