How the loss of Shackleton’s Socks changed the course of Antarctic History
The Nimrod Expedition (1907 – 1909).
How the loss of Shackleton’s Socks changed the course of Antarctic History
On December 6th, 1908, as Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams scaled Antarctica’s Beardmore Glacier; Socks plummeted to his death, lost to one of the many crevasses that fractured the pathway to the polar plateau. He was the last to die, of the four ponies that had started the southern journey. Many of the unfortunate beasts had perished in Antarctica prior to the loss of Socks, and many more would die on subsequent expeditions, but the death of this particular pony would have ramifications that reverberate to this very day.
With each step, each mile and each expedition, the explorers of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration, gradually unravelled the enigmas, of the mysterious white continent. Between the years 1902 and 1911, Antarctica was considered the last great prize in exploration worth striving for. To garner support, and more importantly funding, each expedition sailed with the promise of scientific discovery, but at the heart of all quests was the ambition to be first to stand at the South Pole.
In 1901, Robert Falcon Scott’s DiscoveryExpedition, was the first to set off for Antarctica, with the intention of a ‘southern journey’. This was the term the explorers had coined for an assault on the South Pole. Scott’s effort commenced on November 2nd, 1902 and he took with him Third Officer, Ernest Shackleton, the expedition’s junior doctor and zoologist, Edward Wilson, and a party of sled dogs.
The course of their intended route to the pole can be broken down into three basic sections. A journey of roughly 450 miles, across the Great Ice Barrier was the first obstacle, and though they knew not what lay beyond, once completed, the explorers would find themselves at the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. The crevasse ridden glacier was a 120 mile expanse that rose 7,200 feet, to the polar plateau, which was the last section of the journey. From here, a trek of over 300 miles separated the men from their goal. Continue Reading →
Anchor From The Aurora – The Ross Sea Party
Anchor From The Aurora.
Picture Of The Day.
The Ross Sea Party had been tasked with laying the supply depots, that Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic team would avail of, having come through the Pole from the Weddell Sea. Of course this would never happen as the Endurance was held fast in the ice of the Weddell, and never even made landfall on Antarctica.
As the expeditions second ship, the Aurora sailed to the other side of the continent, through the Ross Sea, and made landfall at McMurdo Sound. They followed in the footsteps of Scott, and laid supply depots across the Ross Ice Shelf all the way to the foot of the Beardmore Glacier.
Tom Crean On Antarctica’s Polar Plateau – Christmas Day 1911.
Tom Crean On The Polar Plateau.
December 25th 1911.
The Terra Nova Expedition 1910-13.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s, assault on the South Pole began on November 1st 1911. The southern journey was a mammoth undertaking – a 900 mile march, on foot, with provisions being hauled on sledges. Dog teams and ponies played supporting roles to the physical efforts of the men, but once the team had reached the foot of the Beardmore Glacier, manpower was the only mode of progression.
The dog teams turned back at this point, and the last of the surviving ponies, including Crean’s pony Bones, were shot. Their meat was cached.
The journey can be summarised in three main stages;
1. Across The Barrier (Ross Ice Shelf), from their base at Cape Evans, to the foot of the Beardmore Glacier. A journey of approximately 400 miles.
2. Traversing the Beardmore Glacier. A steady climb of 10,000 feet over a 120 mile crevasse riddled glacier.
3. The Polar Plateau – From the top of the Beardmore to the South Pole. Approximately 380 miles.
Shambles Camp was the name given to their last Barrier depot, before the group began the ascent of the fearsome glacier. Three sledge teams began the treacherous clamber on December 10th, 1911:
Sledge 1 – Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans
Sledge 2 – E. Evans, Atkinson, Wright and Lashly.
Sledge 3 – Bowers, Cherry-Gerrard, Crean and Keohane.
On Friday , December 22nd the three teams had reached the top of the Beardmore, made their Upper Glacier depot, and Scott now had to decide which team would return to base, and who would forge ahead. There was no pre-planning by Scott, regarding returning teams, and decisions were made, it seems, only at the point when they needed to be made. This probably allowed Scott to monitor the physical and mental conditions of the men, and make his choices based on that diagnosis.
Man hauling on the Beardmore Glacier, December 13th 1911. Front from left – Cherry-Garrard and Bowers. Rear from left – Keohane and Crean, while Wilson pushes.
Atkinson, Wright, Cherry-Gerrard and the Irishman, Keohane, were selected to return, and begin the weary descent of the Glacier they had just scaled. “Affecting farewell’s” were made and the two sledge teams continued their heavy hauling south.
Sledge 1 – Scott, Wilson, Oates and P.O. Evans.
Sledge 2 – E. Evans, Bowers, Crean and Lashly.
Antarctic Huts – Frozen Time Capsules of the Heroic Age.
Scott’s Discovery Hut – Hut Point Antarctica.
Discovery Hut was built by Robert Falcon Scott during the Discovery Expedition of 1901–1904 in 1902 and is located at Hut Point on Ross Island by McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Visitors to Antarctica, arriving at either the US Base at McMurdo or New Zealand’s Scott Base are likely to encounter Discovery Hut as both are located on Hut Point. Discovery Hut is just 300m from McMurdo Base. The hut has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 18), following a proposal by New Zealand and the United Kingdom to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. Some confusion arises because Discovery Hut can correctly be referred to as Scott’s Hut, in that his expedition built it, and it was his base ‘ashore’ during the 1901–1904 expedition. But the title ‘Scott’s Hut’ correctly belongs to the building erected in 1911 at Cape Evans. Wikipedia. Continue Reading →
On This Day – January 8th 1902
Tom Crean’s First Glimpse of Antarctica
Having sailed from Lyttelton, New Zealand on 21st December 1901, aboard the expedition ship Discovery, with Captain Scott, Tom Crean caught his very first glimpse of Antarctica on January 8th, 1902. It must have been an overwhelming sight for the man, who had come from Annascaul in Co. Kerry, and now found himself at the end of the earth, staring upon a vast white landscape of seemingly never ending ice.
Looking at the black and white, and sepia tinted photographs and footage from the Discovery , and subsequent expeditions of the Heroic Age, it is easy to forget the beauty and marvel of Antarctica’s ever changing landscape, that would have greeted those that arrived there. From the towering ice cliffs of the
Barrier (now the Ross Ice Shelf) to the many surrealistically shaped ice bergs, sculpted by fracture, time and Antarctic winds, the majesty of the sights beheld by these Antarctic pioneers, was surely one of the factors, that compelled them to return there.
Tom Crean would have had little idea, on that day, that over a century later his name would be forever synonymous with Antarctica. He would spend many years there, over the course of three major expeditions, and spent more time on the unforgiving ice of the continent, than either of the more celebrated Scott and Shackleton.
His heroic acts of bravery, most notably his epic solo march to save the life of Lt. Edward Evans, on the Terra Nova Expedition, and his part in the voyage of the James Caird, and subsequent crossing of South Georgia, resonate more palpably today, than ever before.
Scott’s Southern Journey, Day 1 – Photo Gallery
Scott’s Southern Journey.
On This Day – November 1st 1911.
A collection of photographs taken on November 1st 1911, as Captain Robert Falcon Scott embarked upon his quest to be first to reach the South Pole. Prior to his departure, Scott had been tutored in the techniques of photography by the expedition’s photographer Herbert Ponting, as Ponting himself would not be part of the group that would venture southwards.
This enabled Scott to keep a visual record of the journey, and all of the images below, were captured on the very first day of the outward journey, and show the establishment of the first pony camp, along the route.
All images courtesy of Getty Images. Continue Reading →
The Last Place On Earth
The Last Place On Earth
A Central Television Production, 1985
The story itself is long over a century old, and this television production has notched three decades since its first airing. This is the story of Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, which was well under way, and southward bound, before Roald Amundsen announced his intention to beat them to the prize, and Scott suddenly found himself a contender, as well as an expedition leader. But most of all it is the tale of two groups of brave men who had ventured into the realm of the unknown, to claim the last place unknown to man – the South Pole.
The Last Place on Earth is a 1985 Central Television seven part serial, written by Trevor Griffiths based on the book Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford. The book is an exploration of the expeditions of Captain Robert F. Scott (played by Martin Shaw) and his Norwegian rival in polar exploration, Roald Amundsen (played by Sverre Anker Ousdal) in their attempts to reach the South Pole.
The series ran for seven episodes and starred a wide range of UK and Norwegian character actors as well as featuring some famous names, such as Max von Sydow, Richard Wilson, Sylvester McCoy, Brian Dennehy, and Pat Roach. It also featured performances early in their careers by Bill Nighy and Hugh Grant.
Subsequently Huntford’s book was republished under the same name. The book put forth the point of view that Amundsen’s success in reaching the South Pole was abetted by much superior planning, whereas errors by Scott (notably including the reliance on man-hauling instead of sled dogs) ultimately resulted in the death of him and his companions.
On This Day – September 10th 1904
Discovery Arrives at Plymouth.
British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04.
Generally known as the Discovery Expedition, The British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, was Britain’s first official foray into Antarctic climes since the 1839-1843 voyage of James Clark Ross, with HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
On 4 February 1902, Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, landed on the Barrier and unloaded an observation balloon, which Scott had brought along for the purpose of achieving aerial surveys. Scott himself was first to climb aboard the balloon and it rapidly ascended to a height of 180 m, but thankfully the balloon was firmly tethered. Ernest Shackleton piloted the second ascent, and as with Scott, the only thing observable even at that height, was the seemingly endless expanse of icy whiteness that constituted the Barrier. The expeditions junior doctor and zoologist, Edward Wilson privately noted that he thought the flights to be “perfect madness”.
The Discovery Expedition succeeded in its quest to undertake scientific studies in Antarctica, in fields as diverse as biology, zoology, geology, meteorology and magnetism. On the Western Journey, Antarctica’s only snow free valleys were discovered, in the western mountains of Victoria Land, and became known as The Dry Valleys.
The South Poll – Antarctica’s Greatest Hero
The ‘South Poll’ – Poll 1: Antarctica’s Greatest Hero.
Welcome to the first South Poll, which asks the simple question, ‘ Who in your opinion is Antarctic Exploration’s greatest hero?’ For some there is only one stand out hero, but for others, who admire the collective bravery of those who contributed so greatly to the Heroic Age, it is not so clear cut.
The list of candidates may not be extensive enough to satisfy everyone, and all are drawn from the period dubbed the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’. Below the poll is a very brief overview of the case for each candidate, and should you have any further argument for or against any of them, then please leave your thoughts, by using the Facebook Comment box. Once you are logged in to your Facebook account, you can comment freely, and please remember you can only vote once, so choose wisely!
The poll will run for 1 month.
Who is Antarctica's Greatest Hero?
- Tom Crean (49%, 132 Votes)
- Ernest Shackleton (30%, 80 Votes)
- Roald Amundsen (6%, 17 Votes)
- Douglas Mawson (6%, 17 Votes)
- Robert Falcon Scott (4%, 11 Votes)
- Lawrence Oates (2%, 6 Votes)
- Frank Wild (1%, 4 Votes)
- Frank Worsley (1%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 270
Continue Reading →
The Ice Of Antarctica
The Ever Changing Continent
If you have ever wondered as to how the crew of the Endurance, suddenly found themselves completely ensnared in the ice of the Weddell Sea, before they had even made landfall on the Antarctic continent, bearing in mind the prior experience of men like Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean, to mention but two, then take a look at this fascinating video, on the amazing and rapid formation of the regions sea ice.