Led by Carpenter Oak founder Charley Brentnall, we have, for several expeditions, supplied expert conservators to the repair of these remarkable buildings. Under the auspices of the Antarctica Heritage Trust, work was carried out during the ‘summer’ seasons – a remarkably tight window of two months when it is possible to get in and out and repairs made.
Working from historical photographs and documents, it took experts ten years to conserve the huts, which had suffered due to water seepage, age, and simply being left exposed to the polar elements.
The work was meticulous, not only in the execution of the repairs to the structures, but in the recording of repairs and artefacts discovered during the conservation work. More importantly, working the hours required to maximise the access in the most inhospitable environment imaginable, required not only our renowned skills but an exceptional level of passion for this unique project. As lead conservation carpenter, Charley was part of a multi-national and multi-disciplinary team. Their work included a review of conservation strategy and methodology, the survey and interpretation of historic interventions and the schedule of repairs and implementation of work.
To prevent further decay of the huts, a waterproof roof was fitted and impermeable membranes installed between the bottom of the walls and the permafrost.
The result was a highly successful rescue of several iconic buildings from the World Heritage list of most endangered buildings. Working amongst several thousand vulnerable artifacts in environment requiring some of the most demanding logistics on the planet. During a 2006 visit to Shackleton’s hut, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage said: ‘Without question, this is the most ambitious and logistically complex restoration project ever attempted.’