On this day 100 years ago, Ernest Shackleton and his team reached 88° 23' S 162° E and planted the Union flag marking the point as the "Furthest South" yet achieved by man.
Having reached a point just 97 nautical miles from the South Pole, and realising that dwindling rations meant they had to turn back or die from starvation, Shackleton made his momentous decision to head north again. He was later to write to his wife, Emily, that "it was better to be a living donkey than a dead lion".
His diary entry for the day can be seen below courtesy of the Scott Polar Research Institute. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
9 January 1909
The last day out we have shot our bolt and the tale is 88.23 S 162 E. The wind eased down at 1 am. At 2 am we were up and had breakfast and shortly after 4 am started south with the Union Jacks and the brass Cylinder of Stamps. At 9 am hard quick marching we were in 88.23 and there hoisted H.M.'s flag took possession of the plateau in the name of H.M. and called it King Edward Plateau. Homeward Bound. Whatever regrets may be we have done our best.
The flag which Shackleton planted at the "Furthest South" had been presented to him by the King and Queen. He recorded in his diary "On the Sunday (4th August) we were anchored at Cowes, and their Majesties the King and Queen, their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales, the Princess Victoria, Prince Edward and the Duke of Connaught came on board. The King graciously conferred upon me the Victorian Order, and the Queen entrusted me with a Union Jack, to carry on the southern sledge journey." The flag now hangs in the Scott Polar Research Institute (see below).
Henry Worsley writes .... Last week, just after we arrived in Punta Arenas we were invited to a nearby house which used to belong to a a local influential family. In their visitors book was an entry from Ernest Shackleton written in July 1916 after the Endurance journey when he was arranging the rescue from Elephant Island. As well as signing the book he wrote a short poem which you can see below which I doubt many have seen or read before.
An unnamed crew-member at play. The original caption reads: "une séance de phonographe offerte aux pingouins." We have been so far unable to discover the exact records enjoyed by the local fauna, but we'll keep you posted.
Over-wintering in Antarctica is a long and dull business.
During the 1902 Discovery Expedition, where Shackleton first served under Scott, he created and edited The South Polar Times, a lively and unique journal established to both maintain morale and document the lives and work of the small colony at Cape Royds.
The South Polar Times contains news, poetry (presumably with some contributions by EHS, or "Nemo" as he styled himself in his editorial role) notable observations on the taste of penguin-meat, satirical cartoons and illustrated essays on geological, climatic, biological and other scientific topics, all produced in situ on the expedition's single typewriter during the long wait for the Antarctic summer, and hence for favourable conditions under which tackle the Pole.
The illustration above, 'Dawn' by Dr. EA Wilson, is reproduced from Vol. 1 of the collected South Polar Times, which was compiled in 1907, on the Discovery's return.
We will be posting more from this excellent and highly unusual journal, never originally intended for publication, here in the SCE Polar History Archives.
On his return in 1909 Shackleton was considerably in debt, and had to raise money by giving a lecture tour about his adventures. Shackleton was widely regarded as a hero, and the tour was a great success.
We present an early wax cylinder record from this period, titled 'My South Polar Expedition' by Lieut. E.H. Shackleton, recorded on 30 March 1909, with the location of the recording apocryphally given as being the Albert Hall. In any event, Shackleton describes here the hazards of crossing the Beardmore Glacier: only ten men in recorded history have ever managed this crossing.
You can hear this historic recording (3m 47s) in MP3 format by clicking here. Please note that although the sound quality is at the pinnacle of Edwardian audio technology (an Edison Amberol Cylinder) it will be considerably less clear than you are accustomed to.
The recording (8.6MB) will open in a new window.
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