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Paton, James

Paton, James

Alias: None

Title: Mr

Rank: Able seaman (Royal Navy)

Dates: 1869-1917

Nationality: British

Awards: Polar Medal (silver); Polar Medal (bronze)

James Paton was born in Glasgow in 1869. He was an able seaman and lived with his family in Lyttelton, New Zealand. His first experience of the Antarctic was with the Morning, the relief ship sent to McMurdo Sound in 1902-1903 and 1903-1904 to assist the British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04 (Discovery) led by Robert Falcon Scott.

He joined the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) as an able seaman and also as leading seaman, signing up at the age of 39 on 28 November 1907. He signed off on 31 August 1909, having participated in the surveying of the islands in the Sub-Antarctic waters on Nimrod's voyage back to London under the captaincy of John King Davis. Paton then went on to join the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Terra Nova), led by Robert Falcon Scott, as able seaman. He then joined the Ross Sea Party of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17 (Aurora) as boatswain on board the Aurora.

In May 1915, Aurora was driven by a blizzard from her moorings off Cape Evans and beset by pack ice, leaving ten men ashore to winter with minimal supplies. After drifting for ten months in the Ross Sea, she broke free in March 1916 and returned to New Zealand. Aurora, with Paton still boatswain, rescued the seven survivors of the shore party at Cape Evans in January 1917. After the expedition, Shackleton sold Aurora to an American firm and Paton was on board the vessel when she sailed for Chile in June 1917. Paton was lost at sea, as nothing more was heard of Aurora, which was finally posted missing in January 1918.

Paton left a significant legacy, having taken part in four of the greatest Antarctic expeditions. Spanning nine voyages, his Antarctic sailing experience was almost unrivalled by any other sailor. He is commemorated in Antarctica by Paton Peak 76°57' S 166°57' E, the highest point of Beaufort Island. Paton made the first landing on the island by walking to it, against orders, over sea-ice from the ship.


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