One of the most complete 1950s scientific bases in Antarctica
Information about Detaille Island
Detaille Island is a small island in the Lallemand Fjord, part of the Arrowsmith Peninsula in Graham Land. It’s not much more than a rocky outcrop with gravel beaches, but it contains one of the best-preserved historic monuments in the Antarctic.
Detaille was home to “Base W” of the British Antarctic Survey. It was constructed in 1956 and was in use until 1959 when it was closed. Due to bad weather, the supply ship that was sent to take the men and equipment off the island couldn’t get any closer than 30 miles away. This meant that the men had to leave very quickly and with only the personal belongings that they could carry so the ship could depart as quickly as possible.
Because of these circumstances, Base W is almost completely intact. As you look around the hut you will be greeted with the eerie sight of tables still set out with condiments, shelves stacked with tin and jars, and everyday equipment like washing machines, tools, and even and bottles of gin and whisky (empty!). Longjohns and coats are half discarded, with magazines open on the tables, as they were left when the base was abandoned!
Preserved by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, this is a remarkable insight into the early post-war scientific explorations of this amazing continent, and it makes Detaille Island and Base W a “must-visit” on any Antarctic itinerary.
It is also a good location for a Zodiac place with the 'deep south' scenery (it is just south of the Antarctic Circle), the ice, and to look out for seals and Adelie Penguins.
Interesting facts about Detaille Island
It was abandoned since wind and ice conditions often made it very difficult to get ashore. The same applies today, often the approach s blocked by ice and only the lucky few get ashore to visit this abandoned base that seems lost in time!
Base ‘W’ is designated as Historic Site and Monument No. 83. It is sited at the northern end of the island. It is noteworthy as a relatively unaltered British scientific base of the late 1950s, providing an evocative insight into the way the bases were occupied during this period. It was built in 1956 and closed in 1959 due to the difficulty of accessing the base. It was subsequently reoccupied for six months in 1965/66. During its short history as an occupied base it contributed towards the geophysical programme of the International Geophysical Year (IGY). In addition to the base building, there are also dog kennels, an emergency store, fuel drum and cargo depots, an anemometer tower and wireless masts.