We all enjoy the uniqueness and individuality of the Macquarie Island field huts. They provide a warm and safe haven for everyone, as we traverse the island in all sorts of wet, cold, snowy and windy weather.
We have a couple of extra special huts at Brothers Point and Waterfall Bay. These bright orange fibreglass huts that look like spaceships are affectionately known as Googies or Smarties.
They were designed by Attila Vrana in the late 1980’s as an option to replace the Apple huts and other various designs used by the ANARE. Some of the benefits of this design included an excellent ratio of internal capacity to external size, able to be moved by helicopter (600kg empty), water storage in the base, good thermal insulation, well ventilated, and reduced drifting effects due to their elevation above the terrain.
Only five of these Googie Huts were fabricated and put into the field to serve as accommodation, mess, radio room, surgery, laboratories, showers and toilets if required. Initially one was placed on Béchervaise Island off Mawson and the remaining four went to Spit Camp on Heard Island.
The four huts at Heard Island were removed in February 1992 by helicopter and loaded onto the MV Icebird (later registered as the MV Polar Bird) and returned to Hobart.
Of these four, one was sent to Hop Island near Davis Station, another to Béchervaise Island (that now meant there were two), and the remaining two were delivered to Macquarie Island.
At Macquarie Island, one Googie was flown into a site at Waterfall Bay in the summer of 1993 to replace the old Lusitania Bay hut, located about three km to the south. The last Googie was brought to the Island in 1996 and located at Brothers Point to replace the old Sandy Bay hut, located about one km to the north. Both the old huts (they were built from the original Walrus aircraft engine packing crates) were now surrounded by king penguin colonies, had rat and asbestos problems, and were in need of some maintenance.
The Googie huts have now been in service for over 30 years and have provided shelter for countless numbers of expeditioners. They have survived with very little modifications to the original design. Most have had the aluminium stairs and the large gull wing-style entrance door removed and a cold porch added in its place. They are now fitted with a small gas heater and gas stove/oven and will comfortable sleep three average-sized expeditioners. The underfloor area is still being used for food, tools and other stuff storage. Some of the underfloor water tanks have been removed and replaced with external tanks.
Time, and the modernisation of Macca, will reveal what lies in the future for these amazing little huts. Hopefully they will be rescued and put back into service on another island to provide shelter and comfort for future expeditioners.
Footnote: I was on the MV Icebird in 1992 when the four Googie huts were removed from Heard Island and brought back into Hobart. I was on Béchervaise in 2015 with the two Googies located there and building a new melon hut. And I am fortunate to be on Macca and have the opportunity of staying at Brothers Point and soon to be staying at Waterfall Bay. They are truly a unique and amazing hut.