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The Shackleton Nimrod Expedition Relived

MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– In just the short time that I have spent in McMurdo, I have experienced many amazing things, most of them for the first time. And today was no different. A couple of us from our science team joined about 40 other people from town in meeting an expedition team as they passed through on their way to the South Pole. This is no ordinary expedition, however. This one is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Shackleton Nimrod Expedition that had fallen just short of reaching the South Pole in 1908, and its members are descendants of the original explorers.

The members of the Shackleton Centenary Expedition will be retracing the same route to the South Pole as the Nimrod Expedition in 1907-09. This will be a 900-mile long overland traverse over 80 days on skis and towing sledges, each weighing 150 lbs. The team members include leader Henry Worsley (in search of a link with Frank Worsley, Shackleton’s skipper on the Endurance), Will Gow, and Henry Adams (both great-grandsons of Jameson Boyd Adams).

Expedition members Worsley, Adams, and Gow from left to right. Worsley is holding a compass originally owned by Shackleton that was used on the Nimrod Expedition.

The team arrived at Hut Point, located just outside of McMurdo, mid-morning of day three of their journey. Their trip started at Shackleton’s Hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island. There was no formal presentation or speeches, just a short meet-and-greet to answer questions and to have the opportunity to wish them well on their long journey. Today, after all, will be their last physical human contact until they reach the point at which the original Shackleton expedition was forced to turn around, the Furthest Southerly Point. There, they will be joined by Patrick Bergel (great-grandson of Shackleton) and Tim Fright (great-great-nephew of Frank Wild) where they will continue to the South Pole and complete what the original Shackleton expedition was unable to do.

Worsley’s 150 lb. sledge that he will be towing across the continent.

One piece of information I found interesting was their daily caloric balance. Worsley estimated that they would each lose “about 1.5 stones”, or 21 pounds, along the journey. They will be burning 8000 calories a day, and they plan to take in 6000 calories a day. If you consider that the nutritional labels on all of our food are based on a typical 2000-calorie-a-day diet, that’s a lot of energy!

And now for a short history lesson to help put all of this in perspective. On August 3, 1907 Shackleton set sail for Antarctica aboard the Nimrod in hopes of making it to the then unclaimed South Pole. After spending the winter in huts on Ross Island, a four-man team that included Ernest Shackleton, Frank Wild, Eric Marshall, and Jameson Boyd Adams set off for the South Pole with four Manchurian ponies pulling sledges. By the time they had crossed Beardmore Glacier (a 140-mile long glacier named by Shackleton), they had already lost all four of the ponies and were pulling the sledges themselves. On January 9, 1909, due to exhaustion, food shortage, and weather, Shackleton made the decision to turn back, only 97 miles short of the Pole. Although they had not made it to the Pole, they had traveled further south than any other explorer, and this point came to be known as the Furthest Southerly Point. All four men successfully rejoined the rest of the Nimrod party on March 4, 1909 at Hut Point. Shackleton never reached the South Pole. A Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, was the first to reach the Pole in 1911.

Worsley heading away from Hut Point.

You can follow along with the expedition as they travel to the South Pole at We wish them the best of luck on their journey!

Expedition members head south away from Hut Point and head across the Ross Ice Shelf.
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2 Responses »

  1. Nice story Beth! I will be back in town Monday afternoon. Hopefully you’ll still be around and we can catch up.

    All the best to you,


  2. Great article, Beth! Wonderful to see that you are enjoying your time at McMurdo. Keep writing if you can, and keep the pictures coming. We are all interested to share in your experiences. We missed you in New Mexico, but all went well and we came home with good data.

    Stay healthy,