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Davis, John King

Davis, John King

Alias: None

Dates: 1884-1967

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (silver); Polar Medal (bronze); Murchison Award, Royal Geographical Society; Commander of the British Empire (1965)

Davis was born on 19 February 1884 in Kew, London. He was the only son of James Green Davis, an army coach, and Marion Alice King. He was educated at Colet Court in London and then at Burford Grammar School in Oxfordshire. In 1900 while in Cape Town Davis signed up as a steward's boy on the mail-steamer Carisbrooke Castle without his father's knowledge. From there he worked up the ranks on ships including the Celtic Chief and Westland until he got his extra master's certificate in August 1908.

Davis joined the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) as First Officer and received his first command when he became captain of Nimrod on the return voyage. He was then invited to serve as second in command on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 1911-14 (Aurora), led by Douglas Mawson, and was captain of the expedition ship. On this expedition he made three summer voyages of relief and exploration, as well as oceanographic cruises between Tasmania and East Antarctica. After becoming involved in the First World War, Davis led the British relief expedition of 1916-17 to rescue the Ross Sea party of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17, whose vessel Aurora was stranded. Davis successfully returned the surviving men to New Zealand on 9 February 1917.

During World War I Davis was put in charge of the troop transport Boonah, carrying troops and horses to Egypt and England. In 1920, he became the Director of Navigation for the Commonwealth of Australia and held this post until 1949. His distinguished career also included a period from 1929 to 1930 as captain of Discovery and second in command during the first summer of the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition 1929-31 (Discovery). Davis continued his interest in Antarctica, taking part in the planning committee for the formation and implementation of Australian Antarctic policy until 1962. He died in Melbourne, Australia on 7 May 1967.

Davis had a hugely influential career that spanned seven Antarctic voyages, a military career and a career in the Australian public service. He was awarded three Polar Medals and the Murchison Award of the Royal Geographical Society. He also became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Member of the Royal Society of Victoria since 1920 and President 1945–46. His highest accolade came in 1965 when he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire). Davis is commemorated in Antarctica by a variety of geographical features, including Cape Davis 66°24' S 56°50' E and Davis Station 68°34' 35.8" S 77°58'02.6" E, the second Australian research station on the Antarctic Continent.

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