The Chapel of the Snows and its history.

Part 2


To replace the chapel, volunteers converted a Quonset hut near the station’s main building. While they worked to complete this temporary
chapel, the Chalet served as the site for the community’s religious services. However, this building, which normally houses NSF and contractor offices, could not accommodate both Sunday morning services and daily administrative activities during the summer season. On Easter Sunday 1979, the temporary chapel was dedicated.

The current chapel was constructed over four summers and completed in 1989. Volunteers using salvaged material built the only know house of worship in Antarctica.

bluechapel1r.jpgThe McMurdo Station Chapel of the Snows sits on a knoll overlooking McMurdo Sound, the peaks and glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains, across the bay from Mount Discovery. It is the world’s southernmost building constructed for religious services.

From the March, 1989 Antarctic Journal..

New Chapel of the Snows dedicated at McMurdo Base

McMurdo Station once again has a permanent place of worship.

To commemorate this occasion, approximately 80 people gathered on Sunday, 29 January 1989 to dedicate the new Chapel of the Snows, which is the third chapel to be raised at the station. Just 840 miles from the South Pole, the Chapel of the Snows is the world’s southernmost building erected primarily for religious services. It also is the only known house of worship in Antarctica.
Situated on a knoll overlooking McMurdo Sound and the peaks and glaciers of the Transantarctic Mountains, the new chapel replaces the temporary building, a makeshift hut, that has been used for religious services and related activities for 11 years.

Chapel r.jpgPicture on the left

Stained glass window inside the Chapel of the Snows. The window overlooks McMurdo Sound. The Transantarctic Mountain Range can be seen in the distance on a clear day.

Dedication ceremony

The hour-long dedication ceremony attracted an overflow crowd from McMurdo Station and Scott Base, the nearby research station operated by New Zealand. The service included piano music, hymns, and readings from the Bible.

Lt. M. Brad Yorton, chaplain of the U.S. Navy’s Naval Support Force Antarctica, whose support includes religious services at the station, presided. Also participating in the ceremony were Ronald R. La Count, the senior U. S. representative in Antarctica at the time of the dedication; Captain Dwight Fisher and Commander John V. Smith, the commanding officers of the Naval Support Force Antarctica (NSFA) and the Antarctic Development Squadron Six (VXE-6); Neal Terry, personnel coordinator for ITT/ Antarctic Services, Inc, (NSF’s support contractor); and guest speaker Father Gerard Creagh from Hoon Hay Parish in Christchurch, New Zealand.

ChapelOfTheSnows at US Base Mc Murdo r.jpgMr. La Count described for the group the construction of the new chapel and recalled how volunteers had erected the station’s earlier Chapels
in their space time. He also cited official reports that documented over the years the significance of worship for those at the station, whose work took them far from their families and their home communities.
This service marked the second time that Father Creagh had participated in a ceremony to dedicate a site for religious services at McMurdo Station, as he was the invited speaker in 1979 when the community gathered for a similar service recognizing the makeshift chapel that has been replaced by the new structure.

In his address he praised those who built the chapel in just 4 months. “The result is truly deserving of the accolade found in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation: This is God’s dwelling among people.

Continuing, he noted that “Another chapter in the history of a unique operation is about to begin-a unique operation in peaceful cooperation and coexistence on the only continent that has no weapons, has known no class struggles or wars, and from which nuclear explosions and waste are banned by treaty.”

Although the original chapel and the temporary building were built entirely by volunteers, the new building was constructed as part of the National
Science Foundation’s plan to refurbish the McMurdo Station.
The 2,016-square-foot wood structure contains office space, a central worship area that normally seats 63, and McMurdo’s only organ.

Materials to complete the building were salvaged from older structures that were ripped down during the several-year rebuilding of the station.

Thanks and credit to the following web sites and to the writers of this articles from which we did take part of this notes.



The Chapel of the Snows and its history – Part 1- .
Antarctica’s first church in this site, was built in 1956 by volunteers using surplus materials. This building was destroyed by fire in 1978. The only things rescued were the chapel bell, two stained glass windows, and various small religious items. In 1979 a Quonset hut was remodelled to serve as chapel, and the building was dedicated in December. By 1982 another Chapel of the Snows had been built close to the original site (again with volunteer labour using salvaged material).

chapel11 r.jpgEarlier chapels

Chapel of the Snows had not appeared in the 1956 plans for McMurdo
Station. Religious services were to be held in the mess hall. In
preparation for Antarctic research to be conducted during the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958), U.S. Naval Construction Battalion personnel (Seabees) began building McMurdo Station during the 1955-1956 austral summer.
original plans for the station did not include a chapel; instead,
religious services were to be held in the station mess hall. However,
according to Admiral George Dufek, who commanded Deep Freeze I, “As
the construction of the buildings at McMurdo progressed a mysterious
pile of lumber, planks, nails, Quonset hut sections, and assorted
materials began to accumulate on a knoll overlooking the camp.”

The Chaplain, Father John C. Condit, and volunteers from the construction battalion gradually gathered enough materials to build what was to become the first Church ever erected in Antarctica. All of the work was done by volunteers after their daily duties were finished.
Admiral Dufek  noted: “The
men, after a hard day’s work, would drift over to the church site.
Before the main camp was finished a tidy neat church with a steeple was
to stand on a ridge overlooking the camp. Later it even had a bell,
procured from a small gasoline tanker.”

builditr.jpgWhen the Chapel of the Snows was
completed, Father Condit had the world’s most southern parish. For 22
years this simple building provided a place of worship for personnel not
only at McMurdo Station but also from nearby Scott Base.

excellent Antarctic Journal articles document the history of this
structure, and its replacement after the 1978 fire that destroyed it… (From the December, 1978 issue…

Chapel of the Snows destroyed).

On 22 August 1978, a
fire, believed to have begun in one of the buildings heaters, broke
out. The fire began in the rear heater room of the building about 5 a.m.
The fire crew fought the blaze successfully in the interior of the
chapel, but a sudden flare-up indicated that the fire had spread between
the interior and exterior shells along the top of the building. The
crew moved outside, but despite their efforts, fire soon engulfed the
structure, the flames covered the entire chapel.

that the fire would spread to the adjacent structure, Building 108, or
destroy the communications cables strung between poles near the front of
the chapel, the crew brought a bulldozer to the building and pushed in
its front. With the bulldozer, they isolated sections that were still
burning and dumped snow on them to keep sparks from flying in the
By 7:40 a.m.
the fire was under control but the chapel was destroyed. When the roof
of Building 108, adjacent to the chapel, began to smoulder, volunteers
shovelled snow onto the roof and sides of the building to protect it
from damage. A front-end loader finally knocked down the rest of the
chapel and pushed the rubble away from the cables and Building 108.
a few religious objects , all damaged, along with the chapel bell were
recovered from the rubble, otherwise the building and all its contents,
including historic memorabilia from Deep Freeze One and subsequent
winter crews, were a total loss.

Thanks and credit to the following web sites and to the writers of this articles from which we did take part of this notes.