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The Photographic Exhibition Poster
Following the highly successful 2014 Shackleton Autumn School at the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, the Museum has secured another coup: The Crossing of the Antarctica Photography Exhibition is being shown there for the first time in the Republic of Ireland.

The event runs from Saturday 25 October to Friday 5 December.

The Centre is famous for presenting major events relating to Antarctic Heritage, as well as local heritage in County Kildare, where Ernest Shackleton was born at Kilkea, between Castledermot and Athy, in 1874.

The view towards the imposing Athy Heritage Centre MuseumThe Heritage Centre, home of the Shacklton Autumn School and many influential exhibitions
The Crossing of Antarctica Exhibition: 'Photographs from the Journey that fulfilled Shackleton's Dream' tells the story of the completion of Sir Ernest Shackleton's projected Imperial Transantarctic Expedition: the first crossing of the great white continent by the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1955-58, commanded by Sir Vivian Fuchs and (at the New Zealand end) by Sir Edmund Hillary.

The exhibition features prints from the original film of the Expedition's pioneering polar photographer, the late George Lowe; and is complemented by artefacts and selected objects from private collections. Its visual narrative is based on the new book by Huw Lewis-Jones, published by Thames & Hudson.

The opening also saw the launch by celebrated singer-actor Aidan Dooley of Michael Smith's new book on the 'Boss': Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer.

A book accompanying the exhibition is on sale in the Museum.

The 2013 School. Athy is close to Kilkea, Ernest Shackleton's birthplaceThe 2014 Shackleton School, a success on all frontsThe 2012 Shackleton School - another success
As usual, the 2014 Shackleton Autumn School was packed with events. Huw Lewis-Jones, former Historian and Curator of Art at the Scott-Polar Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge, and before that curator of Imperial and Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich led off the series of lectures at the 2014 Shackleton School, which included an interview with Michael Smith and pertinent lectures by Rorke Brian, and on aspects of the Arctic by P. J. Capelotti and Leah Devlin.

The widely experienced hstorian and cultural expert Huw Lewis-Jones
Huw Lewis-Jones
The Shackleton School Annual Dinner was at the beautifully appointed Palladian De Burgh Manor, on the River Barrow, north of Athy near the border with County Laois. Tim Jarvis presented 'Never the lowered banner – The Shackleton Epic Expedition', a resume of the great achievements of his doughty six-man team in February 2013. Others who spoke were Dinah Molloy, Jim Mayer ('Shackleton - A Life in Poetry') and, particularly fascinatingly, Rip Bulkeley lecturing on some of the earliest Antarctic history - 'The Bellingshausen opportunity: the Russian Antarctic Expedition, 1819-1821', reminding us that there was a previous Polar golden age - that of Bellingshausen, Weddell, Ross and Franklin.

Rip Bulkeley's significant book on Bellingshausen
Cultural events included The Island at the Top of the World, a Walt Disney Arctic journey film fantasy, and most importantly, at the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Carlow, the world premiere of Shackleton's Endurance, a specially commissioned work in words and music by Brian Hughes, with narrative by John MacKenna, which embraces the whole Endurance story from the optimistic launch of the expedition in 1914 to the relief at the rescue from Elephant Island in August 1916. Central to the performance were the Kildare County Orchestra and the Monasterevin Gospel Choir. The visual backdrop was designed by Craig Blackwell. A CD, 'Shackleton's Endurance', was launched to coincide with this important event.

Characterful composer  Brian Hughes, complete with tin whistle (photo Robert Redmond)




A famous man and a famous venue. The newly knighted Sir Ernest Shackleton returns to his old school, Dulwich College in south-east London
This autumn, as a further contribution to the developing Shackleton Endurance (Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition) Centenary, and in quick succession to his magnificent Centenary Book featuring selected articles from past Journals, Stephen Scott-Fawcett has issued the latest James Caird Society Journal (No. 7).

The characterful historic menu sent in to the Editor by Michael Culham of Farnham, Surrey. It is signed by Shackleton and Wild. Gerald Christy was the literary agent who arranged speaking tours for Shackleton and other well known figures
As the Editor says, the time is indeed apposite, as the centenary of Shackleton and the Endurance begins. With the prospect of a full resume of Tim Jarvis's 2013 expedition aboard the Alexandra Shackleton and mountain crossing of South Georgia - all in accurate replicas of the clothing Shackleton and his colleagues wore - in the Spring 2016 Journal, as the Centenary draws to a head, Stephen concentrates first in this edition on Trevor Potts and his expedition - the one that started a flurry of reenactions - in December 1993 and January 1994.

This edition of the Journal will be all the more prized for the many new and unfamiliar photographs the Editor has selected for inclusion. They in themselves tell a remarkable tale - of heroism, of initiative, of research.

Trevor Potts with his now legendary boat the Sir Ernest Shackleton, which in 1993-4 effected the first reenaction of Shackleton's 800 mile boat crossing
Trevor Potts is something of a legend among Shackletonians, and his dedication to the Shackleton cause will make this emphasis especially welcome to those who remember the founding of the Society, back in 1994, for which Trevor's journey with three colleagues (Vicki Brown, Robert Egelstaff and Chris Smith) in an unaccompanied boat, the Sir Ernest Shackleton, gave added impetus.

What makes this so timely is that the 'Shackleton Boat Project' has led to the bringing south from Scotland of Trevor's James Caird replica, the Sir Ernest Shackleton, for restoration and permanent display at the Scott-Polar Research Institute in Cambridge (SPRI), with support from the Society and particularly from Stephen Scott-Fawcett and Alastair and Virginia Woodrow, who were also generously behind the funding and building of the Sir Ernest Shackleton. Ginny is the daughter of the Society's founder, Harding McGregor Dunnett.

Trevor braves the heaving seas of the southern Ocean aboard Sir Ernest ShackletonTrevor squeezes into the very bath that Shackleton used on South Georgia
Trevor describes in detail the conditions - snow and icy spray falling on the boat at night, 'cramped fetid conditions' (though happily no seasickness) and the wind up 'at the top end of a force 7'. Approaching King Haakon Bay they suffered the same nightmare experience as Shackleton - not the loss of their sea anchor, but a very severe gale (WSW) and horizontal blizzard. The danger was not so much that they might not make land here, but that they might be dashed to pieces or violently capsize on the southern (western) coast of South Georgia. Struggling to break out northwards in next to nil visibility, Trevor - a veteran yachtsman and kayaker with many rough experiences behind him - described this as 'the longest day of my life'. Eventually more protected sailing was achieved on the short north coast and the badly shaken boat and its four yachtsmen put in safely at Elsehul harbour.

In particular, Trevor remembers with pleasure the delight they all felt in calling London and being put through to the London Boat Show, where the original James Caird was being displayed under the watchful eyes of Harding Dunnett and Alexandra Shackleton. In a way, that provided the crew with a journey back in time, and a feeling of direct touch with the very reason for their reenaction voyage. If a full crossing of the mountains eluded them, Trevor was indeed the first to skipper a reenactment of the boat journey.

Sir Ernest and Dame Janet meet up with some of their wellwishers in Ramsgate
Many will be pleased to see due honour paid to the memory of Janet Stancomb-Wills, adopted daughter of one of the tobacco industry's giants, H. O. Wills, and joint heiress to the family tobacco fortune. Laura Probert has researched and written about Dame Janet, a local worthy in the best tradition who remained a close supporter, confidante and substantial sponsor of Ernest Shackleton until his death and also of his family. She became the first woman Mayor of Ramsgate in 1923. One of the three lifeboats that made it to Elephant Island Shackleton formally named after her, so at this centenary a commemoration of this great, generous-hearted lady is all the more appropriate.

The name Oscar Montell (1892-1983) is less familiar to most Shackleton enthusiasts, but a striking entry on the James Caird Society FORUM has led on to a valuable piece about one of the four or so personnel who sailed from the UK aboard Endurance, but for differing reasons were not involved in what proved the hazardous journey into the ice of the Weddell Sea.

Oscar Montell, whose presence among the outbound crew of the Endurance is now confirmed
Montell's great-nephew, Peter Green, has researched carefully the background of his late mother's uncle, conscious of a family legend that Montell sailed with Worsley and the crew aboard Endurance. His article is beautifully written, coherently argued, and exemplary in the care that he has taken not to jump to conclusions, but to seek out documents including the original log of the ship's crew deposited at the National Archive in Kew, which firmly proved the 22 year old Montell's participation. Where possible, he reproduces the actual documents. What remains unclear - so far - is the reason he left the ship at Buenos Aires. It is by no means implied that he was involved in a brawl that led to two others being cashiered. But rather it means that another name is added to our register of those connected with Endurance.

A relatively benign view of Elephant Island
Elephant Island was of course at the centre of the Endurance story: cold and inhospitable in many ways, but an absolute lifeline to the marooned and shipwrecked explorers. Tom Sharpe, who has already celebrated the close connections between Captain Scott and Cardiff, has written for Journal No 7 a fascinating and scholarly study of the geology of the island. In it, he has paid special attention to the strenuous efforts of James (later Sir James) Wordie to ensure some samples were retrieved from Elephant Island and brought home aboard the Yelcho. Wordie emphasised his certainty that the rocks did not match those already collected from the South Shetlands, to which Elephant Island nominally belongs; in fact it was later shown they are indeed closer to the South Orkneys.

A map of the distinctively shaped Elephant Island, part of the South Shetlands but with some interesting geological background
Tom Sharpe also pays due homage to the work of Gilbert Douglas (1892-1958), the Canadian geologist aboard Shackleton's Quest, which under Wild's leadership visited Elephant Islamd in 1922, following Shackleton's untimely death, anchoring there on 26 March. Douglas's finds were later written up by others. Not directly connected but of great interest is the landing on neighbouring Clarence Island by a Norwegian expedition in 1928, whose samples were donated like those of Wordie to Glasgow's Hunterian Museum, and the participation of Scout James Marr of the Quest (1902-65), by later a scientist of some standing, in a 1937 landing on Gibbs Island, which resulted in another treasure trove of rare and distinctive specimens, Marr became a key figure in the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey Antarctic expeditions, acting also as head of Port Lockroy base. For this later activity he was awarded the Polar Medal. Marr was followed more recently by the Scottish geologist Ian Dalziel, who made three visits to Elephant Island between 1970 and 1976 camping there for five days on the first, by which time there was a firm understanding of how Elephant Island (like the Antarctic Peninsula) lay along the very edge of the great continental breakaway some 40 million years ago.

Read the story of the Scout competition to serve aboard the Quest, won by the young James Marr

Stephen Scott-Fawcett himself performs a considerable service in drawing attention to the other great Antarctic explorers of the Heroic Age, offering a pen picture of the achievements of each.

Not only Swedish-Norwegian, but French, German, Belgian, Australian, American, Scottish, Irish, English and even Japanese pioneers played a role in the exploration of the great white continent. Thus the great Otto Nordenskjöld, Adrien de Gerlache and Wilhelm Filchner all receive apt tributes. One has to remember that Shackleton often felt far more at home with his continental contemporaries and rivals than with his UK-based colleagues. It was from de Gerlache that he bought the Stavanger-built Polaris, which became the Endurance. Nor should William Speirs Bruce's successful 1902-4 expedition, which saw the naming of the extensive Coats Land coast to the east of the Weddell Sea, be forgotten.

Honouring a great Antarctic Explorer: the Belgian Adrien de Gerlache, from whom Shackleton purchased the Norwegian-built Polaris and renamed it Endurance
This overview by the Editor sits very nicely alongside the next item. Michael Smith, who has done so much to commemorate in print significant Endurance figures including Tom Crean and Sir James Wordie, has recently published a new book on the 'polar greats' who hailed from Ireland, described by the Editor as 'a must-read'. Here he pays tribute to Edward Bransfield from County Cork (c1785-1852), after whom the most famous strait off the Antarctic Peninsula was named (by James Weddell), and who is argued to be the first man to sight Antarctica (others say it was the Russian, Bellingshausen).

The first view of Antarctica - or the second? Edward Bransfield in the eastern Weddell Sea
His subjects encompass Francis Crozier (1796-1848 or later), the northern Irishman engaged in two Arctic expeditions in search of the North West Passage 1821-7, commander of HMS Terror on Sir James Clark Ross's Antarctic expeditions (1835-1843), and who took over command of Franklin's doomed North West Passage expedition but perished himself; Robert Forde (1875-1959) and Patrick Keohane (1879-1950), both from County Cork and members of Scott's Terra Nova expedition. These vital Polar fugures are set alongside tributes to the Antarctic veteran Tom Crean and the McCarthy brothers from Kinsale, Mortimer and Timothy. A longstanding member of the James Caird Society, Michael Smith will be lecturing in the UK as well as Ireland over the next few months; in particular, at Sydenham Community Library, close to the Shackleton family home, on Tuesday 18 November at 7.00. Details of events are at

Tom Crean (1877-1938) in County Kerry towards the end of his life
Other articles are strikingly wide-ranging and will appeal to a host of different interests: by John Youle, who discusses Polar Philately: the sheer number of fascinating stamps, multicolour or monochrome, illustrated here, many from South Georgia and the Falklands, and all beautifully well-defined, makes Volume Seven a special treat; the depiction of the arrival of Crean, Shackleton and Worsley at Stromness is a particular treat; Lt. Pardo, who commanded the Yelcho in the successful rescue bid, also features on a Chilean stamp.

Shackleton's cabin on Endurance, with the Encyclopedia clearly visible on the shelves. All the Endurance crew were able to borrow consult it.
Shackleton's Encylopedia Britannica is discussed by Meredith Hooper, who is currently penning a work about Shackleton and Endurance for the BBC: a decided blessing for the Endurance aas well as Aurora crews, as it was for Mawson's men a couple of years earlier. Bob Headland celebrates the well-maintained historic Norwegian whalers' church at Grytviken, capacity 200, consecrated in 1913 so recently enjoying its centenary.

Bob pays special attention to the role played by Captain Carl Anton Larsen, both at the outset and subsequently up to his death at the Ross Sea in 1924; his family still remains in touch and it is Capt. Larsen's foundations that largely and generously fund the ongoing well-being of the building.

Our partners the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust's view over Shackleton's restored hut at Cape Royds towards the volcanic Mount Erebus
Nigel Watson, Executive Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT), former patron Sir Edmund Hillary, whose New Zealand branch - the Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project - oversaw the renewal of the Cape Royd hut and led to the discovery in early 2006 of cases of Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky under Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds. This is turn gave rise to the celebrated new - hopefully identical - blend produced recently by the originaL maker's successor, Whyte & Mackay.

The announcement of the discovery created a press frenzy, with well near a thousand stories being printed worldwide, as the first crate was transported to New Zealand by the US Air Force and a slow process of defrosting the ice inside was undertaken. The majority of bottles were undamaged. Richard Paterson of Whyte and Mackay was able to announce that analysis revealed a 'light, floral taste' quite distinct from the peatier whiskies of today. Once a replica had been produced under his supervision, the original test bottles were repatriated to New Zealand and the crates to Cape Royds.

One of the Mackinlay's whisky bottles which enabled Whyte and Mackay to blend afresh their light, floral-taste 'Shackleton Whisky'
With a generous selection of letters and short book reviews revealing that over the 2014-15-16 Centenary very considerable ongoing interest in Shackleton can be guaranteed, Journal no. 7 is as instructive treat for all Society members and for any other lucky readers who can lay their hands on a copy.




The James Caird Society's President, the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, will be one of the speakers at a discussion entitled 'Antarctica: Truth and Legend', to be hosted by the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts on Saturday, 31 May.

The three speakers: Meredith Hooper, Alexandra Shackleton, Jesse Blackadder
The venue will be King's College, London, the Strand Campus. The two other speakers will be Meredith Hooper and award-winning novelist Jesse Blackadder. The Session will run from 4 to 5 p.m..

Read about the event

The cost is £10 (£8 for concessions). Details and how to book your place at the discussion can be found at the AusNZ Festival website,

a view of Antarctica from the New Zealand/Australia side
Over 100 years since the Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Shackleton's friend and colleague Sir Douglas Mawson took place, the fascination with Antarctica endures.

It has spawned a wealth of literary fiction and countless biographies, but where does the truth end and the legend begin?

The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton is President of the James Caird Society who work to preserve the legacy of her grandfather, Sir Ernest Shackleton and to support further research and exploration.

She will be joined by the Australian-born Antarctica expert, author and historian Meredith Hooper. In 1994 she was selected by The Australian Antarctic Division to visit Antarctica as a writer; and was subsequently chosen by the US National Science Foundation to visit Antarctica as a writer in 1998-1999 and 2001-2002, on their Antarctica Artists Writers Program. Her writings include the celebrated children's book 'A for Antarctica')

Read more about Meredith Hooper

.....her life, her likes and dislikes.....

With them will be Jesse Blackadder, whose book Chasing The Light: A novel of Antarctica tells the tale of the first woman to reach Antarctica. Her novel for younger readers, Stay: The Last Dog in Antarctica was published in 2013.

Read about Jesse Blackadder

They will discuss what draws them to this inspirational landscape, and why the facts and fictions of Antarctica continue to enthral.

Literature and Arts Festival




James Caird IV precedes HMS Protector in less choppy waters
Also on the subject of HMS Protector (see next news feature), The News in Portsmouth has reported an update on this rather moving story.

Sailors on board HMS Protector have returned a stone to an isolated grave 75 years after it was removed by a young rating.

Joseph Collis served on board HMS Ajax when it anchored in South Georgia in 1937. During a brief visit to Grytviken, the former whaling station, Collis, still virtually a teenager, was one who visited the grave site of Sir Ernest Shackleton; and being moved by the experience, decided to pocket a piece of green granite as a trophy.

But the decision stirred remorse within the sailor, who always regretted taking the stone. Now Portsmouth-based HMS Protector has fulfilled his long-held wish to return it to its rightful place.

Captain Rhett Hatcher, HMS Protector's commanding officer, said: 'HMS Protector was pleased to be able to carry the stone on what was the last leg of its long journey. Returning the missing stone to Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave made an excellent finale to our period completing important work with the government of South Georgia and members of the South Georgia Heritage Trust.'

Captain Rhett Hatcher displays the absconding stone in its ceremonial case, prior to entrusting it to the grave In one of his first duties as commander of HMS Protector, Captain Hatcher formally returns the stone to the grave
Joseph Collis died in November 2012, at the age of 95, but it was one of his last wishes to see the stone returned.

At his funeral, Joseph’s son, Malcolm, recounted his father's remorse at taking the stone, and pledged to see it returned. Malcolm Collis contacted the government of South Georgia and asked for assistance. Touched by his story, the government said it was happy to help, and arranged for Malcolm to send the stone to HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Hants.

The stone was then flown to the South Atlantic and passed on to the first ship heading for South Georgia: HMS Protector. The Portsmouth-based ice patrol ship has been tasked to visit Grytviken to collect hydrographic data. So Captain Hatcher seized the opportunity to replace the stone, ending its 8,000 mile journey around the world.

AB Olayemi from HMS Protector's crew joins Captain Hatcher at the graveside. It was particularly apt in that Shackleton insisted that all the crew of Endurance should be treated the same, and where viable officers were expected to 'muck in' with the men. Leading Seaman Scott Black is presented by Captain Rhett Hatcher with the Long Service and Good Conduct medal after 17 years of unblemished service with the Royal Navy
Malcolm Collis said: 'That the stone has finally returned to its rightful place after 75 years is fitting. I would like to thank the Royal Navy for helping my late father fulfil his long-held wish.'

[Joseph retained the relatively small stone as a treasured keepsake throughout his adult life. His feeling it was important perhaps showed discernment and a respect for courage and adventure in the young man.

Since he survived to the grand old age of 95 - double Shackleton's age - it would be nice to think that his trust in Sir Ernest gave him just a bit of help along the path to such an august age!]




HMS Protector
From Captain Peter Sparkes BSc(Hons), Royal Navy
Commanding Officer
BFPO 367

[An extended and interesting letter from the skipper of Royal Navy polar research ship HMS Protector, shortly before his last tour of duty ended in the Falklands. After 30 months in charge, Captain Peter Sparkes has handed over command in March to Captain Rhett Hatcher, and will move on to Services Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood.]

21st February 2013

Dear Families and Friends,

Captain Peter Sparkes, for two and a half years the commander of the British Antarctic ship HMS Protector
Greetings from the western Antarctic Peninsula: as I write this, we are now well into our third of four patrols of this deployment, conducting survey and shore operations off Detaille Island (66-51S / 66-50W). The last month has been a most eventful one as we concluded a busy 2nd ice work period and passaged to and from a successful port visit to Montevideo in Uruguay.

Since I last wrote to you, we visited the US base at Palmer, the Spanish and Argentine bases in Deception Island, important ecological and wildlife sites at Pleaneu Island, Green Island, Petermann Island; and also the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust base at Port Lockroy.

A great ship with a great task to perform: HMS Protector HMS Protector
Science, Research and Exploration are all benefiting from the work of  HMS ProtectorHMS Protector in dock
Lockroy was a whaling base from 1911-1931, a Royal Navy base during WWII and a Falkland Islands Dependency Service (FIDS) base throughout the 1950s and 60s. We had been tasked to bring various supplies to the (now civilian) team of 4 who operate there in very austere conditions. Lockroy is one of the few places which offer a postal service from Antarctica and this stop provided another opportunity for the ship’s company to go ashore for a leg stretch and the much coveted "Antarctica" passport stamp, and to purchase one of the newly released HMS Protector First Day Covers.

Our team of Royal Marine Mountain Leader and cold weather specialists also took 2 teams of 9 for an overnight ‘camping’ expedition on the ice to enable the ship’s company to experience some of the challenges that this tough but beautiful wilderness can present. Despite sub-zero temperatures, the Marines demonstrated how, with the right equipment and the right skills, survival in even the harshest environments is quite possible; although those who went tell me they would draw the line at saying 'comfortable'.

Our work in support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has also continued apace. The BAS team were able to extract ancient permafrost moss cores, some over 2 metres deep, which are now stored in the ship’s freezers and will be returned to BAS HQ in Cambridge for analysis once the ship returns to the UK.

The scientists estimate that some of the material in these samples dates back 3,000 years. The mosses capture carbon dioxide as they grow and by examining the amount of carbon dioxide captured in this way, they can estimate how the atmosphere has changed over that time, thus adding to our understanding of climate change and global warming.

In addition to our site visits and scientific work we have also continued with our surveys of the still largely uncharted Antarctic; this was a lower priority in January, but it represents the bulk of our tasking during the current patrol. That completed, it was time to head north out of the icy waters.

HMS Protector approaches the narrow and treacherous Lemaire Channel, gateway to western Antarctica
Heading further north than usual between patrols we began to experience the genuine pleasure of the South Atlantic summer and almost tropical climes; as the temperature began to thaw, so too did the mood. Entertainment included late night film showings, abseiling down the ship’s superstructure and a fancy dress tug-o-war.won by the Engineering Department.

A direct link: the motorboat named James Caird IV aboard HMS Protector, her homeshipJames Caird IV afloat with HMS Protector in the background
After what had been a very busy five weeks at sea, we were in much need of supplies, fuel and some respite from the sea and swell - so South America and Montevideo were a welcome sight indeed. As we found out last year, Uruguayan hospitality remains very warm and vibrant and everyone greatly enjoyed the visit.

Having departed Uruguay our attention turned to the key focus of the 3rd patrol, the hydrographic survey work of the western of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Grandidier Strait and Crystal Sound.

HMS Protector was called in to rescue a party of geologists from James (Clark) Ross Island, off the eastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, to the north east of which lies Shackleton's destination, Elephant Island: A stop along the way. An arduous journey leads HMS Protector to Detaille Island, off the Arrowsmith Peninsula, 700 nautical miles south of Cape Horn
Antarctica is sometimes described as the last great frontier of wilderness in that much of the waters around it remain uncharted, and some of those which do have charts were created 150 years ago, using a lead line (essentially a weight on a piece of thin rope), a sextant, and a magnetic compass. Today we are thankfully much better equipped! That said there are still times when the low tech way is still the best and when alongside in Montevideo, the good old fashioned lead line made an appearance to check our depth at the berth given the very high silt levels we had observed in the harbour.

Whilst relatively accurate in shallow water the lead line, is both time consuming and largely ineffective over expansive deep areas. It can only tell the surveyor what is directly below at that point, meaning that the ship has to steer over potential hazards to locate them.

HMS Protector
We have been tasked by the UK Hydrographic Office to map the sea bed in areas of relatively high shipping traffic flow, using our sophisticated underwater equipment, to improve the safety of navigation in these challenging sea ways. Protector and James Caird's multi-beam echo sounders can look out either side of the ship, clearing a swath of safe water which the ship or boat can then turn into; they can also provide some outstanding 3D data and imagery.

Finally, and on a personal note, I am due to hand over command to Capt Rhett Hatcher when we conclude this patrol in the Falklands on 14th March, so this will be my final letter to you from HMS Protector. It has been the most extraordinary privilege to command this unique vessel, the finest Ice Patrol Ship in the Royal Navy, and her fantastic company; it has certainly been the highlight of my 23 years in the Royal Navy.

HMS Protector's crew in a colourful celebratory lineup
I am indebted not only to the ship’s company for their hard work and dedication which has helped make it so, but to families including my own, friends, and loved ones, without whose support and forbearance we would not have been able to deliver even a fraction of what we have done over the last two years.

Peter Sparkes

Captain Rhett Hatcher, Peter's successor, was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia and attended Grammar School in Somerset before joining Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth as a Midshipman in 1985.




Chaine des Aravis above Combloux, France
Following the opening and private viewing of Alps to Antarctica, the Exhibition of Paintings and Studies by Rowan Huntley, the exhibition will be open to the public until near the end of 2012.

The Display can be visited until Christmas this year, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Non members of the Club by prior arrangement, please.)

Venue: The Alpine Club, 55 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3QF (Tel: 020 7613 0755).

Nordenskjold Peak and Mt. Roots, South Georgia
Featuring the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia, together with the Alpine regions of Bregaglia, Engadine, Kleine Scheidegg, Zermatt and Mont Blanc, and notably west Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord (40,240 ha), the sea mouth of Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, one of the fastest glaciers in the world (travelling 19 miles per day), through which the Greenland ice cap reaches the sea.

Visit the Alpine Club's website for more details

Rowan Huntley was the first painter to be awarded an Artist's Residency by the Friends of the Scott-Polar Research Institute in association with the Royal Navy. In 2010 she spent a month on board HMS Scott during her first deployment to the Antarctic Peninsula. She returned as Artist in Residence with Oceanwide expeditions, visiting South Georgia together with the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Artist of rugged landscape: visit Rowan Huntley's website for more information on her work
Visit Rowan Huntley's website

Logo of the Alpine Club, London




Full map of Antarctica, which also shows the various countries' territorial claims
On 12 September 2012 members of the UK House of Commons debated the fate and future of Antarctica, in anticipation of a bill to be introduced for its second reading on 2 November by Mr. Neil Carmichael, the Conservative member for Stroud.

The purpose of today’s discussion, he explained, is to highlight the importance of the Antarctic, to underline the need to protect its environment, to recognise its important role in our global climate and to strengthen the argument for a British presence there.

The debate coincided with the centenary of Captain Scott's ill-fated journey to the South Pole; he applauded the important scientific work that Scott set in motion on both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions - a spirit and achievement that need to be continued. He also praised Sir Peter Scott, the explorer's son, who was aged just two when his father died, for his urging of the need to protect the Antarctic, as well as his work with wildlife which included a leading role in establishing the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, within my own constituency of Stroud. He also recommended Sara Wheeler's book Terra Incognita.

Robert Scott, captured in a very striking portrait photoSir Peter Scott, the eminent wildlife specialist and conservation pioneer. He was just two when his father died after the successful attempt on the Pole
Andrew Smith PC (Labour, Oxford East), agreeing that Antarctica is uniquely important scientifically, climatically and environmentally, urged the need for the protection of fauna and flora alike by strict enforcement of the restriction on resource exploitation and unregulated fishing in Antarctica. It was confirmed that the bill would strengthen precisely those protection mechanisms.

Noting the Antarctic has a crucial and pivotal role in regulating the earth’s climate - the Southern ocean being a massive sink for CO2 - its fragility is widely recognised. Statistics reveal that eight-seven percent of the world's glaciers are in reatreat: in the past 30 years the air temperature has risen by 3° C and the sea temperature by 1° C.

Later passages in the bill will be about protecting marine life, vertebrates and other living creatures. The Antarctic is a sacred part of the globe. We must treat it as such and recognise that it is fragile. It is a subject of interest across the globe, as the international Antarctic treaty makes clear, which is why we must strengthen the treaty’s structure by recognising its place in our domestic law in the UK.

A Norwegian stamp issue celebrates the Antarctic Treaty and Amundsen's achievementBelgium commemorates the 1959 signing of the Antarctic Treaty and its own explorers, preeminently De Gerlache
Among the earliest signatories of the treaty was the United StatesRussia, then the USSR, was also one of the 12 original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. This stamp celebrates her scientific pioneering in the region
Due to both overfishing and environmental changes, the number of krill — a relatively common, shrimp-like creature, stuffed full of protein — is starting to decrease. Indeed, marine life needs to be protected. That area of water alone contains 120 species of fish, which we have an obligation to protect and defend.

This is an example of krill from the northern and Arctic seas, known as Meganyctiphanes norvegicaThis right hand one is found in the southern seas and around Antarctica
This orange hue lends a surprising beauty to this modest crustacean Antarctic krill in action
Britain has been a key leader in that process, and a great part in the Antarctic, recognising the pivotal role the area plays. Now is the time to demonstrate leadership, as more and more nations become interested in the Antarctic. Likewise Britain's interests in the region, including The Falklands and their South Georgia dependency, also need protecting.

A simple map of the various countries' claims. Note the longstanding conflict of the British claim with those of Chile and Argentina: this remains an issue even todayA more complex but instructive presentation of the territorial claims
Mr James Gray (Conservative, North Wiltshire) took it that there was no intention necessarily to ban any form of human activity in such a fragile environment: fishing and exploration for oil and minerals may well be beneficial in some ways to the economy and the environment of the Antarctic.

The key point, said Mr. Carmichael, is that if pollution occurs, the polluter pays, and should thus be appropriately insured. This key issue - equally relevant to other regions including, notably, the Arctic - will feature in the proposed bill. Although Britain and other countries need people down there, they must conduct their activity in a responsible way that protects the Antarctic and does not threaten or damage it. Unacceptably, there have been twelve significant shipping incidents in the region in five years. That again underlines the need to protect the area.

The British Antarctic Survey - cornerstone of Britain's beneficial presence in the Antarctic
The role of the BAS remains of decisive importance in securing our presence in the Antarctic and in researching its geological history and its relevance to how the earth developed. Climate change has been an issue for centuries. If we drill into the ice, we can look back over 800,000 years to explore what has happened in the past. Continued scientific exploration is crucial.

It is in the British interest to succour and protect the whole Antarctic region for future generations; and to ensure that global climate in relation to the southern continent is properly understood; and hence that Britain continues to deliver the necessary leadership in the region.

Shackleton and Scott commemorated on a single stamp issued by the Ross Dependency which since 1923 has been administered by New Zealand
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Mark Simmonds, noted that Antarctica is the world’s fifth largest continent, nearly twice the size of Australia. The debate is timely because of the centenary of Captain Scott’s expedition and the coming celebrations of Ernest Shackleton’s famous exploits on the Endurance.

Ernest Shackleton's powers of endurance, like those of his men, were phenomenal even in the most dire straits and most perishing low temperaturesSir Ernest Shackleton at his desk following the return of the Nimrod expedition
The UK has the oldest sovereign claim, stretching back to 1908, to any part of Antarctica, and has maintained a strong permanent presence since 1943. As a nation, Britain should be proud of its continuing presence in the region, provided by dedicated members of the British Antarctic Survey and the Royal Navy’s ice patrol ship HMS Protector.

MP Neil Carmichael, who is promoting a bill to enhance protection of the 'fragile' Antarctic Mark Simmonds, The Foreign Office minister, has confirmed that the British Government approves of the aims of the Protection of the Antarctic bill and will support it
The current level of UK activity in the region, particularly scientific research and tangential matters, will not change. The UK is firmly committed to upholding the Antarctic treaty system, and takes exercising its responsibilities towards the proper governance and environmental protection of the British Antarctic territory extremely seriously, without being complacent, but looking consistently at how best to protect and promote the future of the continent.

Britain has a highly positive influence upon the Antarctic treaty system. It would be hard to find an international treaty that has been more powerful, influential and successful in preventing unnecessary conflict and exploitation. The essential environmental provisions of that treaty were brought into domestic law by the Antarctic Act 1994, but it is right that we continue to review the importance and the workings of the legislative architecture surrounding Antarctica.

A meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Committee held in Edinburgh, ScotlandThe platform presiding over a recent Antarctic Treaty Committee meeting, displaying the national flags of the signatories
That is why we are particularly delighted that my Hon. Friend [Mr. Neil Carmichael] has introduced his Bill to Protect the Antarctic. The UK is already committed, absolutely rightly, to implementing such provisions and related ones into domestic law. I am confident that the provisions set out in the first part of the Bill offer a targeted, proportionate and reasonable way to implement our international obligations. They will ensure that those organising Antarctic expeditions and other tours take preventive measures and establish contingency plans to reduce the risk of environmental emergencies, and that they secure insurance and other financial security for response action in the event of such an emergency, such as - particularly - oil leakage from a ship or other vessel, so as to make a practical difference to protecting the Antarctic environment and its wildlife, as well as to enhancing Britain’s international leadership and strategic interests.

The Brazilian ship Endless Sea capsized and sank in 12 metres (39 feet) of icy water in May 2012. The ship carried about 2,100 gallons of oil. The exact amount of the oil escape could not initially be gauged by divers due to the harrowing conditions.The MS Explorer hit an iceberg 2007. 50,000 gallons of diesel, 6,300 of lubricant and 260 of gasoline were aboard when she sank, a major threat to penguins, seals, sealions, seabirds, krill, algae & plankton - all key elements in the Antarctic food chain
The liability provisions will not come into force until all the international parties to the Antarctic treaty have adopted them. By acting now and leading the way on this useful protection, without tying our hands by adopting rules that other countries do not.

The bill's proposed changes aim, respond to the increasingly international flavour and co-operative nature of scientific activity; secondly, to provide better protection of historic sites and monuments, and thirdly, to ensure that the lists of protected species — fauna and flora — are up to date so as to reflect the likely pressures presented by global temperature changes.

The green colour of these icy Antarctic pools is due to the substantial presence of algaeAntarctic phytoplankton - a key element in the food chain, the (phytoplankta) are preyed on by krill
Taking all those elements together, the Bill demonstrates in a practical way — with the British Government’s support — the UK’s commitment to upholding the Antarctic treaty system and to having comprehensive environmental protection of Antarctica. The Government stands ready to support the passage of the Bill through the House. The Bill will ensure that our UK domestic legislation is among the most comprehensive in the world, which is good both for the Antarctic environment and for the many people, British and others, who visit the continent and do scientific research there.

Regarding potential resource exploitation, the UK is a key player in and is committed to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which is the framework that regulates fishing in the Southern ocean. Thanks to a UK proposal, there is already a large marine protected area in the Southern ocean and we are working with other members of that Organisation to promote further areas in the future.

HM Government agrees about the importance of peaceful human activities in support of peace and science. Tourism and fishing are very strictly regulated, and hydrocarbon extraction is prohibited under the Antarctic treaty. Given the fragile environment we fully support the continuation of this indefinite prohibition.

Mr James Gray observed that hydrocarbon extraction also occurs in the south Atlantic: the strongest possible environmental controls should be applied to oil exploration off the Falklands and thence down towards Antarctica, to prevent oil spills and so on affecting that continent.

Flags of all international signatories to the Antarctic Treaty decorate a map of the white continent
The Antarctic Treaty was ratified on June 23, 1961, by 12 nations: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States, and the USSR. Signing the agreement later were Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and Uruguay; in due course 42 in all had signed up, and the number, including many without a direct interest in Polar activity, is constantly rising. The treaty specifically states that the area shall be used for peaceful purposes only, and supports the freedom of scientific investigation and cooperation. How best to share and regulate the exploitation of resources is still a matter of contention between different interests.

Antarctica is vast, but it is vulnerable. The UK has a long and proud history of active, positive engagement and leadership in protecting Antarctica for the good of all, and we are keen to maintain the UK as a leading force. Now is exactly the right time to renew and refocus our efforts to protect this sensitive region to ensure that it remains a place of peace and co-operation into the next generation and beyond. I very much hope that, with co-operation, the Bill will receive an expeditious passage through the House.




One of the most striking photo portraits of Captain Robert Falcon ScottAnother fine angled portrait of Scott
During this year of celebration of Captain Scott, it is a good time to remember Sir Ranulph Fiennes's spirited defence of the explorer in the wake of some acute criticisms of his leadership over the past 20 years.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes at the Celebrating Scott's Legacy event in LondonSir Ranulph Fiennes on one of his many expeditions, of which his polar travels are amongst the most famous
His acclaimed book Captain Scott spoke up for countering as unjust the negative press Scott has received in recent years. These are selected extracts from the lively and passionate defence Fiennes published in The Times a few days before his book appeared, in autumn 2003.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes's biography of Captain Scott, which takes a different line from other recent biographies and seeks to redress the balance
'Scott's image as a brave explorer of whom the British could be proud survived two world wars. In 1948 Ealing Studios brought out their massively popular film Scott of the Antarctic, with John Mills in the title role. But it was not many years after this that the old-style hero, the Briton with the stiff upper lip, went out of fashion.

Scott pictured at his desk. Diary apart, he worked tirelessly at expedition reports and the gathering of scientific data

The celebrated picture by (Sir) Herbert Ponting of Scott at his workdesk
Among biographers, character assassination became a major literary endeavour. Scott's turn came in the mid-1970s, when two biographies emphasised every flaw in his character and performance, but, in my view, failed to ruin a dead man's reputation.

Captain Scott with his officers in relaxed mood
In 1979 came Roland Huntford's Scott and Amunden. As my own experience as a polar explorer deepened, I became convinced that there was something profoundly wrong about Huntford's book, which to this day is used as a Scott reference book - Huntford being generally accepted as the world's number 1 polar biographer.

Roland Huntford's intensively researched books have had great impact on forming opinion on the great age of Polar explorationRoland Huntford's book went into many editions. It is also available as a talking book
Huntford posits Scott's utter inadequacy in polar conditions. In fact Scott was to prove himself eminently well suited to polar travel, and by far the best individual manhauler of the age. Scott is castigated for his use of man-made clothing materials, not furs; but even at -50 degrees, it is best if you wear lightweight cotton clothes; otherwise your sweat is trapped and freezes on your skin as your body cools. Furs are correct only for dog drivers.

Scott in action. The full picture shows Antarctic mountainous terrain in the background Scott in balaclava, braced against the biting Antarctic winds
Scott on his skis Robert Scott in more relaxed form, with pipe
Huntford maintains 'Scott forced the pace... on the march for nine or ten hours, hauling heavy weights...dragging 200 lb. per man up to 10,000 feet was inhuman enough.' But this is not inhuman, it is standard practice, and the norm today. And 200 pounds (which he mockingly criticises) is a comparatively light load. He suggests, intuitively but without foundation, that Scott tried to force Oates out to his death, even suggesting, though without giving a reference, that Oates's mother toyed with the word 'murderer', .

Buy Roland Huntford's book from Amazon so you can make up your own mind

He damns Scott through selective omission, and quotes rarely from the hundreds of diarists with good things to say about Scott. He maintained that he had found omissions from Scott's published diaries, 'mostly spiteful things about those he was responsible for.' In fact these were private notes which were never intended to go beyond his private diary. To use them to denigrate Scott is grossly unfair.

Scott relaxed amongst his men (plus interloper) on Terra Nova pre-departure. Photo from a German magazine: interest in the Poles there was intense. It is to remembered that Wilhelm Filchner was shortly to lead an expedition to the Weddell Sea
Pictures of Scott and his officers often appear. But here we see Scott amongst his men at the Cape Evans hut.
Scott (right) brewing up 'hoosh' with his colleagues. This does not look like a stand-offish leader
Huntford derides the 35 lb. of rocks that Scott was carrying back from the Pole. Yet many decades later this material furnished scientists with their first proof not only of profound changes in the earth's climate but in its very shape and structure - the key to the origin of Antarctica.

Various activities at Scott's hut at Cape Evans. Keeping warm Sewing furs
Cooking - more space than a ship's galleyKeeping trim having a haircut. The curly victim is Lt. Edward' Teddy' Evans, second in command
Keeping chef companyA cosier experience than tenting under the starts
Huntford turns Kathleen Scott into a shameless adulteress, accusing her of having an affair with Nansen while Scott was on his expedition. Nansen undoubtedly had strong feelings for her, but an affair is something she clearly denies: she was a completely faithful wife, and her friendship with Nansen was something of which she was proud. Yet this calumny was widely publicised in the Central TV drama about Scott.

Scott onboard with his wife Kathleen Kathleen with Scott on Quail Island, 1910. (The island lies within Lyttelton harbour, close to the South Island mainland).
Scott with KathleenKathleen Scott in 1913 with their son Peter, a year after the tragedy
Huntford, and those of like mind, tend to brand any book that is not critical of Scott as sycophantic. Yet Helmer Hanssen, one of Amundsen's great Pole team, asserted "It is no disparagement of ourselves to say that Scott's achievement far exceeded ours...Just imagine what it meant for Scott and the others to drag their sleds themselves, with all their equipment and provisions, to the Pole and back again. We started with 52 dogs and came back with 11."

Before the fatal journey: Scott Wilson and Cherry-Garrard set off for Cape Crozier, 27 June 1911Herbert Ponting's famous picture of Scott's last birthday
Scott with members of the Southern party. Five of them would continue to the Pole Setting off on the great journey: Scott, Simpson (depot laying party) ,Bowers and Evans leave the hut
On the Beardmore Glacier, the camping Southern party can see (behind) the route the five will takeThe five men set off for the Pole with horses
Hanssen sums up: "What shall we say of Scott and his comrades, who were their own dogs? Anyone with any experience will take off his hat to Scott's achievement. I do not believe men have ever shown such endurance, nor do I believe there will ever be men to equal it."' These admiring remarks from a generous rival Sir Ranulph Fiennes adds as a fitting conclusion, and patent support of his contention as to Captain Scott's greatness - despite all detractors.

Scott's photo of Wilson, Bowers and Oates manoevring a sledgeScott's photo of the others pulling up a slope
Unaware of the progress of Amundsen's rival mission, the five men of the polar party camp towards the plateau: the South Pole is surely now within their grasp?The moment of disappointment: finding the Norwegian flag at the Pole: Amundsen had won the race
Planting the flag at the South PoleThe end
In all fairness, and by way of mild rebuttal, it has to be recalled that Roland Huntford's magnificent, grippingly written books still stand as a marvellous legacy for Antarctic studies: and his biography of Shackleton is a treasure trove and a sine qua non for all Shackleton enthusiasts. We have a huge amount to thank him for.

Members of the Relief Party - Shackleton's stalwart comrade Tom Crean is on the right - who recovered the bodies in the snowbound tent; however Oates's was never found
2012 - the centenary of their reaching the South Pole - has been a year for remembering Scott and his comrades. Appropriately, Scott has been honoured with several memorials, some of which are shown below:

Captain Scott and his party set out. This sequence of windows at Binton, Warwickshire,where Kathleen Scott's brother was rector, is in Robert Falcon Scott's memory. The windows brilliantly and atmospherically capture the feel of their Antarctic endeavoursThe five men after their struggle across the Polar Plateau to reach the South Pole, come face to face with the Norwegian flag. St. Peter's, Binton, where this Scott window can be seen in all its glory, is a little to the west of Stratford upon Avon
Captain Oates leaves the tent, in the hope that his self-sacrifice will enable the four others to surviveThe famous Cairn, erected by members of the search party (see above) over the place where four of the five men died in their tent
The four window panels showing the four pictures side by side
The imposing statue of Captain Scott at Waterloo Place, off Pall Mall in LondonThe memorial plaque to Scott in Cardiff City Hall, South Wales
The more recent memorial erected at the point Scott's tent is believed to have beenThe memorial to Scott and his men at Cardiff bay. The Captain Scott Society is based in Cardiff
The magnificent statue sculpted by Scott's widow Kathleen, displayed as a respectful and admiring tribute to the explorer in Christchurch, New Zealand
Visit the Captain Scott Society's website; its Presidents have been Sir Peter Scott, Sir Vivian Fuchs and Prof. Robert Swan

Read about Captain Scott's close connections with Cardiff

Read about the Cardiff Bay memorial




In October 2012, five women from Wanaka, New Zealand are planning a "Wake of Worsley" expedition to South Georgia, to retrace part of the journey made by Frank Worsley, a New Zealander born and raised in Akaroa, near Canterbury in South Island and the crucial member of Shackleton’s crew aboard the James Caird.

The women plan to ski the Shackleton Traverse, a focal part of the original 1916 journey, becoming the first all-woman team to do this; and to climb Mt Worsley, not climbed as yet by any New Zealanders.

The group of five consists of Vivien Eyers, Kylie Wakelin, Lee Ball, Lydia Bradey and Brenda May George.

"We plan to sail from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia," explains Vivien. "Because of the isolated location the regulations for any landing on South Georgia are stringent, and require suitable yacht backup. An expedition committee vets all applications. They require two qualified guides per team and we meet this requirement by having Lydia and Kylie in our team.”

“We will retrace Worsley's steps over the island (The Shackleton Traverse) and include an ascent of Mt Worsley, conditions permitting. We intend to go in October 2012 as conditions at that time of year will be good for skiing across which we see as a much more appealing and safer option than trekking around hundreds of open crevasses.”

“Shackleton, Worsley and Crean took 36 hours for their crossing, as they simply had to keep going or die; we plan to take three days, either adding time for the attempt on Mt Worsley or taking a further opportunity while we are at South Georgia: two weeks in all, plus two weeks for the return sailing trip.”

“By retracing part of Frank Worsley's arduous journey we aim to bring to life, the achievements of this adventurous, brave and skilful but under-recognised New Zealand hero,” says Eyers.

“We want to inspire others to connect to the adventurous Kiwi spirit and our seafaring heritage. We aim to encourage others, particularly young people, to aspire to the example of courage, hope and endurance set by this amazing Kiwi.”



Skip Novak's 'Pelagic' fleet of two expedition sailing vessels is available for expedition charter to high latitude destinations in both Hemispheres including but not limited to: Antarctica, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, the Falkland Islands, the island of South Georgia, the Chilean Channels, Spitzbergen, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Labrador.

Pelagic Cruises - an exciting way to see the world
A concept rather than simply a sailing vessel, Skip Novak's Pelagics are designed and built specifically to operate in remote areas on long term projects.

Visit Pelagic's website

Both Pelagics are suitable for:
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Building Sea time and Experience on Delivery Trips

If your project is off the trade routes, Pelagic can suit your needs.

All Seasons - All Oceans




The National Maritime Museum magazine reports that in February 2010 a team of explorers inspired by the heroic spirit of Shackleton set off to document photographically a part of Antarctica, the world's last pristine wilderness.

The route of the 19-day Elysium Epic expedition roughly followed the track of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew after they lost the Endurance. This took them to the Weddell Sea, then across the treacherous Drake Passage and on to South Georgia.

One of the primary objectives of the expedition's leader, award-winning underwater photographer Michael AW, Director of the Ocean Geographic Society and founding director of the conservation charity OceanNEnvironment, and his team was to document faithfully, in present time, the sights and sounds of the region that those early 20th Century explorers would have experienced. It is, he said, "about extraordinary explorers using advanced imaging technologies to document the last wilderness on our planet. The aim of the project is to provide a visual library that documents the flora and fauna of Antarctica, and to produce a documentary feature and book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the heroic legendary expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans Antarctic challenge in 1914b

The 57-member team came from 18 countries and included artists, photographers, film-makers, musicians and scientists. They included Emory Kristof, who with Robert Ballard discovered the wreck of the Titanic; the celebrated photographer David Doubilet (of National Geographic fame); and Jonathan Shackleton, Sir Ernest's cousin, who as expedition historian provided accounts of early explorations of Antarctica, including the first sightings in 1820 and first landing in 1821.

During the Elysium project they produced evidence of the rapid warming of the Antarctic Peninsula: the reductions in sea ice, ice sheet collapse and increases in air and water temperatures are major areas of concern. Rain is quite common and it and soft snowfalls create a significant threat to marine life. Gentoo, Adelie, Chinstrap and King penguins were noted, and crabeater, leopard, Weddell and fur seals. All are dependent on krill (small crustaceans) for their food, which can be abundant one year and almost absent the next.

Their landing on Elephant Island was notable for the presence of fur seals at Cape Wild, which are recovering after man's depredations in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The glaciers draining the icecaps of the peninsula and surrounding islands are also shrinking. The thunderous calving of icebergs and rumble of avalanches were evidence of this. The abundance of wildlife on South Georgia was gratifying, and included reindeer roaming the hillsides. Among the birds in evidence were albatrosses and petrels.

The National Maritime Museum is exploring the possibility of hosting the world premiere of the Elysium Epic exhibition. The Elysium Epic book will be published in 2013, in time for the centenary of the Endurance expedition.



David Wilson, coordinator of the Captain Scott Centenary plans at the Scott-Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, has announced the launch of a significant new website, marking the centenary of Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition, as follows:

Scott Centenary

Dear Antarctica 100 network,

You will all be pleased to hear that the Scott centenary event co-ordination website which we agreed at the last Antarctica 100 meeting has now gone live. The URL is

So far we have only entered events for 2010 - and are only entering
confirmed events into this public arena. If you wish to change/add to
details of your events, or if you wish to have your (or other) events
entered onto the website, please contact me, either through the website or

In due course, we hope to add a facility for press releases, so that this
can become a one-stop media and public relations site for Scott centenary
events. However, there is a limit as to what we can post on here and so I
suggest that you all put relevant details of your own events on to your own websites and then send the link so that we can link to more detailed
information from

Please would you also now link your own sites into this one, so that all
points of the centenary circle may be joined together. This is a work in
progress, as, indeed, is the centenary itself, so please forward suggestions etc. to me and I will see what can be done. If this has been sent to the wrong email address, please let me know and copy in Rachel Morgan on who has sent out this email.

With my thanks and best wishes,


Dr D.M.Wilson
Scott Centenary Co-ordinator SPRI
01303 256 627




For regular news of events and discoveries in the Antarctic, try browsing the website The Antarctic Sun (

This is the newspaper of the Unites States Antarctic Program, and contains much of interest for Antarctic enthusiasts.

It was the USAP which temporarily erected the South Pole's impressive geodesic dome, devoted to polar studies. The dome was still in place when the Centenary Expedition led by Henry Worsley arrived there, and was finally disassembled, after three decades' useful life, in January 2010.

The website also includes features on individuals conducting current or recent polar research and activities, and a wide range of interesting articles.




Rob Stephenson's extensive and valuable website Antarctic Circle ( has recently reported two stories of special interest to Shackleton enthusiasts.

First, a plaque in honour of Commander Frank Wild has been erected in the church at Grytviken, South Georgia to honour the veteran of five Antarctic eexpeditions and Shackleton's most trusted lieutenant.

The sculptor Angie Butler, who has done research in South Africa where Wild died and was cremated in 1939, was concerned that apart from a plaque in his local church in St John the Baptist Church, Eversholt, Bedfordshire, there is no lasting memorial to this Yorkshire-born legend of Antarctic exploration and leadership.

Angie and Elsa Davidson, curator of the Museum at Grytviken, are pictured on Antarctic Circle flanking the newly presented bronze plaque, now handsomely displayed on the wall of the Grytviken Whalers' Church. She writes in Antarctic Circle explaining the development of the project and indicates that any assistance towards this worthwhile enterprise, which cost around £1,600, from individuals or donating funds would be welcome.

Sculptor Angie Butler and South Georgia Museum Curator Elsa Davidson and the presentation of the Frank Wild Plaque
Secondly, Rob includes an intriguing item about a tunnel which has been discovered to penetrate through Elephant Island not far from Cape Wild.

To read the full article and see Ted Stump's impressive photo, please visit the Antarctic circle website.




HMS Endurance surveying in the Erebus and Terror Gulf, North Eastern Antarctic Peninsula (photo:  Kelly Whybrow)
In the autumn of 2007 several members of the James Caird Society committee were present to represent the Society at an open day aboard HMS 'Endurance'. The President, Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, was welcomed on board ship as guest of honour by Captain R.K. Tarrant the following month.

The group arrives at the quayside: Pippa Hare, John Bardell and John McGregorThe group gathers in the mess
A small and interested party led by Major-Gen. Patrick Fagan CB MBE, the Society's former Chairman, was met at the harbour gates on Friday 28 September 2007 and welcomed aboard the ship by members of the crew, and subsequently by the impressive 'Captain Bob' in person. His revealing and succinct summary of the ship's role and tasks was a main highlight of the day.

Captain Bob Tarrant, the urbane ship's captain
Others taking part in the visit were Mr. John Bardell (Dulwich College), JCS joint Vice-President, the Society's Hon. Secretary Ms. Pippa Hare, the Hon. Treasurer, Commander John McGregor OBE; and also the JCS website editor, Mr. Roderic Dunnett.

A panorama of the bridge of Endurance, so crucial for manoeuvring in highly perilous conditionsGeneral Patrick Fagan and an officer take stock Commander John McGregor sizes up the controls on the bridge
The day was peppered with refreshments and enlivened by a good lunch; but also offered a chance to see members of the crew in action doing fire-fighting drill and dramatic air-sea rescue operations, and to have a very full tour of the ship, named after Shackleton's Endurance, which seemed in pleasingly good nick and in very good hands.

Visit the HMS Endurance website for information about Shackleton and his Endurance crew
Upon refitting at Portsmouth the modern Endurance duly sailed for Southern waters. Captain Bob's Christmas message takes up the story:

Captain Bob enjoys the Porstmouth air-sea rescue manouvres with some of the visitors The Helicopter manoeuvres get under way
Endurance helicopter 3The rescue is achieved successfully with a helicopter winch rescue operation
'It has been a long old trek to get us to this Christmas, having gone through a major refit in Portsmouth, Operational sea training in Plymouth and now an 8,000 mile journey to get to the Falklands.

'However, we have done it with flying colours and are very glad to be here.
The ship is ready and raring to get to work in Antarctica early in the New Year. We have many exciting and challenging days ahead of us. We look forward to sharing them with you all and hope that you will be able to get a real sense of what it is like in the most amazing place in the world!

'I really want to thank our friends, families and all those around the world who follow out antics and travels on the Visit and Learn website. It is hugely important to us to know we have your support: your messages really do cheer us up on a gloomy day.'

The Endurance returns to her duties off the Antarctic Peninsula (photo Kelly Whybrow)




British Explorers enjoying a Polar cruise as part of a “Spirit of Shackleton” party came rather closer to the experience of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 27 marooned colleagues in 1915 than they had planned, as their cruise ship, the MV Explorer, approached the Antarctic Pensinsula.

The MV 'Explorer' photographed in port prior to one of her regular Polar expeditions
Their 2,646-ton ship, owned by Toronto-based Gap Expeditions, left South America on 11 November and was on the 12th day of a 19-day tour of the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Some 445 miles south-east of Ushuaia, the Explorer was in the general area of the South Shetlands and Graham Land, off King George Island and approaching the Bransfield Strait as she made for the tip of Antarctica and the Danco coast, when it apparently struck what Shackleton would have known as a ‘growler’, an underwater iceberg.

One of the cabins below the waterline was punctured with a hole ‘the size of a fist’, and there was subsequent cracking. That was sufficient, after attempts were made to stem the water incursion, to cause a 45 degree list in the ship. 90 minutes later the captain gave orders for ‘abandon ship’.

Holed below the waterline, the 'Explorer' tilts at a perilous angle
One source reports there were 91 passengers, plus nine expedition staff members and a crew of 54, making a total of 154. The expedition included 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans, 12 Canadian, 10 Australians, Argentinians, Colombians, Chinese, Japanese, Belgians, Swedish, German, Danish, French, Irish and Swiss tourists. The entire passenger list (just under 100), staff and eventually crew were evacuated into the ship’s boats, which were open lifeboats (a point that has incurred some criticism: one has only to recollect the appalling experience of Shackleton’s men escaping from the ice in the three open boats.)

The area north of the tip of Antarctica is famously prone to major storms and howling winds. Fortunately the conditions were relatively mild (only -5 degrees centigrade, with a sea temperature at around -1 degree), seas were calm and winds light at the time, providing optimal conditions for an evacuation, and everyone was safely evacuated from the eight semi-rigid lifeboats and four life rafts onto the 403 foot, ten-year-old Norwegian cruise ship NorNorge, in a rescue operation coordinated from Norfolk, Virginia and by the Argentinians in Ushuaia.

The Chilean navy, which first received a distress signal around 10 p.m. Eastern Time on the night of Thursday 22 Nov (3 a.m. GMT on Friday morning) reported that after attempts by the captain and crew to see if she could be righted, the water pumped out and the damage made good, the Explorer was completely abandoned and finally sank beneath the Antarctic waves on the evening of Friday 23rd November, about 20 hours after the accident.

Gap Adventures spokeswoman Susan Hayes said it was not an iceberg, but a "submerged piece of ice."

The MV 'Explorer' keels over as water penetrates her starboard side
The area off Antarctica where the crisis occurred is the subject of an ongoing disputed claim by both Britain and Argentina, but Antarctic cruise ships now ply more than ever before. The Independent reports that 52 cruises are expected into Ushuaia between October 2007 and April 2008.

The MV Explorer is known as the ‘Little Red Ship’, a 'small ship with a big heart’, because of its plucky endeavours prior to now. She was the first custom-built ship designed for cruises and expeditions; most famously, she was the first cruise ship to traverse the North West Passage, and to visit the far east of Russia as part of an Arctic exploration. Originally Scandinavian-owned, she currently belonged to Gap Adventures, a respected Canadian travel firm, sailing under a Liberian flag of convenience.

The ship is abandoned and passengers and crew take to the lifeboats to await picking up by nearby vessels
No injuries were reported and both air and sea temperature, although below freezing, were relatively mild. Waves were calm and winds light, Argentinian coastguard reported. Once rescued from the lifeboats the discomfited but spirited travellers were billeted in the more hospitable lounge of the NordNorge, which has room for 691 passengers but was carrying only 300 at the time of the incident, and hence was able to accommodate the Explorer's passengers with relative ease.

The Independent also reported Captain Arnvid Hansen, the Norwegian skipper of the NordNorge, as saying, ‘All are aboard my vessel. There are no afraid passengers, or anything like that. Some are cold but none has hypothermia. We are giving them as many clothes as we can.’

The NordNorge, whose captain, Arnvid Hansen, came swiftly to the rescue of the stricken MV Explorer
Visit Cruise Norway and view its Antarctic tours




Wednesday October 24th 2007 sees the launch of a Public Appeal to mark the relaunch of the Fuchs Foundation (Patron: Sir Ranulph Fiennes) with a programme of illustrated Lectures and a Reception at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, London, starting at 7.00 p.m.

'Inspiring Teachers - Changing Lives' celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the First Crossing of Antarctica by The Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1956-58, led by Sir Vivian Fuchs (1908-99), Past President of the RGS, and wishes 'bon voyage' to the first Fuchs Foundation teachers expedition to the Antarctic (details below). Effecting the first ever crossing of Antarctica was the project planned by Shackleton for his 1914-16 Imperial Transantartic Expedition.

Sir Vivian Fuchs, leader of the successful Commonwealth Transantarctic  Expedition (1956-8) which fulfilled Ernest Shackleton's ambition of achieving a transantarctic crossing
The Vivian Fuchs evening's Programme will be: 6.00 Doors open (pay bar available). At 7.00 there follow two lectures, introduced by the evening's host, the Environmental Consultant Tom Heap: "Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition - The Last Heroic Age Expedition", by Peter Fuchs - an account by the Explorer's son of the planning, difficulties overcome and final success of the 1956-8 Expedition; and "The Science Legacy: Antarctic Science Today", by Prof. Lloyd Peck, scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, examining the legacy of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition. At 8.30 there follow a Reception (wine, refreshments and canapes, together with a pay bar) and an Exhibition of memorabilia of the Transantactic Expedition.

Peter Fuchs. the Antarctic explorer's son
Visit the Fuchs Foundation website

Peter Fuchs has written to say that members of the James Caird Society and others will be very welcome at this special evening. Applications to attend the lectures and reception are available through making a Donation to the Fuchs Foundation, by way of the Ticket Application form (Lecture: £12 p/person; Reception: £20 p/person). To obtain a form + invitation, or simply to make a donation, please click on the blue link below (.pdf format; also includes a Gift Aid declaration) or contact the Fuchs Foundation, The Elwells, Bennett Hill, Dunton Bassett, Leics LE17 5JJ (01455 202209) or call Mrs. Jocelyn Fawcett, tel. 0208 563 2082. Paid for tickets can be sent out (please enclose a SAE) or can be collected on the door. Cheques payable, please, to the Fuchs Foundation.

a photo of Sir Vivian Fuchs in later life
The idea of founding a Fuchs Foundation was conceived by a party of British Antarctic Survey scientists wintering on South Georgia in 1973/4. Its prime objective was, fittingly, to mark the service of Sir Vivian Fuchs as the first Director of the BAS. It was Fuchs who, in partnership with Sir Edmund Hillary, succeeded in fulfilling Sir Ernest Shackleton's ambition of crossing Antarctica from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea via the South Pole - the objective which Shackleton's 1914-16 Endurance expedition was unable to achieve when it became trapped in the ice.

According to the original Trust deed, the stated objective was: "To provide education and character training, physical moral and spiritual for boys and girls and young men and women who are in necessitous circumstances, through adventurous and challenging experiences."

Stamps issued by South Georgia at the millennium to commemorate the life and achievements of Sir Vivian Fuchs, who died in 1999 at the age of 91
Over the first 30 years of its existence the Fuchs Foundation has helped over 200 young people in this way.

The Foundation has now been re-launched as a purely Educational
charity which will send Science and Geography teachers to the Polar regions. On 3 November 2008 four young teachers will be setting off to experience immense challenges in a dangerous and extreme environment in Antarctica.

Stamp commemorating Sir Vivian Fuchs's Antarctic achievement
The aim for the teachers will be challenging themselves to undertake useful projects which they will convert into exciting lessons for their students, helping them with the National Curriculum. The present expedition will head for the Ellsworth Mountains (approximately 80 degrees S and 83 degrees W), deep inland on Western Antarctica. The team of two leaders (from the expedition's coordinators, Bull Precision Expeditions) and four teachers will fly in to the Patriots Hills base of Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, on their first flight of the 2007/8 austral summer.

The Fuchs Foundation expedition team photographed with expedition leaders and staffSir Vivian Fuchs (1908-99), transantarctic pioneer
Read Sir Vivian Fuchs' obituary on the BBC news website

Read a splendid obituary of Sir Vivian Fuchs at the website of Brighton College, his old school

View details of the 2007 Fuchs Foundation expedition group

Visit Sir Vivian Fuchs's website



News of dramatic pictures from space of the Antarctica's Aurora Australis and her northern equivalent, the Aurora Borealis, can be found at the BBC's Science and Technology site, and also at the superb National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Library site.



The webmaster of the New Zealand-based 'Antarctic Link' website has written to say: 'You might be interested in the recent issue of Ross Dependency stamps - the set of six use wonderful original photos from the first Discovery expedition and the 40c stamp has, I believe, a photo of the three 'southern trekkers' including Shackleton.'

In fact, Shackleton and Endurance are both commemorated on the $1.50c stamp.

The letter goes on: 'Should any of your members wish to visit us in Christchurch and Lyttelton (or you might even like to arrange a group trip here) please let me know and I'll see if I can coordinate meetings with some of our resident scientists and historians, including those presently or formerly connected with Heritage Expeditions, the conserving of the Ross Sea Historic Sites and the curating of the Antarctic Section of the Canterbury Museum.'




Antarctic Link has also drawn our attention to the valuable and intriguing collection of photos of Antarctica which can be found at a German language site, &-Online, including some taken by Pete Bucktrout, the British Antarctic Survey's photographer.



The 'South Pole' site is also a very useful source for biographies of the main competitors in the history of Antarctic exploring, both early pioneers and those who were part of the second great age of Antarctic exploration.

Read about the 'Belgica' expedition on the Belgian website

The completion of the great British naval expedition of 1839-43, under the command of James Clark Ross on HMS Erebus and Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier on HMS Terror brought to an end the era of early Antarctic exploration. On the other hand, a significant number of sealing and whaling voyages were undertaken by a variety of nations in the years leading up to the end of the century.

Race to the Pole - Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Expedition stand silently at the point 80'05
In July 1895, the Sixth International Geographical Congress met in London and adopted a resolution: 'That this congress record its opinion that the exploration of the Antarctic Regions is the greatest piece of geographical exploration still to be undertaken. That in view of the additions to knowledge in almost every branch of science which would result from such a scientific exploration the Congress recommends that the scientific societies throughout the world should urge in whatever way seems to them most effective, that this work should be undertaken before the close of the century'.

Adrien de Gerlache and the Belgian expedition aboard the 'Belgica', 1897-9

Just such an undertaking was already under preparation by a lieutenant in the Royal Belgian Navy. He was 29 years old and his name was Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache. a 250-ton barque was purchased for 70,000 francs in Norway. The three-masted whaler Patric had been built for the icy waters of the north. Extensive refitting was done and subsequently re-christened as the Belgica. On July 29, 1896, de Gerlache received a letter from a 25-year-old Norwegian wishing to sail, unpaid, aboard the 'Belgica'. His request was accepted and thus Roald Amundsen was added to the ship's crew.

Adrien de Gerlache (1866-1934)Two views of the statue commemorating Adrien de Gerlache de Gerlache statue close upde Gerlache stampde Gerlache grave
The stories of other great figures in the history of Antarctic Exploration can also be found there. They include Otto Nordenskjöld, the Scandinavian who was also the discoverer of the North East Passage (north of Russia to the Bering Strait) and who also suffered a disaster to his ship and threat to his and his men's lives comparable to Shackleton's loss of the Endurance.

The sinking of Nordenskjöld's ship the 'Antarctic'Nordenskjöld and his men winter over after the disastrous loss of the 'Antarctic'
Indeed Nordenskjöld's disaster, and the remarkable story of the saving of his men, together with other stories of ship-loss and survival (or non-survival) from earlier in the century and in the early years of Polar exploration, will have had a strong influence on the planning of men like Shackleton, Nansen, Scott and Amundsen.

Other prominent expeditions included those from the United States, from many parts of Europe, including the Scandinavian countries, France and Germany, with Russia and China in pursuit, and also from Japan:

Scott's last expedition aboard the 'Terra Nova', 1910-13

Otto Nordenskjöld, the sinking of the 'Antarctic', and the marooned men rescued by Carl Larsen 1901-3

Scott's 'Discovery' Expedition 1901-3

Jean-Baptiste Charcot, the 'Gentleman of the Antarctic', 1903-5 and 1908-10

The Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase, who led a contemporary expedition to Scott and Amundsen

It was with the assistance of Shackleton, Nordenskjöld and Amundsen that the great German explorer Wilhelm Filchner, after whom the Filchner Ice Shelf was named, secured the use of the Norwegian ship the Bjorn, which earned fame when renamed the Deutschland. The ship left Buenos Aires on 4th October 1911 and arrived on the 18th at South Georgia.

Wilhelm Filchner
The German crew spent the next 48 days at the Norwegian whaling station at Grytviken. While there, they boarded the Undine and investigated the coasts, making new charts, and re-opened the observatory at Royal Bay. They also made an exploratory trip to the South Sandwich Islands.

The German Antarctic Explorer Wilhelm FilchnerThe Filchner-Ronne Ice ShelfThe 'Deutschland'
Filchner's ship and crew departed for the Weddell Sea on December 11, 1911. What with the life-threatening experience of Nordenskjöld before him, Filchner wrote, "None of us knew if we would ever come back alive".

Sir Hubert Wilkins (1888-1959), who served on Shackleton's Quest expedition, was one of the great Australian Polar explorers who followed in the steps of Sir Douglas Mawson. His first Polar expedition, to the Arctic, was in 1913. He was an eminent photographer who recorded Australia's wartime contribution, including at Ypres uner fire, and returned to film the Gallipoli battlefield where the Anzacs made their famous stand, after the war.

The Australian explorer Hubert Wilkins

Wilkins' many ventures included Antarctic flights and an attempt to take a submarine, the Nautilus, under the North Pole in summer, 1931. Despite the failure to achieve his planned end, he did succeed in proving that submarines are capable of operating beneath the polar ice cap, and this important discovery paved the way for successful submarine exploratory trips thereafter.

Wilkins' other bold endeavours in the Arctic included a pioneering flight to Spitsbergen from Alaska across the Arctic Sea. Later he and his colleague and pilot, Carl Ben Eielson, were the first to make flights over the Antarctic (exploring the Graham Land Pensinsula starting from Deception Island - this was the first time ever that a plane had been used to map uncharted territory).

However Wilson was unsuccessful in his ernest bid to become the first to fly to the South Pole.

After the 1919 Air Race (says Sir Wilkins returned to England strongly determined to continue polar exploration. He joined Dr John Cope on the Imperial Antarctic Expedition. It was Wilkins' first trip to the Antarctic, but the expedition lacked funds and achieved relatively little.

Next, Hubert Wilkins was appointed Naturalist on what was to prove Sir Ernest Shackleton's last expedition to the Antarctic, aboard the Quest. The ship gave trouble on the way out, and had to be repaired in South America. Wilkins went on ahead to South Georgia to photograph the flora and fauna. It was only when the Quest arrived six weeks later that he learned the tragic news that Shackleton had died on board ship

Many years later, after Wilkins' death in 1958, a ship was named after him. The Sir Hubert Wilkins is an ice-strengthened ship which was formerly the state launch of Finland. It was purchased in 2000 by Antarctic veterans Don and Margie McIntyre, of the Australian based company "Ocean Frontiers". She was converted in October 2000 and a helicopter landing pad was added. She is now based in Tasmania and operates from there south to the Antarctic mainland in the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Ross Dependency, providing logistic support for both private and government-sponsored Antarctic expeditions.

Many of Hubert Wilkins's papers have been collected and archived by the Byrd Polar Research Center at the Ohio State University. Their site is well worth a visit, and gives details of the collection held and samples of the photos, of which a large number can be obtained on CD at low cost.



Welcome to Virtual Shackleton! This exciting new section of the Scott-Polar Research Institute's website responds to the tremendous popular interest in the life and expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Virtual Shackleton allows you to view a selection of the SPRI's unique archive and museum treasures and aims to provide a scholarly resource as well as an introduction to the Institute's wealth of historical documents and artefacts.

One of many fascinating and intriguing items is a pair of snow goggles, used by Sir Ernest Shackleton during the Endurance expedition. As the accompanying article records, 'After the successful crossing of South Georgia to reach the safety of the whaling station at Stromness, Shackleton gave these goggles to a Norwegian whaler from Sandefjord called Harald Nilsen. The whalers knew Shackleton well and were enormously helpful both before the expedition left for the Antarctic and also when he returned in May 1916, to set about rescuing his men.' Another is a chronometer (a very accurate watch used for navigation). This was used by Worsley during the open boat journey, aboard James Caird, from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916, which remains one of the greatest boat journeys ever accomplished. 'Worsley's skill in navigating is remarkable. Using only a sextant and chronometer they reached the safety of King Haakon Bay in South Georgia on 10 May 1916 and saved the lives of the men stranded on Elephant island.'

Explore the SPRI's 'Virtual Shackleton' pages to view documents and correspondence

There are items relating to five expeditions of which Shackleton took part or which he led. They are: Discovery (Scott's 1901-4 Antarctic expedition), on which Shackleton served; Nimrod; Endurance: Aurora (the support party to the Endurance expedition); and Quest (Shackleton's uncompleted last expedition of 1921-2). Virtual Shackleton, the SPRI explains, is an ongoing project and more articles will be added in the future.

See the list of objects and correspondence held by the SPRI

A prize possession is Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance diary, along with his diaries from the Nimrod and the Quest. There are also the deck logs from the Nimrod and Quest, and two other valuable Shackleton diaries: one being the diary he kept on Captain Scott's Discovery expedition, together with the scientific notes he made on that, his first expedition; the other being his first Antarctic sledging diary The many other treasured items include a sheet of instructions from Shackleton on what each of the men should do if the ice brokeup around 'Ocean Camp', one of the Endurance party's temporary (though nonetheless trusty and enduring) resting places on the ice; a telegram from Queen Alexandra to Emily Shackleton upon the news of Shackleton's safe arrival in the Falklands; a letter from Shackleton to his wife; a letter from Sir James Caird, sponsor of the Endurance expedition; a letter from the Liptons tea company about supplies for the Aurora; the chart used by Shackleton's ten men stranded in the Ross Sea at the same time as the Endurance expedition (and currently on loan to the French maritime exhibition); a list of provisions and letter from Capt. Aeneas Mackintosh, commander of the Aurora; and sections of the diary of Dr. Alexander Macklin charting the crew's arrival at Elephant Island.

Dr. Alexander Macklin photographed by Frank Hurley ministering to the trusty huskies aboard 'Endurance'
There is a testimonial letter introducing Shackleton from Sir Clements Markham, RGS President; a humorous article by Captain Scott published in the South Polar Times; a spirited letter of request from three young ladies, Peggy Pegrine, Valerie Davey and Betty Webster, to join Shackleton's Endurance expedition.

See Shackleton's instructions regarding Ocean Camp

The letter from the three daring young ladies begins: 'We "three sporty girls" have decided to write and beg of you to take us with you on your expedition to the South Pole. We are three strong, healthy girls and also gay and bright, and willing to undergo any hardships that you yourselves undergo. If our feminine garb is inconvenient, we should just love to don masculine attire.....We do not see why men should have all the glory, and women none, especially when there are women just as brave and capable as there are men.'

See another letter from Shackleton on the 'Nimrod' expedition to his wife Emily

Of particular interest are a map drawn from memory by Frank Worsley of the route he, Shackleton and Crean took across the mountains of South Georgia; the deck log from the Quest, including Worsley's poignant, to-the-point entry in the early morning of 5 January 1922: "3am. Sir Ernest Shackleton died suddenly of heart failure. Drs. Macklin and MacIlroy in attendance.' Shackleton died in his cabin aboard the Quest.

Dr. James A. McIlroy, expedition doctorDr. Alexander Macklin, expedition doctor
Frank Wild, who took over leadership of the 'Quest' expedition following Shackleton's unexpected deathFrank Worsley, skipper of the 'Endurance' and of the 'Quest'
The SPRIs Virtual Shackleton was proposed by former JCS member and much-missed leading light of the Scott-Polar, the late William Mills (see obituary below) and implemented by Caroline Gunn with the assistance of the SPRI's Webmaster. The project is funded by The Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.

a Signed Portrait of Sir Ernest Shackleton

How to visit the Scott-Polar Research Institute (SPRI)



Scientific and research information about the Antarctic Ice Shelves can be found at the site of The Antarctica Project - the secretariat of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) which contains nearly 230 organizations in 49 countries and leads the national and international campaigns to protect the biological diversity and pristine wilderness of Antarctica, including its oceans and marine life.



'The Antarctican', a striking and attractive new Antarctic News website, has recently been founded. The site, published in Tasmania, aims to deliver the latest news and comment on 'Antarctic life, South Polar endeavour, the world of the ice, and the Southern Ocean around it.'



A useful list of Antarctic-related sites outside Antarctica, taken from the publication A Low-Level Antarctic Gazeteer can be found at the Antarctic Circle site, which also includes perhaps the most extensive and valuable list of Antarctic links.




Following their dramatic 800 mile voyage aboard the 23 foot whaler or lifeboat the James Caird to South Georgia, Shackleton and his two principal companions, Frank Worsley and Tom Crean, immediately set about the task of securing the rescue of their 22 comrades marooned on distant Elephant Island under the leadership of the party's second in command, Frank Wild, from their icy prison, where the men had survived on a diet of seal and penguin and mugs of steaming hot gruel, known as hoosh.

However despite all Shackleton's efforts the first three attempts were unsuccessful, the rescue boat being beaten back by the ice on each occasion. There was no way they could break through to Elephant Island, even though it was one of the most northerly islands off the Antarctic Peninsula with the best chance of being reached. It was only on the fourth attempt that Shackleton, once again with Chilean practical help and moral support, and with the full backing of the Chilean government and navy, managed to break through the now receding ice and reach his main party, even more isolated because of the absence of powerful enough radio communications at that time.

The hero of that hour was the skilled acting commander of the Chilean navy ship the Yelcho - a redoubtable small ship that was well familiar with performing duties in Antarctic waters - and that man was Pilot Luis Alberto Pardo Villalon (1992-1935). It was Pilot Pardo's experienced and masterly navigation, with Frank Worsley in close attendance, that guaranteed the ship was able to navigate a channel through the pack ice and secure a safe approach to and hasty retreat from Elephant Island, with all the men safely onboard.

The crew of the Yelcho for that mission consisted of: 2nd in Command: Leon Aguirre Romero; Chief Engineer: Jorge L. Valenzuela Mesa; 2nd Engineer: Jose Beltran Gamarra; Engineers: Nicolas Munoz Molina and Manuel Blackwood; Firemen: Herbito Cariz Caramo, Juan Vera Jara, Pedro Chaura, Pedro Soto Nunez, Luis Contreras Castro; Guards: Manuel Ojeda, Ladislao Gallego Trujillo, Hipolito Aries, Jose Leiva Chacon, Antonio Colin Parada;
Foreman: Jose Munoz Tellez; Blacksmith: Froilan Cabana Rodriguez; Seamen: Pedro Pairo, Jose del C. Galindo, Florentino Gonzalez Estay, Clodomiro Aguero Soto; Cabin Boy: Bautista Ibarra Carvajal.

Shackleton and his rescued men were feted upon their return to Punta Arenas, in the far south of Chile, and later at Valparaiso, the home of the Chilean Navy which ordered Pardo to set out on the rescue mission, and Chile was delighted to have succeeded where neighbouring Uruguay had tried but unfortunately failed, and ahead of its rivals the Argentinians, with whom Shackleton was also on good terms having made many arrangements while in Buenos Aires.

The welcome they received on arriving at Punta Arenas was unbelievable. Shackleton wrote: "Everything that could swim in the way of a boat was out to meet us". Almost the entire population had turned out to welcome them. As can be seen from the picture below, the throng was vast and enthusiasm and excitement gripped the whole city.

Yet even this seemed restrained compared to the wild reception they would receive when the Yelcho arrived at Valparaiso on 27th September. At least 30,000 people thronged around the harbour and nearby streets. This was a moment not only of welcome for the saved British crew, but of patriotic pride for the whole Chilean nation.

Punta Arenas’s emerging naval museum (Museo Naval y Marítimo), Pedro Montt 981, Punta Arenas, is relatively new (founded in 1995) and features interactive exhibits, such as a credible warship’s bridge, a selection of model ships, and material on the naval history of Chile and exploration and settlement in the area of Magellanes province and the Chilean Antarctic territories.

The national Museo Naval y Maritimo, the Chilean Naval and Maritime museum in Valparaiso, the country's chief port and home to the nation's navy (armada), has a splendid display covering the nation's maritime history. It includes a fine modern portrait of Lt. Pardo, which hangs amongst the country's admirals other distinguished naval personnel. On board the cutter Yelcho, it recalls, with neither heat, electricity, nor radio in foggy and stormy winter weather, Pardo saved the lives of the crew of the Endurance and brought them back safely to Punta Arenas and Valparaiso. (Pardo, incidentally, later served as Chilean consul in Liverpool).

The Naval Museum (Paseo 21 de Mayo Nº45, Cº Artillería, Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Tel: (+56 -32) 2437651/2437046) is housed in one of the most imposing buildings of Valparaiso. A virtual tour, giving a panoramic view of each room of the museum, can be enjoyed by those visiting the Naval Museum's website. The complete fully illustrated catalogue is also available (under 'publicaciones') and can be read in .pdf form on the website. There is plenty of enthralling material, although as yet no mention of the Shackleton and Pardo story. However a search under 'Pardo' reveals his striking modern portrait in the 'Sala Marinos Ilustres'.

Pilot Pardo himself became a national legend. However this was reluctantly, for he was a modest man who maintained he had only done his duty like any other naval officer. He was promoted to Pilot, first class, and a ship (see above) was in due course named after him; but Lt. Pardo declined the handsome special remuneration (25,000 pounds) offered him on by the Chilean authorities on behalf of the British government, in recognition of his achievement and its international status.

Captain (or Pilot) Pardo was further honoured with a Chilean stamp bearing his likeness. His name - he is still always referred to as Piloto Pardo', and in the Pardo School of Navigation.

Pardo was further honoured, in that his name was given not only to the prominent ridge on Elephant Island that bears his name, and also to a Chilean naval vessel, the Piloto Pardo. Built in Holland, the Piloto Pardo served the Chilean Navy for many years as an Antarctic vessel.

The Piloto Pardo was subsequently renamed the Antarctic Dream, and - under this new name and handsomely refitted - is used by several Antarctic Cruise companies (such as Ladatco, Patagonia Cruises and Scantours) to take visitors to the Southern Islands of the Weddell Sea, the South Shetlands and the South Sandwich, the Bransfield Strait and the Antarctic Peninsula.

In the old Chilean Antarctic map on the left below, the name 'Pardo Island' seems to be attached to Elephant Island, as if in tribute to the distinguished mariner whom Chile still regards as a national hero.

The map on the right draws attention to the substantial Argentine Antarctic territories claim, which conflicts both with the Chilean claim and with the present E.U.-recognised (but not U.S.-) of British Antarctic Territories. The Chilean caption to the map reads 'Proyección argentina sobre el Territorio Antártico Chileno, desde sus pretensiones sobre las islas Falkland, Georgias y Sandwish del Sur... Una consecuencia que las autoridades entreguistas de Chile no han considerado las veces que apoyaron el expansionismo argentino contra las islas inglesas': an interesting postscript on the Falklands War.

Shackleton and his men were toasted, wined and dined in the British Club and other locations in Punta Arenas, and later in Valparaiso following their equally rapturous welcome there.

Shackleton and Pardo were both greeted and congratulated by President Sanfuentes, who had assumed the presidency of Chile just a year earlier. 'Ambos personajes de singular celebridad fueron recibidos por el Presidente de la República, don Juan Luis Sanfuentes. Allí aprovechó Shackleton de agradecer el auxilio prestado por Chile.' (La Revista Marina).

It was President Sanfuentes who personally took a crucial step which finally led to Lt. Pardo's saving of the 22 men. On Saturday evening (8th July), while Shackleton, Worsley and Crean were in Punta Arenas, the Governor of the Territory, Señor Urrutia Semir, while presiding at a dinner in the Gobernación, received the following telegram from the President: "Please greet Sir Ernest Shackleton and place the Government patrol boat Yelcho at his disposition, in order that this celebrated explorer, who I hope will be extremely successful, may be able to rescue his gallant comrades." (Sgd.) SANFUENTES. (This was in fact not the final (August) attempt, but the rescue bid Shackleton, Worsley and Crean made aboard the Emma. The Yelcho was authorised to escort and tow the Emma to a point 200 miles south of Cape Horn.)

The signatures of Shackleton, Worsley and Crean appear in the visitors' book of the British Club in Punta Arenas, founded in the 1890s (and can also be seen in their place on the actual page in the Punta Arenas article below).

A district (Barrio) in Castro, southern Chile, has been renamed 'Piloto Pardo' in honour of both the man and the ship named after him; and a street has also been named 'Piloto Pardo' street. There is also a 'Piloto Pardo' Street in Puerto Williams, and 'Yelcho Street' is that town's principal thoroughfare.



Following his return from the Discovery expedition in 1904 and several years as Secretary to the Royal Scottish Geographical Association in Edinburgh, Ernest Shackleton purchased the Nimrod - an old Scottish sealer which had been used in Newfoundland - on a trip to Norway. She was an old ship, almost the same age as Shackleton himself, built in Dundee some 40 years earlier. He paid an initial £5,000 for her, and spent a further £7,000 in refitting her for the "British Antarctic Expedition". The Captain of the Nimrod was to be Rupert England; and the First Mate, John King Davis. He relied heavily on private sponsorship, bank loans and a large number of individual creditors.

Professor Douglas Mawson, who would later lead his own Antarctic Expedition, joined the ship in Australia, and the Australian government offered a further grant of £5,000 and the New Zealand government, £1,000. In return, it was understood that the Nimrod would undertake oceanographic work between Australia and Antarctica. Nimrod also carried two men recommended to Shackleton by his friend William Bruce, who had commanded the recent expedition aboard the Scotia (1902-4): James Murray was a biologist from Glasgow; and Alistair Forbes Mackay signed on as the Nimrod's second doctor/surgeon.

On July 30, 1907, the Nimrod sailed from London's East India Docks for Torquay. Having diverted back to Cowes for inspection by His Majesty King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, the Prince of Wales (later George V), Princess Victoria, (later Edward VIII) Prince Edward and the Duke of Connaught on Sunday 4 August, the Nimrod sailed from Torquay on 7 August 1907. After calls at the isle of St. Vincent and Cape Town, she proceeded to Australia and New Zealand. Her final port was Lyttelton, in South Island. Thereafter, for five months she was escorted under tow by another ship, the coal-fired Koonya, supplied by the New Zealand Government, which left Nimrod at 4 p.m. on 1 January 1908 as she entered the ice. Conditions proved harsh and around 20 of the party, notably Marshall, Mawson and Pristley, were appallingly seasick.

The Nimrod skirted the Barrier until finally on 25 January Shackleton gave up all hope of reaching his planned destination, King Edward VII Land. The pack-ice was too thick as well as being interspersed with giant icebergs. It seemed impossible to reach land, and the shortness of coal, the leaky condition of the ship, and the absolute necessity of landing all the stores and putting up the hut before the vessel left them made the situation extremely anxious for Shackleton.

Given the heavy and unstable pack ice affecting Barrier Inlet and also the Bay of Whales, and fearing becoming trapped in the ice with limited coal supplies and a leaking ship, Shackleton could see no alternative to steering west towards McMurdo Sound, where Scott had also been based, thus breaking a written agreement he had recently made with Scott and earning Scott's extreme displeasure, causing a temporary breach between the two men. The Nimrod stayed some sixteen miles offshore: Shackleton established his base not at 'Hut Point' but on Cape Royds, on Ross Island, where Shackleton's hut (now on the list of the World Monuments Watch's 'hundred most endangered sites') was erected, some 20 miles north of Scott's hut. Within a month (the start of February 1908)it was possible to unload supplies as the sea ice receded. The ponies and a motor car were unloaded, although the horses were in very poor shape and one, "Nimrod", had to be shot. The Nimrod left the landing party and headed back towards New Zealand on 22 February.

The party proceeded to winter over in preparation for the South Pole attempt the following Antarctic summer (January-March 09). Scientific experiments and observations were begun, and a six-man party Including Mawson) succeeded in the first ascent of the nearby Mount Erebus, the active volcano on Ross Island rising to over 13,000 feet (4,023 metres), and measuring the crater before descendeing rapidly by sliding down the 5000 feet in four hours). The others pursued their special interests: Adams wound the chronometers, checked instruments and did other meteorological work; Marshall, the surgeon, tended to medical needs and exercised the ponies; Wild, the storekeeper, issued food to the cook, opened the cases of tinned food and dug the meat out of the snowdrifts (penguin, seal or mutton); Joyce fed the dogs and trained them for sledge-pulling; David spent time on geological studies; Priestley and Murray worked at dredging; Mawson studied the Aurora Australis, ice structures and measured atmospheric electricity. (for a fuller version of their activities, see the useful account at, from which some of these details are derived).

Attention now focused on the South Pole. The main plan was that four men, Shackleton, Adams, Marshall and Wild, would make for the South Pole. Because of poor success with dogs during Scott's 1901–1904 expedition, Shackleton arranged to use Manchurian ponies for transport. In advance of the main group a second party consisting of Edgeworth David accompanied by Mawson and Mackay, would set out on the somewhat shorter journey to reach the Southern Magnetic Pole, a round trip of 1,260 miles. These three men left on 25 September 1908 and despite considerable privations achieved the Magnetic Pole, the first men ever to do so, by 15/16 January 1909.

Shackleton and his three comrades left in bright sunshine a month later, on 29 October 1908, equipped with ponies. Their route took them up a vast glacier, subsequently named after their sponsor, the Greenwich-born Scottish ship builder William Beardmore (1856-1936), later a pioneer in armaments manufacture during the First World War. (Beardmore's Arrol-Johnston company also supplied the car used by the expedition). However although they took food for 91 days (3 months), rations on the journey were meagre and the four men soon became hungry. On 5 November Wild, Adams, Marshall and the pony "Grisi" were all rescued from crevasses (Marshall twice). Three days later Marshall and Wild pitched their tent right next to an unseen crevasse. The next day another pony slipped into an abyss and was narrowly saved from death. They shot "Chinaman", the weakest pony, on 21 November 21; part was eaten, part preserved in crucial supply depots for the return. Adams, unable to sleep for days from a toothache, let Dr. Marshall extract it without the use of tooth-pulling equipment. On 26 November 1908 they passed the previous 'Furthest South' point achieved by Scott, Shackleton and Wilson in 1902.In early December two more ponies were shot. Shackleton, with his soft heart for animals, believed he heard the last pony, "Socks", whinnying "all night for his lost companions. On 7 December he too was lost in a crevasse, and the four began man-hauling. They were by now eating pony maize.

It was by now Christmas and Shackleton records that the four of them enjoyed a memorable Christmas celebration at 9,500 ft and still 250 miles from the Pole, with 'plum pudding, brandy, cigars and a spoonful of creme de menthe.' By two days later they had arrived at the Polar Plateau, some 10,000 feet up, with blizzards blasting them, and suffering from a lack of food (just 3 weeks' supply of biscuits) and frostbite. Shackleton was aware of their limited time and the men's worsening physical state. They battled southwards into the wind; blizzards and white-outs sometimes kept them in their sleeping bags all day. On 30 December they made just four miles in a blizzard.

By 2 January, 1909, Shackleton was near the breaking point. "I cannot think of failure yet. I must look at the matter sensibly and consider the lives of those who are with can only do his best..." Two days later he wrote, "The end is in sight. We can only go for three more days at the most, for we are weakening rapidly". They fought through a blizzard on 4, 5 and 6 January. On 7 January, only 100 miles from the pole, a howling blizzard kept them in their sleeping bags all day. It was the same next day. The end of their southern journey began at 4 am on January 9. They left the sledge, tent and food at the camp and took only the Union Jack, a brass cylinder containing stamps and documents to mark their farthest south, camera, glasses and a compass.

Finally at 9 a.m. on 9 January they reached their Furthest South point - 88°23'S, 162°E, just 97 miles from the South Pole. Once a flag had been planted and the appropriate photographs had been taken, the four men turned and headed for home. It was a tough and brave decision by Shackleton to forsake the prize and turn about when so awesomely close to their goal. I thought you'd think, my dear, he wrote to his wife Emily, "that a live donkey is better than a dead lion." She agreed. On the return journey with the wind behind them and a sail erected they once (on 19 January) made 29 miles in a single day. By the morning of 26 January they had only tea, cocoa and a little pony maize left. But the carefully laid depots supplied them with a wealth of food and horsemeat. That same day they travelled 16 miles over "the worst surfaces and most dangerous crevasses we have ever encountered". On 27 February 27 Shackleton decided to leave Marshall, who was suffering badly from dysentery, and Adams behind while he and Wild took off for Hut Point. The two reached Hut Point on 28 February just in time to catch the Nimrod, still sheltering close by, but on the very point of sailing (a message warned them it had intended to sail on 26th). A fire signal summoned the boat and the pair were safely aboard by 11 a.m. At two in the afternoon Shackleton led a rescue party to recover Marshall and Adams. At 1 a.m. on March 4, all four of the Southern Party were at last safe on board the Nimrod.

As the Nimrod made its way past Cape Royds, Shackleton wrote: "We all turned out to give three cheers and to take a last look at the place where we had spent so many happy days. The hut was not exactly a palatial residence...but, on the other hand it had been our home for a year that would always live in our memories...We watched the little hut fade away in the distance with feelings almost of sadness, and there were few men aboard who did not cherish a hope that some day they would once more live strenuous days under the shadow of mighty Erebus".

While the Nimrod expedition did not make it to the pole, largely because it was defeated by the appalling weather and blizzards which allowed only pitifully slow progress, played havoc with their schedule and dangerously used up their rations, Shackleton, Adams, Marshall, and Wild covered (as Shackleton recorded) precisely 1,755 miles and 209 yards, and were the first humans to traverse the Trans-Antarctic mountain range and set foot on the South Polar Plateau. They also located and pioneered the Beardmore Glacier route into the interior.

Upon his return to the United Kingdom in summer 1909 Shackleton was hailed as a hero and was knighted by the king. A government grant helped defray some of the large outstanding costs of the expedition.

The Nimrod party consisted of:

Sir Ernest Shackleton: Expedition Leader
Jameson Boyd Adams: Expdition Second in Command, Meteorologist (also on Furthest South)
Lt Rupert England, RHR: Ship's Master
John K Davis: First Officer
Aeneas Lionel Acton Mackintosh: Second Officer (also captained Aurora)
Alfred Cheetham: Third Officer and Boatswain (also on Endurance)
Henry J L Dunlop: Chief Engineer
Edgeworth David: Director of Scientific Staff, Geologist
Sir Philip Lee Brocklehurst: Assistant Geologist, i/c Sea Current Observations
Prof. Douglas Mawson: Physicist
James Murray: Biologist
Raymond E Priestley: Geologist
Dr. Alistair Forbes Mackay: Assistant Surgeon
Dr. William Arthur Rupert Michell: Surgeon
Dr. Eric Stewart Marshall: Surgeon, Cartographer (on Furthest South)
George Edward Marston: Official Artist (also on Endurance)
Bernard Day: Electrician and Motor Mechanic
Ernest Joyce: Storeman, Dogs, Sledges, Zoological Collections
Frank Wild: i/c Provisions (also Deputy Leader on Endurance)
William C Roberts: Ship's Cook
Bertram Armitage




The Chilean naval vessel the Yelcho was built in 1906 by the Scottish firm G. Brown and Co. of Greenock, on the River Clyde, 120 ft long and 23 ft wide (that, coincidentally, was the length of the Greenwich-built James Caird). She had a top speed of 10 knots. She continued in service till 1945, ten years after the death of Pilot Pardo, who commanded the fourth rescue mission to Elephant Island mounted by Shackleton in 1916. The boat was decommissioned some time after World War II but survived until 1962, when she was finally scrapped.

The name of the Yelcho, the gallant ship which finally brought the men home safely, was fittingly preserved and honoured on several ways: perhaps most importantly, by the subsequent naming of one of Elephant Island's most prominent forelands 'Cape Yelcho'.

The name 'Yelcho' was also given to the main street of Chile's southernmost coastal town, Puerto Williams, and it is there that the prow of the Yelcho has been preserved and is prominently displayed as a tribute to Captain Pardo's ship, his crew, and the successful rescue mission of 1916.

In front of the Yelcho's prow is a plaque which explains: 'Above this plaque is displayed the prow of the Escampiva Yelcho, a ship of the Chilean Navy, which under the command of Pilot Luis Pardo Villalon secured the rescue from the HMS Endurance the members of the British Expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton on Elephant Island, in the Chilean Antarctic, 28th of August 1916. Donated to the City of Punta Arenas, 21st of May 1970."

The name 'Yelcho' (which has no meaning in Spanish) also features prominently in an area of outstanding scenic beauty to the South of Chile, between Chaitenand Futaleufu. This includes Lake Yelcho, the Yelcho River, the Yelcho Bridge, the Yelcho Glacier, the Yelcho Walk, a Yelcho bus company and the attractive hospitality lodge set up to welcome travellers to the area, known as the Hotel Yelcho de Patagonia. Walking and fishing are especially popular in this area, to which a number of tour companies offer holidays.

The Yelcho region lies to the south of Chile, not far inland from the Pacific Ocean. It seems highly appropriate that an area of such outstanding natural beauty should bear the name of the small tug which under Pilot Pardo's command retrieved Shackleton's 22 men from the equally beautiful, yet desolate and forlorn, Elephant Island.

The upper hinterland of the southern Andes here, and in particular areas like the impressive and beautiful 'hanging' glacier known as 'Ventisquero Yelcho', capture something of the icy climes experienced by this southern region of Chile and its Antarctic offshoots during winter.

The views in the Yelcho region, for instance from the high 'ridge' on the Yelcho Hill, are sometimes as dramatic as those high up in the mountains of South Georgia,or of Antarctica itself.

The Yelcho region is also home to some of Chile's wines, which - both white and red - are now among the most widely consumed in the world. You can now drink 'Yelcho Chardonnay', 'Yelcho Merlot' and 'Yelcho Carmener Reserve' Red, from grapes grown in Chile's Rapel Valley.



Pine Island Glacier, one of the biggest on Antarctica, may be on the verge of slipping into the sea far faster than anyone previously thought, according to the preliminary results of a survey mission to the White Continent.

The team of scientists from Chile's independent Centre for Scientific Studies and the US space agency (Nasa) has teamed up with the Chilean Navy to make a series of flights over some of Antarctica's most important and unexplored regions. Their aim has been to create the most detailed maps ever made of the ice surface and the underlying geology, so scientists can accurately measure the impact of climate change.

Pine Island, a massive block of ice pushing out into the ocean in the remote and relatively unexplored western corner of Antarctica, stretches some 50 kilometres across in places, with ice up to four kilometres deep. Its mouth is protected by the Antarctic sea ice; it lies at the most remote part of the entire Antarctic continent, where Antarctica is also most unstable. Here any small changes in the Earth's temperature as a result of global warming are likely to have a big impact on the ice. The unexpectedly rapid rate of glacial disintegration has surprised the scientific community.



Some excellent photos of Antarctica and a good outline of the Shackleton story can be found on Paul Ward's thoroughly worthwhile 'Cool Antarctica' site.

In addition to the fine photos, the site includes fascinating sections on Antarctic exploration, the geography of the area and its environmental protection, about cruise ships, and much else.

It deserves to be one of the first ports of call for all those interested in matters Antarctic.



It didn't only happen in Shackleton's day! The '70South' antarctic website and the website Antarctic Philately from New Zealand reported that the American icebreaking research ship Nathaniel B Palmer took a leaf out of Endurance's book by becoming stuck fast in the ice near the Antarctic Peninsula for several days during late October 2001. The ship was about 60 miles from the ice edge and wedged between Adelaide and Alexander Islands, with rafts of sea ice 65 feet deep around it. However a few days later it succeed in freeing itself and headed safely for Punta Arenas.

The Nathaniel B. Palmer was named to commemorate the American credited with being the first to see Antarctica. Nathaniel Brown Palmer, then only 21 years old, commanded the 14-meter sloop Hero, which on 16 and 17 November 1820 entered Orleans Strait and came very close to the Antarctic Peninsula, reaching about 63° 45' South. Later in life Palmer won wealth and fame as a pioneer clipper ship master and designer.



Satellite images have revealed the collapse of Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, fulfilling predictions made by British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists. The collapse of the 3250 square kilometre ice shelf is the latest drama in a region of Antarctica that has experienced unprecedented warming over the last 50 years.



The Bonner Laboratory at the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Research Station was completely destroyed by fire at the end of September 2001.

Happily, no-one was killed or injured.




THE plucky optimism of the youngest member of Captain Scott's doomed expedition to the South Pole will be made public for the first time as his journals go on display in Cambridge.

Henry Bowers, the youngest of the five men to perish on their way back from the Pole, writes with bounding enthusiasm of the journey that would eventually kill him in late March 1912, when he died alongside Robert Falcon Scott in a tent 11 miles short of the next food depot.

Bowers's diary entries, which are mostly unpublished, begin with affectionate observations about the expedition's animals but become increasingly sparse as the men become exhausted in unexpectedly bad weather.

His entry for November 27, 1911, when the expedition was still at full strength, is typical of his buoyant attitude in adversity. "Midnight - it has been blowing and snowing all day and to the S[outh] it is as thick as a hedge, it looks as if we shall have a pleasant march like yesterday's. However as long as weather permits us to do our 13 miles I suppose we should not growl, though for summer weather this really seems the limit."

The journals are being shown at Cambridge University's Scott Polar Research Institute, which will reopen on June 8 after a pounds 1.75 million revedelopment.

Bowers shows particular affection towards Victor, his pony, observing that the animal seems oblivious to Bowers's slips on the ice. "This never disturbs Victor who either stops to eat snow or ignores me altogether."

He notes on November 14: "Huge icicles form under [the ponies'] noses during the march. V generally rubs his off on my sleeve."

He repeatedly shows concern for the welfare of the animals, although the party did eventually kill and eat the ponies.

Bowers, whom Scott admired for his ability to withstand the cold, remained cheerful as he described the difficulties that befell him. "I am enjoying a slight touch of snow blindness in my right eye and so am reduced to goggles," he wrote on November 14.

"They are a beastly nuisance as they constantly get fogged and one's breath on them freezes at once. They must be endured however and are a comfortable pair fortunately."

One of his tasks was to monitor the weather, which he wrote about until he was too exhausted to continue. An early entry, on November 11, features a prediction that failed to come true, with fatal consequences. "The summer should surely be setting in soon and as it only lasts for two months out of the twelve in this region I do trust it will be kind to us at this most critical time."

Bowers's records of the weather showed a trend that was unknown at the time. Unlike in the Arctic where there is a slow transition from summer to winter, the Antarctic winter closes in almost without a trace of autumn.

Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, said that Bowers was unable to write much after mid-January because he was too weak with hunger.

"He must have known it was coming to an end. They were all struggling physically. The problem was that they were using far more calories than they were expecting because it was so cold and they were at altitude. He just didn't have the energy to write."

One of Bowers's last detailed entries, from December 16, showed his optimism was unbowed. "I am wearing a strip of plaster on each lip as they are all swollen blistered and scabby with the sun. My face is like a ham - fortunately an ample beard will soon make a kindly covering."

Also on display is his final letter to his mother, which has been published but never displayed. His writing, which remains legible and cogent till the end, shows his hope fading away.

"Each depot has been a harder struggle to reach, but I am still strong and hope to reach this one with Dr Wilson and get the food and fuel necessary for our lives... Oh how I do feel for you when you hear all - you will know that for me the end was peaceful as it is only sleep in the cold. Your ever loving son to the end in this life and the next when we will meet and when God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes."




To celebrate Ernest Shackleton’s departure on “Endurance” across the Antarctic seas, star illustrator William Grill brings us a detailed visual narrative of this extraordinary and historic expedition.

Grill is a master illustrator. His, beautiful use of coloured pencils and vibrant hues place him somewhere on the artistic spectrum between Raymond Briggs and David Hockney, and his fastidious cataloguing of every single detail of the expedition is nothing short of a Blackstock collection.

Grill evokes the atmosphere and intrepid excitement that would have surrounded the expedition with his impeccably researched and detailed drawings.

Children will love examining the exploded diagrams of the peculiar provision taken or the individual drawings of the sled dogs or pack horses.

This book takes the academic and historical information surrounding the expedition and re-interprets it for a younger audience in a way that will capture their imaginations.


A new exhibition in Cardiff will chart the scientific discoveries from Captain Scott’s expedition, 100 years after the explorer reached the South Pole.

The event at National Museum Cardiff this monthJanuary marks the arrival of Scott’s party at the South Pole on January 17, 1912.
It includes many photographs of the expedition setting out from Cardiff on their world-famous, but ultimately tragic effort to reach the pole.

National Museum Wales Geology Curator Tom Sharpe said while the expedition is best remembered for the tragedy that befell Scott and his four companions on the return journey, the exhibition aims to highlight the team’s scientific research between 1910 and 1913.

He said: “The year before last, 2010, we put together a small exhibition about the departure of the ship from Cardiff.

“What we’ve done this time, we’ve still included the story of the Cardiff departure and Welsh support.

“That’s something that people don’t realise that there was so much support from Wales. If Scott hadn’t had that support, the expedition would never have happened.

“We’ve got some of the rocks and fossils that Scott and his party collected on their way back from the South Pole. They dragged them literally to the bitter end, they were found when the bodies were discovered. These are rocks and fossils that tell us something about the geological history of that part of the world.”

In this exhibition, visitors will also be able to see a selection of specimens collected during the expedition as well as some of the iconic images of Antarctic exploration through the watercolours of Edward Wilson and the photographs of Herbert Ponting.

Among the specimens on display from the Museum’s own collections will be the Welsh flag flown on Scott’s expedition ship, the Terra Nova, and the ship’s figurehead.

Mr Sharpe said there were also plans to recreate the geologists’ workspace from inside Scott’s hut to give visitors an idea of a condition the scientists were working in.

Mr Sharpe has recently returned from a trip to Scott’s hut, which he said provided inspiration for the upcoming exhibition.

He said: “It was amazing. I’d seen these photos for years, what really struck me was standing outside and seeing it in colour.

“There was a real sombre feeling of tragedy, Scott and his group left that hut and planned to come back but didn’t make it.”

Supported by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, Captain Scott: South for Science is at National Museum Cardiff from Saturday (January 14) until May 13.

Cardiff's role in Captain Scott's trip to South Pole Exhibition Jan-June 2010

Captain Robert Scott's legenday trip to the South Pole which claimed his life and that of four more explorers left from Cardiff 100 years ago this June.

His ship, the Terra Nova, sailed from the city's docks laden with Welsh coal, fuel, and supplies.

City business leaders got behind Scott and even helped him secure government backing for the expedition.

Now the famous masthead is at the centre of a Cardiff

exhibition about the ill-fated trip.

Scott's Terra Nova, which he had bought from a Liverpool ship owner, was cheered on by thousands when it set sail from the Welsh capital early on the afternoon of 15 June, 1910.

Three years later, crowds of around 60,000 joined Scott's widow Lady Kathleen and young son Peter to welcome her back.

Wales and particularly Cardiff played a huge role in the whole trip, explained Tom Sharpe, curator of the exhibition at National Museum Cardiff.

"The ship went laden with with 100 tonnes of coal, 300 tonnes of fuel made from coal dust mixed with bitumen, as well as pots and plans from the Llanelli tin works.

"In fact, she was so full, she started leaking and letting in water.

"Cardiff contributed far more than any other city in the UK," he said.

Amongs the Cardiff-based sponsors who helped the expedition were ship owners Daniel Radcliffe and William Tatem, and James Howell of the Cardiff department store Howells who provided a Welsh flag which flew from the Terra Nova on her long journey south.

The editor of the Western Mail newspaper William Davies was key to rallying public support.

He also persuaded the Chancellor David Lloyd George to provide a government grant of £20.000 for the expedition.

Poignantly, the exhibition includes a handful of rocks, part of a 35lb load of geological specimens found on a sledge with the bodies of Scott and two of his polar companions.

Exhausted, cold and hungry, they died just 11 miles from a supply depot in March 1912, having made it to the South Pole in January of that year only to find Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it.

Two other members of the polar party, Welshman Edgar Evans from Rhossili on Gower, and Captain Lawrence "Titus" Oates - he of the renowned phrase "I am going outside and I may be some time" - had earlier lost their lives.

Tom Sharpe said: "Amundsen was lucky. He had a route that took him through the ice. He was lucky in the weather as well. And Scott was unlucky."

The exhibition also explores other Welsh links with Antarctica - a geologist from St Fagans, a stowaway from Newport and the Antarctic work of a zoologist from St Brides Major who later became director of the National Museum.

The display will close on 14 June, marking the date the Terra Nova returned to Bute Dock at the close of the expedition 97 years ago. Then from June to October it will be shown in Swansea.

It will then be shown at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea from 14 July until 10 October 2010.

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