Off the beaten path

The Southernmost Waiting Room


Playing all day in a frozen white wonderland, a cozy hut for lodging is as important as one’s warmest mittens. On the world’s 7th continent, where winds can whip past at 100mph, and temperatures can dip to  -70 degrees, an outdoor adventurer must have a warm spot to wait out the storm. Comfortably packed amongst the snow, Damoy Point is home to the southernmost waiting room in the world.

A simple construction, this humble abode was built on the frosted point by researchers from the United Kingdom in 1973. With the weather in Antarctica fluctuating drastically at any given time, the hut served as a safe halfway point for scientists before they journeyed farther south into the continent at the Rothera and Halley IV research stations. A makeshift “ski-way” served as a landing area for planes to land on a snow-covered runway to quickly drop off researchers and turn right back around for a return flight across the sea. With enough beds and room to house 15 adventurers, expeditionary groups could wait patiently for weeks on end for the weather to improve or seasons to change with books and board games to pass the time. Food choices amounted to a plethora of canned treats—from tinned bacon to a special canned banana pudding.

While the waiting hut was not the site of any scientific discoveries (though reports suggest the poetry and whalebone carvings crafted here were quite good), the lodging aided in efforts that would impact the entire world. Multiple research teams that made discoveries like the hole in the earth’s ozone layer, as well as make important findings in climate research, would stay within the walls of the lodging at Damoy before embarking to their respective stations. 

The hut at Damoy Point had its last hurrah in 1993, with modern aviation and weather radar technology rendering a halfway point to research stations unnecessary. Noting the shed’s importance in Antarctic exploratory history, however, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) petitioned for the building to be preserved and has served as its caretaker since 2009. Restored and set up as a museum, Antarctic visitors can now take a peek inside the wooden “bunkhouse” and play a little waiting game themselves—just hopefully not for several weeks. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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