The history of Colbeck Field Hut

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This week at Mawson: 21 September 2012

Colbeck Field Hut was prefabricated in Melbourne and delivered to Mawson in early 1973. It was assembled and fitted out by the carpenter Bill Cartledge and painted inside by the OIC, Basil Rachinger. It was towed into position at Rum Doodle on 16th August 1973. The hut served many expeditioners at Rum Doodle between 1973 and 1984, when it was returned to the Station for a "refurbish". It went back to Rum Doodle the same year but was not mounted on its original sledge. Instead it was simply laid on some long timbers on the rocks and guyed down. This apparent oversight almost cost the loss of the hut, which moved from its foundations during early 1986. Rum Doodle is subjected to very strong winds which plummet down the sheer faces of the massif. The hut was returned to Mawson around the middle of the year and replaced by the current hut. The sledge which originally carried the 1973 hut was reclaimed from the encroaching ice at the back of Mawson and was widened by diesel mechanic Scott Penney in 1988. This reconstruction made it a much more rigid and stable platform for a positive guy-down job.

Approval was given in 1987 for a field hut to be sited in the Colbeck archipelago. The archipelago was discovered on 18th February 1931 by the BANZARE under Sir Douglas Mawson and named after WR Colbeck, second officer of the "Discovery".

In 1988 the hut was towed by Hagglunds down the coast on its widened sledge and installed on an unnamed island in the Colbeck archipelago on 13th July by Dave McCormack, Ed Piket, Mick Whittle, Eric Sworak, John Gill and Graham Robertson.

Colbeck Field Hut is the most distant of the Mawson field huts, being 85km to the west of Mawson and during winter access is only via the sea-ice. The hut is in close proximity to the Taylor Glacier emperor penguin colony, Cape Bruce and Chapman Ridge.

Photos taken in 1997, 2002, 2010, July 2012 and September 2012 show that the hut is progressively becoming buried in the snow, perhaps associated with the reported heavy snow falls in eastern Antarctica over the last few years. If the increased snow falls continue then the future use of the hut is in doubt.

On our trip from 11-14 September 2012 there were seven of us, and although one slept in a tent and two slept in a RMIT caravan, all seven of us ate meals in the hut. It was a tight squeeze but cosy and warm. Camp cook, Chris, served his usual signature dishes of toasted bacon and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, then later pre-dinner drinks and a cheese platter followed by Fray Bentos pies and mash for dinner.

The RMIT caravan was towed back to Mawson and the hut was left clean and tidy for the next group in mid October.

Bob

References

  • The Field Huts of Mawson by Dave McCormack
  • Aurora, March 2005 pp 2-6
  • Colbeck Archipelago Hut Logbook 13th July 1988 to 3rd August 1993, pp 1, 8 and 9
Colbeck Hut on 11th September 2012 buried in snow
Colbeck Hut on 11th September 2012 buried in snow
(Photo: Pete Hargreaves)
Another view of Colbeck Hut on 11 September 2012
Another view of Colbeck Hut on 11 September 2012
(Photo: Chris George)
The two Hagglunds, RMIT caravan and the hut after we had dug our way in, taken from a hill to the south
The two Hagglunds, RMIT caravan and the hut after we had dug…
(Photo: Bob Jones)
Chris preparing the cheese platter before dinner
Chris preparing the cheese platter before dinner
(Photo: Pete Hargreaves)
Inside a small but cosy and warm hut
Inside a small but cosy and warm hut
(Photo: Pete Hargreaves)
The hut left clean and tidy for the next occupants
The hut left clean and tidy for the next occupants
(Photo: Pete Hargreaves)
Colbeck Hut on 3rd July 2012
Colbeck Hut on 3rd July 2012
(Photo: Wayne Scandrett)
Colbeck Hut in September 2010
Colbeck Hut in September 2010
(Photo: Ian Petty)
Colbeck Hut in September/October 2002 before the heavy falls of snow
Colbeck Hut in September/October 2002 before the heavy falls of snow
(Photo: Unknown)
Colbeck Hut on 20th September 1997.  Note the steps leading up to the hut's door where now we have steps in the snow leading down to the door
Colbeck Hut on 20th September 1997. Note the steps leading up to…
(Photo: Bob Jones)
General view of the area around the hut in 1997.  Note the exposed rocks which are now deeply covered with snow.  Behind the island is sea-ice, the Taylor Glacier and the Antarctic icecap.
General view of the area around the hut in 1997. Note the…
(Photo: Bob Jones)
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