2008 Ross Dependency - 100th Anniversary of the British Antarctic Expedition
The British Antarctic Expedition 1907 - 1909, also known as the Nimrod
Expedition, was the first of three expeditions to the Antarctic led by
Ernest Shackleton. It was financed without governmental or institutional
support and relied on private loans and individual contributions. Its
ship, Nimrod, was a small, 40-year-old wooden sealer of 334 gross register
tons, and the expedition's members generally lacked relevant
experience. On New Year’s Day 1908, Nimrod departed from the South
Island port of Lyttelton.
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Initially, the expedition's public
profile was much lower than that of Scott’s Discovery Expedition six
years earlier. However, nationwide interest was aroused by the news of its
achievements. The South Pole was not attained, but the expedition’s
southern march reached the farthest south latitude of 88 degrees 23
minutes, and the expedition could claim that it had got within one hundred
miles of the Pole. This was by far the longest southern polar journey to
During the expedition a separate group led by Welsh
Australian geology professor Edgeworth David reached the estimated
location of the South Magnetic Pole, and the first ascent was made of
Mount Erebus, Ross Island's active volcano. The scientific team
carried out extensive geological, zoological and meteorological work.
Shackleton’s transport arrangements, based on Manchurian ponies, motor
traction and sled dogs, were innovations which were later copied by Scott
for his ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition.
The expedition was a
public triumph, although in the eyes of some of the London geographical
establishment its successes were compromised because Shackleton had broken
a promise made under duress to Scott that he would not base his winter
quarters in or near McMurdo Sound. Ice conditions had ultimately forced
Nimrod to land there.
On his return, Shackleton survived the Royal
Geographical Society's skepticism about his achievements and received
many public honours, including a knighthood from King Edward VII. Within
three years his farthest south record had been surpassed, as first
Amundsen and then Scott reached the South Pole. In his own moment of
triumph Amundsen recognized: "Sir Ernest Shackleton's name will
always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters of
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