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120112 | An Update On "Googies"

Almost every website and article that references Futuros refers to the "Googies" as modified Futuros; indeed my pages have always done the same but I 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 I 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] I intend to maintain my "Googie" pages and update and expand them as and when I have new information despite the fact that they are not in fact Futuros.

You will find more detailed information and history related to the "Googies" here.

Béchervaise Island, Antarctica | 67°35'13.22"S 62°48'30.86"E

Screen Capture From Virtual Antarctica Panoramic Video

Google Maps | Satellite Imagery Date 020806

Futuro, Googie, Bechervaise Island, Antarctica  
View Larger Map

Additional Image & "Virtual Tours"

Notes, History & Resources

The photo below is by cosrologist from 122907 and is displayed here with permission.

Futuro, Googie, Bechervaise Island, Antarctica - By cosrologist

Virtual Antarctica, cosrologist's website, has a couple of very cool Java based "virtual tours"; one showing the Googies and the surrounding environment here and a second showing the interior of one of the Googies here.

The "Googie"

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 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 the other at Brothers Point] and 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
Update 120112

With the kind assistance of several individuals [Jessica, Jonathan, Jan and Graeme - thank you all] who work at the AAD I am 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 Béchervaise Island "Googies" are concerned I do not yet have a complete history and some of the references report conflicting dates but one of these "Googies" were 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°6'23.36"S 73°43'16.13"E, I 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.

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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.

Googies - Spit Bay, Heard Island Approx 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 on Berchavaise Island, Hop 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.

One of these "Googies" came from Spit Bay. 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 a further two from Spit Bay and three remaining "Googies" - the two here on Béchervaise and the one on Hop Island. In an email thread the AAD confirmed that the Hop island "Googie" was one of the ones from Heard which leaves us with this fact; one of the Béchervaise "Googies" came from Heard; at this time I do not know the origin of the other.

Original Information 091611

The AAD bases its Penguin Monitoring Programs on Béchervaise Island located in the Mac. Robertson Land region of Antarctica.

There are two "Googies" [What is a "Googie" - see left for details] located on Béchervaise Island along with a couple of other buildings. One "Googie" is used for work while the other is used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating. lists the station on the page "Names of Australian Refuges, Medical Facilities & Accommodation Capacity"; the accommodations are described as follows:

"Accommodates 4-5 people (one Apple hut, 2 Googie huts and a storage shed). Contains food, fuel, cooking, heating and laboratory facilities. It is fully fitted out with equipment for five researchers and also has a radio telephone installed. Each hut has a list of instructions peculiar to its fittings and contents."

Penguin Pete's Diary provides us with some more detail on the camp and the role the "Googies" play as well as including some nice images.

Those who have visited seem to be enthusiastic about the experience; the ABC Science article "A visit to Béchervaise Island to get away from it all" is one such account. All I can say is good luck to the researchers, nature enthusiasts or whoever else visits; I appreciate and am often in awe of nature and I do enjoy travel - to a point - I like my home comforts way too much to be the next one recounting my adventure on Béchervaise Island.

The Google Earth satellite imagery showing the "Googies" is from back in 2006 but the AAD on this web page indicates the "Googies" are still in use on Béchervaise Island. The page has a "last updated" date of 062911 so I am taking that as the "confirmed" date for this location.

Sources & Reference
Got new, updated or corrected information or an image I could use?

I am always looking for additional information, history, details, images, videos; just about anything Futuro I guess - if you would like to contribute please use the Futuro Contact Form at the bottom of the main article or email me.

As far as images go I am particularly interested in those that are either significantly better than the ones already on this page or show a different aspect or detail. If you own an image meeting one or both of those criteria I would love to be able to use it on this page but I will simply provide a link if that is your preference. Where permission is granted to use an image on the page appropriate attribution will be provided by means of a link to the original image, a link to a website of your choosing or both.