Century-old painting discovered in Antarctic hut

An "almost perfectly preserved" watercolour painting has been discovered in an historic hut in Antarctica, dating back more than 118 years.

The painting, dated 1889, is of a 'Tree Creeper' bird and done by revered scientist Dr Edward Wilson, who died alongside Captain Robert Falcon Scott and three others on their return from the South Pole in 1912.

It was found at Cape Adare and was originally discovered in September last year among dust, mould and penguin excrement.

The find was kept confidential until now to allow the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust to preserve more than 1500 other artefacts.

Antarctica, Painting
Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez found the painting while cleaning out a paper portfolio. Photo credit: Newshub

Paper Conservator Josefin Bergmark-Jimenez found the painting while cleaning a paper portfolio found in the hut.

"I opened it and there was this gorgeous painting, I got such a fright that I jumped and shut the portfolio again," she said.

"I then took the painting out and couldn't stop looking at it - the colours, the vibrancy, it is such a beautiful piece of work. I couldn't believe it was there."

She says the Antarctic conditions were the perfect way to preserve the painting.

"Water colour paintings are particularly susceptible to light so the fact this work has spent more than a hundred years tightly packed between other sheets of paper in completely dark and cold conditions is actually an ideal way to store it."

Trust general manager Francesca Eathorne says it is a poignant reminder of the legacy the early explorers left behind.

"More than a century later we are still sharing stories about those expeditions," she said.

"We've been able to create a high-quality facsimile of the painting so we are now looking forward to sharing it with the rest of the world. We are in no doubt this will attract global interest - particularly from our friends in the UK."

Dr Edward Wilson was the doctor and zoologist for Captain Scott's expeditions at the time.

He was born in England in 1872 and was such a well-known Brit, he has a museum named in his honour that houses a permanent collection of his work.

Dr Wilson was on his second trip to the ice when they died due to a combination of exhaustion, lack of food and the bad weather they were met with.