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Scott Base

Coordinates: 77°50′57″S 166°46′06″E / 77.849132°S 166.768196°E / -77.849132; 166.768196
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Scott Base
Aerial photograph of Scott Base, looking towards Observation Hill at left.
Aerial photograph of Scott Base, looking towards Observation Hill at left.
Location of Scott Base in Antarctica
Location of Scott Base in Antarctica
Scott Base
Location of Scott Base in Antarctica
Coordinates: 77°50′57″S 166°46′06″E / 77.849132°S 166.768196°E / -77.849132; 166.768196
Country New Zealand
Location in AntarcticaRoss Island
Ross Dependency
Administered byAntarctica New Zealand
Established20 January 1957; 67 years ago (1957-01-20)
Named forCaptain Robert Falcon Scott, RN
Elevation10 m (30 ft)
 • Summer
 • Winter
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDST)
TypeAll year-round
  • Climatology
  • Geocryology
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Sedimetology
  • Geomorphology
  • Paleolimnology

Scott Base is a New Zealand Antarctic research station at Pram Point on Ross Island near Mount Erebus in New Zealand's Ross Dependency territorial claim. It was named in honour of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, RN, leader of two British expeditions to the Ross Sea area of Antarctica. The base was set up as support to field research and the centre for research into earth sciences, and now conducts research in many fields, operated by Antarctica New Zealand.

The base is 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the larger U.S. McMurdo Station via Pegasus Road.


Aerial photograph of Scott Base, Ross Island, Antarctica.
Annotated view over Scott Base, also showing McMurdo Station and the McMurdo Ice Shelf
Scott Base
Sign for Scott Base on road to McMurdo Station

Scott Base was originally constructed in support of the UK inspired and privately managed Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE). The New Zealand government provided support for the TAE and also for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) project of 1957, five of whose members were attached to the Expedition. In February 1956, 10 months before the TAE and IGY parties were due to head to the Antarctic, Frank Ponder, an architect at the Ministry of Works (New Zealand), was given the task of designing the base. Ponder's design consisted of six main buildings and three smaller scientific labs. The main buildings were to be placed at least 7 metres apart because of fire risk but were linked to one another by a covered way of galvanised iron. Three New Zealand observers who were also given the task of selecting the site for a base went to McMurdo Sound with the United States "Operation Deep Freeze I" in the summer of 1955. After evaluating possible sites, a location near Butter Point was chosen. This was later changed to Pram Point as it provided better access for offloading supplies from the Expedition ship HMNZS Endeavour and also allowed for the operation of the critical RNZAF Antarctic Flight on a nearby ice runway. The base looks out over what is now known as Haskell Strait. Scott Base passed over to New Zealand Government ownership via the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), on 5 March 1958, at the conclusion of the TAE.

During the IGY the United States facility at Hut Point did not operate as a scientific base. It was the New Zealand expedition’s responsibility to furnish the important scientific data (auroral, ionospheric, seismic, etc.), linking the McMurdo area research activities with those of the United States Pole Station and the joint United States–New Zealand station at Cape Hallett, Victoria Land.

Scientific research and expansion[edit]

In 1958, following completion of the TAE and IGY, New Zealand made the decision to continue to operate Scott Base for scientific research, much of which depends upon the continuity of recorded data over a period of years. In order to maintain operations, a base rebuilding programme began in 1976. As of 2008, the only original building is the TAE 'A' mess hut, which contains material recording New Zealand's involvement in Antarctica since 1957. In 2005 the two-story high Hillary Field Centre was commissioned, increasing the floor area of Scott Base by 1800 square metres and providing work areas to support field parties as well as additional office space. The building was officially opened by then-Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Sir Edmund Hillary.

The leader of Scott Base for the 1964–65 season, Adrian Hayter, published a personal memoir of his experience.[2] He was preceded as Leader by Russell Rawle[3] and followed by Mike Prebble.[4] These three leaders are commemorated with Rawle Glacier, Mount Hayter and Prebble Glacier, assuming the leader in 1965–66 was on the base support party of 1961–62.

From 1957 until 1986, dogs played a part in base operations. Initially, they were an essential means of transport, but with better technology, their importance dwindled until they were removed in line with environmental treaties.

Scientific diving operations began in 1985.[5] Between 1985 and 2006, a total of 1,296 had been logged.[6]

21st century redevelopment[edit]

In support of the future of New Zealand’s Antarctic science programme, the base will be redeveloped. In June 2019 the Government committed NZ$18.5 million (US$12.4 million) for the next phase of the Scott Base Redevelopment project, which will see the base's 12 separate buildings replaced by three large interconnected buildings.[7][8] Jasmax and Hugh Broughton Architects came up with the architectural design.[9] Since then the New Zealand Government has committed $344 million to rebuild the base.[10]

On 5 November 2021, Antarctica New Zealand confirmed that PrimePort Timaru will host the redevelopment of the prefabricated Scott Base facilities. Besides the three interconnected buildings, the project also involves upgrading the Ross Island wind farm. The redevelopment project will create an estimated 700 jobs over the next six years.[11]

Historic site[edit]

The A Hut of Scott Base is the only existing Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1956–1957) building in Antarctica. It has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 75), following a proposal by New Zealand to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[12]


Aerial view of the tip of Hut Point Peninsula with McMurdo Station on the near side and Scott Base on the far side

The base is made up of a collection of Chelsea Cucumber green[13] buildings which are linked by all-weather corridors. These buildings can accommodate 86 people over summer,[1] with a "skeleton staff" of between 10 and 14 people remaining over the winter.[14]

Like nearby McMurdo Station, Scott Base is connected to the global telephone network via a Satellite Earth Station operated by Spark New Zealand, located approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away at Arrival Heights. Spark NZ also provide phone services to McMurdo for calls to New Zealand as well as to the Italian Programme at Terra Nova Bay. McMurdo Station has an independent communications infrastructure located at Black Island and linked to Ross Island via microwave.[citation needed]

Scott Base is today operated by Antarctica New Zealand.

Wind turbines[edit]

Three Enercon E-33 wind turbines (330 kilowatts (440 hp) each) were installed in 2009 to co-power Scott Base and McMurdo Station, reducing diesel consumption by 11%: 463,000 litres (102,000 imp gal; 122,000 US gal) per year.[15][16] Battery failures have reduced power capacity by 66%.[17]

"the small battery component that we have within our grid which we called the power store unfortunately has failed, and that was due to the failure of a non-replaceable part, so that has significantly limited our ability to use our wind turbines to the fullest capacity, so in 2019 we've had to curtail our Wind Farm to about 33% of its full potential"[17]


A pressure ridge in the Antarctic ice near Scott Base, with lenticular clouds in the sky.

A polar ice cap climate with evenly-distributed precipitation (Köppen EFf) prevails at Scott Base. The base has fairly typical weather conditions for coastal Antarctica, with minimum temperatures around −45 °C (−49 °F) and summer maximum only occasionally above freezing point. It is exposed to the full strength of southerly blizzards, although overall it is less windy than McMurdo Station. The maximum wind velocities experienced have been gusts up to 185 kilometres per hour (115 mph) with steady velocities under blizzard conditions of 95–115 kilometres per hour (59–71 mph). The highest recorded temperature was 6.8 °C (44.2 °F), the coolest −57 °C (−71 °F) and the mean temperature −19.6 °C (−3.3 °F).[18]

Climate data for Scott Base (1991−2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) −1.3
Daily mean °C (°F) −4.6
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −7.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 18
Average relative humidity (%) 76.2 70.7 71.6 71.3 70.3 69.0 66.6 67.2 66.4 68.7 67.6 73.2 69.9
Source 1: NIWA Climate Data[19]
Source 2: Weatherbase[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Antarctic Station Catalogue (PDF) (catalogue). Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. August 2017. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-473-40409-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  2. ^ Hayter, Adrian. The Year of the Quiet Sun: One year at Scott Base, Antarctica: a personal impression. Hadder and Stoughton, 1968, London, p. 76
  3. ^ Hayter, p. 31.
  4. ^ Hayter, p. 181
  5. ^ Mercer, Steve (2000). "Antarctic lake diving with the semi-closed rebreather". In: Hallock and French (Eds). Diving for Science...2000. Proceedings of the 20th Annual Scientific Diving Symposium, American Academy of Underwater Sciences. St Pete Beach, Florida. Archived from the original on 13 January 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ Pollock, Neal W (2007). "Scientific diving in Antarctica: history and current practice". Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine. 37: 204–11. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ "Redeveloping Scott Base for the future". Antartctic. 37: 13. 2019.
  8. ^ "Home". Scott Base Redevelopment. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  9. ^ Morton, Jamie (28 June 2019). "Plans for new-look Scott Base revealed". NZ Herald. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Successful budget for Scott Base". Antarctica New Zealand. 20 May 2021. Archived from the original on 9 October 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  11. ^ "New Antarctica NZ base to be built in Timaru". Radio New Zealand. 5 November 2021. Archived from the original on 7 November 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  12. ^ "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Chelsea Cucumber Color". colors.artyclick.com. ArtyClick. Retrieved 27 August 2023. The color Chelsea Cucumber belongs to the color family Pastel Spring Green. It is of medium brightness and medium saturation. The color Chelsea Cucumber corresponds to the hex code #83AA5D.
  14. ^ "Frequently asked questions". Scott Base 50years. Antarctica New Zealand. Archived from the original on 9 February 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
  15. ^ "Ross Island Wind Energy". Antarctica New Zealand. New Zealand Government. 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  16. ^ "New Zealand Wind Energy Association". Wind Energy. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  17. ^ a b
    • Fernando, Maria (26 June 2023). "Success Through International Collaboration in Microgrid Operation on Ross Island". youtube. Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, NZ: Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. Retrieved 27 August 2023. Maria Fernando is a Electrical & Wind Engineer at Antarctica New Zealand....In January 2010, the Crater Hill Wind Farm was commissioned and became operational, the world's southernmost wind farm. The three turbines, supply electricity to a shared power microgrid that connects Scott Base to McMurdo Station, called the Ross Island Energy Grid (RIEG). A number of improvements have been made over the lifetime of the RIEG, including automation of the Scott Base generators in order to more efficiently use generated electricity between the two stations when wind generated electricity is not enough to meet the power demands of the Ross Island network. Innovation and collaboration between Antarctica New Zealand and the United States Antarctic Program has made the project successful. Ongoing collaboration occurs to ensure the day-to-day operation of the microgrid and to work through any issues. This presentation will offer an update to the operation of the Crater Hill Wind Farm in the years since construction and the wider Ross Island Energy Grid, highlighting safety and maintenance issues that have occurred, lessons learned and successes achieved through collaboration.
    • "20th COMNAP Symposium". COMNAP. Retrieved 27 August 2023.
  18. ^ Mackintosh, Lesley (2013). "How cold is the Antarctic?". NIWA. Retrieved 11 July 2016.
  19. ^ "Climate data and activities". NIWA. Archived from the original on 20 May 2024. Retrieved 20 May 2024.
  20. ^ "Precipitation Data". Weatherbase. Retrieved 3 May 2020.

External links[edit]

Scott Base 50th Anniversary Website

NZ Antarctic Research