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June 30, 2009

Antarctic Item 062 | Jamesways Part 1


I’m back to posting my Antarctic object collection, with a focus this week on fabric.
First up: A roof blanket cover (or part thereof) for Jamesway huts commonly used
in Antarctic science camps.


Jamesways are Korean War-era Quonset hut-shaped structures. Unlike their metal
cousins however, Jamesways use wooden arches covered by insulated cloth. The image
above (from January 14, for readers experiencing a sense of déjà vu) shows a typical
example of the structure.

Officially called Tent Frame Insulated Sectional M-1948, the Jamesway was created by
the James Manufacturing Company of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin for the Army Air Corps.
It was specifically designed for polar weather conditions which require rapid construc-
tion and adequate protection from wind and cold. The standard size is 16 feet square, further expandable lengthwise by four-foot segments. Most wonderful to me is that its
wooden packing crates were designed for reuse as the hut floor — recalling Shackle-
ton’s own repurposing of packing crates
. Talk about déjà vu!


A Jamesway’s interior can be as simple as our post-survival training retreat shown
above. Or it can contain several sections: sleeping quarters, a washing area, a kitchen,
a lab; areas often separated by heavy curtains.

Is there anything these structures aren’t capable of? Well, yes. Jamesways are deemed inadequate for permanent Antarctic housing due to privacy, space, light, and energy efficiency limitations, and were phased out as McMurdo berthing altogether by 1990.

Still, they live on as useful structures in field camps and at South Pole Station, and tomorrow we’ll look at what keeps them warm… to a degree.

Filed under: Items Reclaimed from the Ice — mbartalos @ 12:00 pm


  1. This is fascinating. It sounds like they were created in a very elegant fashion, and designed for maximum efficiency. The comment about the packing crates being used as flooring is particularly interesting. Wow.

    America is the Land of Plenty where we have historically had as many resources as we could possibly want. When you go to Antarctica, the constraints of the environment force certain design considerations.

    It would be interesting to find out how this has influenced your project.

    Comment by Donovan Rittenbach — July 8, 2009 @ 7:12 am

  2. Donovan, my project will indeed be influenced by various factors unique to Antarctica. For example I’ll be using U.S. Antarctic Program Waste Management Program data to compose my images to reflect the relative amounts of material in the waste stream. It’s a cool way to determine the art’s direction and gives the images their rhyme and reason. I’ll elaborate on this further with specific facts and figures in a not-too-distant future post.

    Comment by mbartalos — July 10, 2009 @ 12:20 am

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