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Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17 (Aurora)

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17 (Aurora)
Expedition: Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17 (Aurora)
Date: 1914-1917
Leader: Shackleton, Ernest Henry

After Roald Amundsen successfully reached the South Pole in December 1911 Sir Ernest Shackleton looked for a new challenge. In 1913 he announced that he would lead an expedition which would be the first to cross the Antarctic continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea.

Expedition ship Endurance would land Shackleton and a crossing party on the Weddell Sea side and they would pioneer a rout to the South Pole before journeying across the polar plateau and descending the Beardmore Glacier to the Ross Ice Shelf. A second ship – the Aurora – would take a party to the Ross Sea to lay depots out along the ice shelf for the crossing party to pick up. A programme of scientific work would also be carried out both on land and by the personel of expedition ship Aurora.

The Ross Sea Party were commanded by Aeneas Mackintosh who had previously sailed with Shackleton on the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod). After visiting Macquarie Island to provision the Commonwealth Meteorological Expedition the Aurora sailed to Ross Island. When ice prevented the creation of a base at Cape Crozier and Cape Royds the ship continued to Cape Evans and began to unload provisions. On 6 May 1915 Aurora was driven from her moorings in a blizzard. Ten men were left ashore with minimal supplies and equipment. Knowing that Shackleton would be relying on them for the survival of the crossing party they managed to lay the required food and fuel depots towards the Beardmore Glacier for the expected Weddell Sea party. In Janualry 1916 during this gruelling sledging programme, the expeditions padre and photographer Spencer-Smith fell ill with scurvy, the men had at that time reached 83° South. At his own suggestion, Smith was left alone in a tent while the others continued on to lay the last depot. After their return ten days later, he was pulled on a sledge back towards the base at Cape Evans but died on 9 March 1916 during the journey.

In May 1916 Victor Hayward and Aeneas Mackintosh vanished while trying to cross the sea ice between Hut Point and Cape Evans, despite searches no trace was found of either man. During the 1916 winter a party of four wintered at Cape Evans while a party of three were at Hut Point.

Under the command of Joseph Stenhouse the Aurora drifted for ten months before breaking free of the ice and making her way back to New Zealand. A relief party was organised and placed under the command of John King Davis, Shackleton – who had led the Weddell Sea party to safety after their ship Endurance had been lost - arrived in New Zealand in time to join the relief party and Aurora picked up the seven survivors in January 1917.

Personnel