Station W at Detaille Island

Posted in Antarctica2011 at 5:46 pm by rachel

The British Antarctic Survey established Station W here in 1956. On March 31, 1959, they evacuated it very quickly and left the base as a near-perfect time capsule. Restoration work on the base is about to start, so we may have been the last tourists to see it in its current hut-that-time-forgot state.

It turned out that Station W was built in a terrible location. Researchers on the base were supposed to be mounting dog sledge expeditions to map the coastline, but the ice that connected the station to the continent was thin and dangerous to cross. In contrast, the ice between the station and open ocean (ie the route of approach for ships resupplying the station) was frequently very thick, and extended out very far.

The supply ship that was due to provision the base for the winter of 1959 was stopped by ice 30 miles away from the base. It couldn’t come closer, and it couldn’t stay long because a big storm was coming in. The researchers didn’t have enough supplies to winter where they were without the delivery from the supply ship, so they hitched up the sled dogs and travelled the 30 miles overland to the ship, which evacuated them to another British base.

We heard a story about a dog named Scott who was part of the pack at Detaille. When it was time to load onto the ship, Scott freaked out and ran away. There wasn’t time to find him or wait for him to return. Three months later, Scott turned up at another British base very far away from Detaille, looking remarkably healthy. He must have learned to hunt penguins!


  1. John Thorne said,

    January 27, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Rachel: they told you a porky – the dog who ran off as being loaded onto the American Icebreaker off the Northern Point of Adelaide Island was STEVE. One of the best of the breeding program and bred at Hope Bay. Moved to Detaille when the Base opened in February 1956 along with his brother and 18 other dogs. He had in May / June 1957 returned from a long survey along the Peninsula and down to Horseshoe Island returning over the mountains at the S. end of Lallemand Fiord . After running off he went back to Detaille about 30 miles, and some time later went off S. over the 4500 ft high glaciers and down to Horseshoe about 90 miles in total. His brother had pinned away and died before Steve arrived. Steve died at Deception Island in 1962 / 3

  2. rachel said,

    January 19, 2012 at 2:13 am

    Thank you for the correction, John! Were you there are or something?

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