On This Day – February 28th 1909
Shackleton & Wild Reach Hut Point
Nimrod Expedition 1907-1909
Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, Jameson Adams and Eric Marshall reached a new furthest South record of 88° 23′ S, on January 9th 1909, when they surpassed the previous record of 82° 17′ S, reached by Robert Scott, in December 1902. Shackleton who had accompanied Scott and Wilson on that occasion, had hoped to attain the South Pole under his own command, on the Nimrod Expedition, but after the difficult ascent of the Beardmore Glacier, which they had discovered, and named in honour of their chief sponsor, they had laboured in their efforts to traverse the Polar Plateau, and slowly realised that reaching the Pole was beyond them.
Shackleton calculated that there simply would not be enough food to sustain the men, over the distance required to reach the Pole, and the subsequent return march. On the 4th of January, Shackleton finally conceded defeat, and opted instead to target the consolation of getting to within 100 miles of the South Pole.
The team struggled on, man hauling their sledge across the Plateau, as the last of their ponies had died on the Beardmore. Finally on the 9th of January they made a last desperate dash, without the sledge or equipment, and on arriving at 82° 17′ S, they planted the British flag which had been presented to Shackleton by King Edward VII.
They had got to within 97.5 miles, of the Pole, and Shackleton’s decision to turn for home proved to be a very astute move. The Nimrod was scheduled, under Shackleton’s orders, to depart Antarctica on March 1st, and the race was now on to get to Hut Point before it left.
Despite being in very poor physical condition, and surviving on half rations, they made steady progress north, and reached the top of the Beardmore Glacier on January 19th.They needed to reach the Lower Glacier depot as quickly as possible, as they were practically out of food and their physical condition continued to deteriorate, especially that of Shackleton, though he heroically continued to work tirelessly.
They arrived at the depot on January 28th, at which point Wild was suffering badly from dysentery. A few days later they were all suffering from enteritis, which was probably a result of eating tainted pony meat. Their food shortage however, simply meant they could not break pace and they somehow maintained their progression north, knowing that any delay would more than likely prove fatal.
On February 23rd they arrived at Bluff Depot which to their overwhelming relief had been fully replenished by Ernest Joyce. Their food shortage was no longer a problem, but March 1st loomed large, and there was little time for delay. They continued forward but on February 27th Marshall collapsed around 38 miles from Hut Point. Shackleton decided that he and Wild would try and reach the Nimrod before its departure, and they left Marshall behind in the care of Adams.
Shackleton and Wild arrived at Hut Point late on February 28th, after an heroic effort – a feat which seldom gets the acclaim it truly merits. Wild and Marshall would be rescued three days later, and the entire party sailed out on March 4th 1909.
Eric Marshall, Frank Wild and Ernest Shackleton at their Farthest South latitude, 88°23’S. Nimrod expedition 9 January 1909.