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General Notes On The "Googie" (120112)
Almost every website and article that references Futuros refers to the "Googies" as modified Futuros; indeed these pages (and even the brief historical notes below) have always done the same though we have never been really that convinced. There are too many differences, the size, the materials used to contruct them, the entrance and so on. Recently we have been digging deeper and as a result of that research (and the help of some great people at the AAD - thank you Jessica, Jonathan, Jan and Graeme) it is now clear that the "Googies" are NOT modified Futuros but rather something designed and constructed completely independantly.
Because of the evident similarity between "Googies" and Futuros and because of the fact that they are commonly reported to be modified Futuros (and also just because they are plain interesting in their own right) we intend to maintain these "Googie" pages and update and expand them as and when we have new information despite the fact that they are not in fact Futuros.
A little background on the "Googie" can be found below and more detailed information and history related to the "Googies" can be found here
The initial impetus behind the creation of the Futuro was a desire to create a light, portable, easily heated ski cabin that could be located in adverse terrain. It is clear that those criteria made the Futuro at least a candidate for use as accommodation for some of the many scientific expeditions and bases that dot Antarctica which likely has the coldest and most inhospitable climate on the planet.
Antarctic Dictionary: A Complete Guide to Antarctic English
by Bernadette Hince defines the "Googie
" this way:
"A large fiberglass field hut, usually orange, which is mounted on a steel frame in the manner of an egg in an egg-cup. The hut is a flattened sphere in shape, and looks remarkably like the traditional images of a flying saucer.
The "Googie" Hut, or just plain "Googie" as it is often referred to was a modified Futuro (120112 - see the notes above - the "Googie" was NOT a modified Futuro but a totally separate and independent design) manufactured in Australia specifically for use in the Antarctic region. The most obvious difference was the reduced number of windows but it retained most of the Futuro's design characteristics including being seated on a steel cradle.
The chapter "A Catalogue of Temporary Field Accommodation Systems for Use in Antarctica
" from an Australian Antarctic Division of the Australian Government Department Of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population & Communities
document discusses the use of the "Googie" and other types of structures in Antarctica.
According to the AAD (and they should know) there are currently 5 "Googies" in use; the two on Béchervaise Island
, two on Macquarie Island
(one at Waterfall Bay
and one at Brother's Point
) and this one on Hop Island near Davis.
The AAD indicates that they have used "Googies" since the mid 1980's and have been well received by the individuals who have used them. The AAD describes the "Googie" as being constructed from fiberglass hemispheres mounted on a steel ring with multiple oval windows and access using a single vertical opening door; features listed include:
- Relatively spacious
- Well ventilated
- Ability to capture and store precipitation below the floor
- Able to maintain heat well due to good interior insulation
- Reduced (snow) drifting effects due to elevation
- Location | Hop Island, Antarctica
- Lat/Long | 68°49'6.00"S 77°41'24.00"E
- Previous Location | Spit Bay, Heard Island, Australian External Territory
- Previous Lat/Long | 53°6'25.99"S 73°43'13.95"E
- Image © Commonwealth of Australia | Date Unknown
- Google Maps | 123198
- Latest Confirmation | 092818
Information Update History
The photo below by Sealy from September 2015 not only gives a more recent look at this "Googie" than other photos we have seen but it also features a rather cool shot of the Aurora. The original photo can be found on the Australian Antarctic Division
With the kind assistance of several individuals (Jessica, Jonathan, Jan and Graeme - thank you all) who work at the AAD we are beginning to piece together a much clearer picture of the origins and history of the "Googies" or, as they seem to be also known, the "Smarties". It is also now clear that they are NOT modified Futuro's though they may have been possibly have been influenced in some way by the Futuro. For more detailed information and history on this check out this page
As far as the Hop Island "Googie" is concerned we do not yet have a complete history and some of the references report conflicting dates but this "Googie" was among the four that were located at Spit Bay
, Heard Island
in the late 1980's and early 1990's and used as the base of operations for various research expeditions
on the Island.
Satellite imagery dated 051207 shows what appears likely to be the remains of the expedition base located at 53°6'25.99"S 73°43'13.95"E, We cannot be certain of this but there is not much of anything else visible on the island. In addition the photographers placement of this photo on Panoramio
by eccles26 together with an examination of the geography in that photo and the photo below compared against the imagery in Google Earth also suggests very strongly that this was the expedition site.
Heard is by far the largest of the islands in the McDonald Islands
group; an Australian Territory since 1947 which is currently uninhabited and is one of the most remote places on Earth. Heard Island is home to Mawson Peak
, a part of the "Big Ben
" massif, that is one of only two active volcanoes in Australian territory. Topping out at 9006 feet Mawson Peak is also the highest point in Australian territory with the exception of peaks in the Antarctic Territory.
This image below, reproduced here with the permission of the AAD shows the group of four "Googies" as they were on Heard Island around 1992.
172B3 Spit Bay Winter Camp, Spit Bay, Heard Island, Photograph by Attila Vrana
Australian Antarctic Division, © Commonwealth of Australia
Photograph Reproduced With The Permission Of The AAD | Date Unknown
Following completion of various expeditions on Heard Island the "Googies" were returned to Australia and later relocated to new sites here on Hop Island, on Berchavaise Island
and at Waterfall Bay
and Brothers Point
on Macquarie Island. Of course in total between those locations there are actually five "Googies" and I have yet to establish the origin of the fifth.
In the book "Subantarctic Wilderness: Macquarie Island
" (Alex Terauds & Fiona Stewart, publ, Jacana Books and Allen & Unwin, 2008) we read on page 60 that two of the "Googies" that were removed from Heard Island were flown into Macquarie island to Waterfall Bay
and Brother's Point
in the summer of 1995/96. That leaves the one on Hop Island and the two on Béchervaise Island
. In an email conversation the AAD confirmed that the "Googie" on Hop was one of the ones from Heard which means that the last one is one of the two on Béchervaise; the origin of the second one on Béchervaise is unknown to me at this time.
Original Information 081412
The Google Maps satellite imagery of Hop Island is poor to say the least and you cannot spot the "Googie" (the co-ordinates for the "Googie" are from the placement of a photo by andyb60 in Panoramio and not from Google Maps itself) but there is a cool aerial image of the island on the Australian Antarctic Data Center
website which is shown here under CC 3.0
The same AAD webpages that host some of the photos listed below also give us some insight into the inhospitable nature of the area. We have visited a couple of Futuro's and will certainly visit others in the future (and maybe we might even find a way to own one one day - you never know) but we have to say that while we would love to visit Antarctica and the "Googies" we are not sure we could put up with the hardships of getting there.
Read through the article "Sled hauling to the Rauer Islands
" if you want to get a feel for what it is like to travel to the Hop Island "Googie".
The most common method of getting there involves the use of specialized tracked vehicles called Hägglunds
. By that method of transport the 40 or so kilometers to Hop becomes around 100 kilometers in the interests of using a safe route. As the AAD website explains:
"This is due to the limited access up and onto the plateau, the crossing of the treacherous crevasse fields, seemingly endless Antarctic icy wasteland and negotiating the access ramps hidden amongst the steep cliffs protecting the Rauers group.
You would think that would be enough but for some the lure of adventure seems irresitible and the AAD website goes on to tell us that in 2011 a small group of gutsy (or crazy - our word) individuals decided to make the trip on foot hauling sleds. Read their story; we can say for sure that such a trek is not for the faint of heart. Their trek ended with a birthday party for one of the team in the "relative comfort" of the "Googie" or "Smartie" as it is sometimes called. There is an interesting picture
by Jenny Feast of the group inside the "Googie" included with the article.
"Traditional wisdom" suggests that the "Googies" are modified Futuro's; almost every mention of them on the web agrees. However Jenny Feast's image has caused me to look once again at this.
There are a number of indicators that this may not be the case:
- The AAD indicates that "Googies" have been in use since the mid 80's long after Futuro manufacturing ceased
- Jenny Feast's image shows something much smaller than a traditional Futuro
- That same image also shows what appears to be a construction material far different than that of a normal Futuro (though it could possibly be lined with some form of additional insulation)
The "size" question has caused me to look again at Google Earth imagery of "Googies" and it appears they may be only around 15' in diameter, significantly smaller than a standard Futuro. While they may indeed be modified Futuro's it is beginning to look to us like they may actually be "modeled after" the Futuro rather than a modification. We will be researching this further and for now we are leaving the "Googie" classed as a modified Futuro. In due course we will publish updated information addressing whether that is the case or not, at least in our opinion.
The photo below is by andyb60
and was taken 112609. The photo clearly illustrates the desolate and remote location of the "Googie" on Hop Island. The photo is displayed here with Andy's permission.
There are a number of additional photos of the Hop Island "Googie" on various Australian Antarctic Division webpages. A few are listed here: