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
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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 that
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
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.
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 fire".
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