The battle against blizzard-like conditions to restore Hillary's historic hut

It's not easy to replace an historic roof in Antarctica.
It's not easy to replace an historic roof in Antarctica. Photo credit: Supplied

Sir Edmund Hillary's original hut in Antarctica has received not just a new coat of paint, but a new lid too.

But restoring the historic landmark wasn't an easy job, with repairers battling winds of up to 40 knots (75km/h), freezing temperatures down to -40degC and 24-hour sunlight.

The Trans-Antarctic Expedition (TAE) hut was originally built in 1957 and was Sir Ed's home when he stayed in Antarctica. It's now the only remaining building from what would become Scott Base, New Zealand's permanent foothold on the icy continent.

After a round of fundraising, it was restored to its former glory by the Antarctic Heritage Trust and was repainted back to its original colours.

However, the old building still had one major flaw - a leaky roof, which snow would drip through to form meltpools on the floor.

The historic hut, captured in January 1957.
The historic hut, captured in January 1957. Photo credit: D Rogers / Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection

This year, the Antarctic Heritage Trust faced a unique challenge: fixing the roof so it wouldn't leak, while also preserving the original building.

Snowstorm or shine, the team worked to restore it, sometimes battling "blizzard-like conditions", Sir Peter Blake ambassador Chris Ansin told Newshub.

"We've been building the roof on top of the existing roof, so in 50 years' time or 100 years, if future conservators want to restore the building to what it originally was, all of the original building is still present," he said.

"We originally thought it would take about two to three weeks, but as we're working outside, we're incredibly weather-dependant on nice weather.

"Weather in Antarctica doesn't always take in tune to what you want to do."

The team worked in high winds and 24-hour sunlight.
The team worked in high winds and 24-hour sunlight. Photo credit: Supplied

In those blizzard-like conditions, the four-strong team had to wrestle with massive sheets of aluminium and wood flumes.

"It was just waving everywhere, we had to hold it down with three people," Mr Ansin said.

"That was a highlight of putting the roof on - seeing it go on, seeing a new roof being made and then to see it being put back, so it looks like the original roof."

After long nights in 24-hour sunlight, the crew are set to finish the roofing job on Friday - just in time to fly back to Christchurch.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust will now continue maintaining other historic huts from the 'Heroic Era', including Captain Scott's Terra Nova and Discovery Huts, which contain artefacts more than 100 years old.

The new roof sits atop the old.
The new roof sits atop the old. Photo credit: Supplied

"It's deeply satisfying knowing what you did will live on," Mr Ansin said.

"To preserve these huts is preserving their legacies."

For Mr Ansin, not only was the work itself inspiring, but he joked he may have found a new path in life.

"I've become a roofer, which is an interesting experience... It's definitely a new career option if I want to go down that track."