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Mackay, Alistair Forbes

Mackay, Alistair Forbes

Alias: None

Title: Dr

Dates: 1878-1914

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (silver); Queen's South Africa Medal

Alister Forbes Mackay was born on 22 February 1878 in Carskey, Argyllshire, Scotland. He was the son of Lieutenant Colonel A. Forbes Mackay, of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders. Mackay studied medicine at Edinburgh University, interrupting his studies to undertake biological research at Dundee, serve as a trooper in the Boer War and to join Baden Powell's police in South Africa. He returned to Edinburgh to finish his studies in 1901, and then joined the Royal Navy as surgeon.

In 1907, Mackay was selected for the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) as assistant surgeon. He was a member of the party making the first ascent of Mount Erebus, which reached the summit 10 March 1908. He was also a member of the three-man Northern Party which set out on 5 October 1908 in an attempt to reach the South Magnetic Pole, as well as surveying the Victoria Coast and searching for minerals of economic value in the Dry Valleys. The team eventually reached the near vicinity of the South Magnetic Pole on 16 January 1909, taking possession of Victoria Land for Britain.

After returning from the Antarctic, Mackay joined the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-18 (led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson) as surgeon on board the ship Karluk. The expedition aimed to explore the Parry Archipelago, and the Karluk was originally assigned the role of establishing a base for Stefansson and the scientists on the north-western fringe of the Canadian Arctic archipelago. However, after transporting Stefansson to Alaska, Karluk became beset in the ice and sank. Led by the ship's captain Bob Bartlett, a camp was established on the ice at the site of the wreck. On 5 February 1914, Mackay left with three companions in an attempt to cross the sea ice and reach Wrangel Island; the last sighting of the four men was as they approached Herald Island.

Mackay is commemorated by Mackay Glacier 76°58’ S 162°00' E which was discovered by the South Magnetic Pole Party on the Nimrod expedition.


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