Tradesman Recalls Scott Base Painting Project
As Antarctica New Zealand prepares for the $344 million rebuild of the Scott Base research facility, a former NZ Navy tradesman recently recalled what painting the original facilities was like 66 years ago.
Built by Sir Edmund Hillary and his team on Ross Island, Scott Base officially opened on January 20, 1957. The facility was constructed for New Zealand’s participation in the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Painting the Scott Base
Bob Pinker, 83, who first started painting the buildings in December 1956 when he was 16 years old, told Stuff that it took nine trips between then and 1965 to Antarctica to complete the job. To get to the Scott Base, crews and dogs boarded ships to the location.
For the project, Pinker applied a mixture of muddled beige-like colors to the buildings, consisting mostly of linseed oil-based paint—which according to him, did not dry below the freezing level. “It took two years to dry,’’ Pinker said of the original job.
According to Pinker, the crews also applied an International Orange colored linseed oil-based paint for navigation and visual purposes.
As a big fan of the Chelsea cucumber I’m stoked to see Scott Base stay green (orange would’ve been a bit Mitre 10 Mega) https://t.co/PDTGdvCKMN— Jamie Morton (@Jamienzherald) June 15, 2022
In the article, Pinker went on to mention various adventure stories while taking these trips, including one time when the team realized that they had forgotten to erect a flagpole at the Scott Base.
“We had to get a flagpole from Scott’s old hut and take it over [to Scott Base] to use,” he said.
Pinker also traveled during the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, telling reporters that he was the only diesel-electric mechanic in the Navy onsite at the time.
In 1965, the facilities were repainted to remind people of New Zealand and has remained that color since. The last major infrastructure investments to the facilities were carried out in the 1980s and mid-1990s.
Project Funding, New Designs & Construction
In Budget 2019, Antarctica New Zealand received $18.5 million to develop designs for the new base.
Last year in May, Aotearoa New Zealand received $344 million to rebuild Scott Base. The announcement was made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, as part of Budget 2021. The funding covers the capital investment of $306 million, including the replacement of the Ross Island Wind Farm and project operating costs of $38 million, which will ensure the new base is powered by up to 97% of renewable energy.
“This funding is vital to secure New Zealand’s future in Antarctica and our ability to continue to support world-leading science,” said Antarctica New Zealand Chief Executive Sarah Williamson at the time. “The Scott Base Redevelopment project is the biggest project we’ve ever embarked on, and as well as future proofing our home on the ice, it brings many millions of dollars to the Canterbury economy.”
The rebuild will also involve replacing the existing 12 buildings with three interconnected buildings that can accommodate up to 100 people, an accommodation structure, a dining and welfare building, a science and management building and an engineering and storage building.
Antarctica New Zealand Senior Project Manager Simon Shelton said the team was primed and ready to go shortly after the funding was announced.
“After four years of design work and careful planning, we’re ready to redevelop,” he said. “The current plan is to build the new base in sections at a New Zealand port, then ship those modules to Antarctica.”
Before construction could begin, however, the government would need to confirm the Implementation Business Case and the Draft Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation would need to be approved by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In November 2021, Timaru—a port city in the southern Canterbury region of New Zealand—was named the main site for the Scott Base redevelopment. At the time, the project was being described as a “once in 50 years” opportunity.
Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen said the town’s port had offered the perfect mix of facilities and access to engineering talent to successfully complete the project, a statement supported by Williamson.
“We tried to look at the project really holistically. It was a real combination of commercials and the ability to provide flat land, and our confidence that we would work really well with the (Timaru) port,” said Williamson.
“It's a unique build. We need a construction site that's nice and flat.”
Throughout what is estimated to take six to eight years to complete, Timaru is expected to generate up to 700 jobs, with 170 jobs involved at the peak of the work. Construction is slated to begin late this year on eight hectares (just shy of 20 acres) of the Evans Bay reclamation land to the east of Prime Port’s logging yard before being shipped south to Antarctica in eight modules.
“The biggest challenge is that you're not just building a building. It needs to have its own electricity generation, water plant and sewerage outlet, for instance. These are all things a town would normally provide,” Williamson added.
The Timaru District Council will invest $1.5 million in upgrading essential port infrastructure.
The new base is expected to help Aotearoa continue its long legacy on the icy continent and strengthen its ability to support world-leading research in one of the most remote places on the planet.
The preferred main contractor for the job is Canterbury-based Leigh’s Construction. The new base was designed by Jasmax and Hugh Broughton Architects.
Recent Color Vote Results
Most recently, earlier this month Antarctica New Zealand announced that the Scott Base would remain kakariki/green after a public voting period came to a close.
The iconic color finished with 4,514 votes from 10,830 Kiwis and honorary penguins who made the choice between green, karaka/orange and kikorangi/blue. Orange was reported to come in second with 3,742 votes, while blue came in third with 2,574 votes.
“The color will link two eras of New Zealand science,” said Project Director Jon Ager. “The special connection that Kiwis have with Scott Base has been abundantly clear during the vote. We will move towards construction knowing people are behind us and, one day, everyone that voted will be able to say: ‘I helped to shape Scott Base.’”
For the coatings portion of the project, Antarctica New Zealand Senior Project Manager Simon Shelton said a powder coat-type paint will be factory-applied. The same factory is reported to produce insulated freezer panels.