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snow hill hut

Snow Hill Hut

A stunningly preserved glimpse into hardships faced by explorers 100 years ago.

Information about Snow Hill Hut

Snow Hill Island is very well named! This large island is 21 miles long and over 7 miles wide and is almost completely covered in snow all year round.

It was first discovered by a British expedition in 1843 and named “Snow Hill” because it wasn’t clear at first if it was connected to its neighbor, Seymour Island. Subsequent surveys by a Swedish Expedition in 1901 found that it was, indeed, a separate outcrop, and “Island” was added to its name. The high ground on Snow Hill Island rises to approximately 560ft above sea level.

Snow Hill is important geologically. There have been many marine fossils found in its rocks, and huge dikes of had-wearing basalt rock have withstood erosion to become important and striking features.

The 1901 Swedish expedition spent three winters on Snow Hill Island, using it as a base to explore the wider area. They built a wooden hut in 1902 which still stands and is now a designated Historic Monument.

Snow Hill Hut is a 20ft by 26ft wooden building that is preserved as a time capsule and consists of a central living room, a kitchen, and 3 double bunks. You can still see furniture, bedding, lamps, plates, food packages, and more everyday items that were simply left when the hut was abandoned. The contents of Snow Hill Hut were then preserved in remarkable condition by the Antarctic cold.

There is the very slight chance of encountering an Emperor Penguin on an ice floe here since there is the Emperor Penguin colony on the permanent ice just to the south of Snow Hill Island. The actual colony is very inaccessible and only a few cruise ships manage to reach the location in the early season with all the additional ice (and when the Emperor Penguins are completing their breeding cycle throughout the winter!). In most cases a helicopter is also required to get closer, then a trek across the ice.

Interesting facts about Snow Hill Hut

Wooden hut on Snow Hill Island built in February 1902 by the main party of the Swedish South Polar Expedition led by Otto Nordenskjöld, that carried out a significant amount of scientific work, including discovering fossils that played a role in the early theories of continental drift (though ignored for many decades as nonsense by many academic geologists when any observant child could see that Africa and South America could slot together in a jig-saw puzzle!). It was designated as Historic Site and Monument No 38 in the framework of the Antarctic Treaty. The hut contains original objects from the expedition and functions as a museum, which is managed by Argentina and Sweden.

Do read up about this amazing expedition. The ship, the Antarctic, ended up getting trapped in ice and sinking on trying to pick up the small team at Snow Hill island. It meant three different groups had to over winter. The ship's crew on Paulet Island. Three crew who were dropped off at Hope Bay (before the ship sunk, with plans to come back for them), that tried to reach Snow Hill, but were unable to do so, and had to make a make shift and very small stone hut, and, being the end the season, to catch enough penguins to survive through the winter. And the small team at Snow Hill hut that had over winter for a second year!

Pictures of Snow Hill Hut

Highlights Close to Snow Hill Hut

Paulet Island

Paulet Island is a striking sight. This circular rock is only 1 mile in diameter, yet it has a volcanic cone that rises to over 1100 feet at its center. It’s found about 3 miles from Dundee Island at the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.

First mapped in 1839, Paulet Island is home to a huge penguin colony. Some 100,000 breeding pairs of Adelie penguins live here, a truly remarkable sight and sound! You will also see other sea birds on your visit, including shags, snow petrels, and kelp gulls.

Another fascinating aspect of Paulet Island is the historic shelter that dates back to 1903. The expedition ship on the Nordenskjöld expedition - the Antarctica (after which the Antarctic Sound is named) - was crushed by the ice pack, and survivors of the wreck reached Paulet built a stone hut to shelter them from the harsh winter conditions. There is also a cairn built on the highest point of the island that they used to attract attention for any rescue. There is also a grave marker for one expedition member who sadly did not survive.

Because Paulet Island is so densely packed with wildlife, visitors will be escorted in small groups by experienced Antarctic guides. This ensures that the breeding birds are disturbed as little as possible and that the shelter site is protected.

Fur seals are often also seen on the shores here. In the peak breeding season, you may find that some of the walking trails around the island are closed due to the sheer numbers of wonderful creatures that choose to raise their young here.

Animals in Snow Hill Hut

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