Queen Alexandra's Flag planted at 88° 23S on January 9, 1909

The furthest South man had reached in History

Jameson Adams, Frank Wild and Eric Marshall (from left to right) plant the Union jack at their southernmost position, 88°23', on 9 January 1909. The photograph was taken by expedition leader Ernest Shackleton.


Antarctica is a land of dreams; a pristine environment of epic proportions and extremities.

Antarctica, the highest, coldest, driest, most windswept place on earth; truly the last frontier. The South Pole is the Holy Grail of Polar Explorers. One of the greatest stories in Antarctic Exploration is that of the race to the Geographic South Pole.

Your journey is going to complete the Nimrod Expedition; to stand at the Geographic South Pole, the goal Shackleton was to find so elusive.  In 1902 Shackleton on the Discovery Expedition with Robert Scott had come within 480 miles of the Pole and on the brilliantly successful Nimrod Expedition, which brought fame and fortune to all those involved, Shackleton with his brave men Frank Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams  had to turn back just  97 nautical miles (111 standard miles) from the Pole.

Legend has it that Shackleton had placed an advert in a newspaper before the expedition:



It is a good story and is almost certainly apocryphal as it has been attributed also to Shackleton's Endurance expedition.

The name of the expedition came from the boat they sailed in 'Nimrod' which set off from the East India Docks on 30 July 1907 but made a detour when they were sent a message that the King and Queen wished to come on board and inspect the ship.  Nimrod anchored at Cowes on 4 August and the royal party came on board.  King Edward VII presented Shackleton with the Victorian Order and Queen Alexandra presented him with a Union Jack to carry to the South Pole.  Their majesties were accompanied by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Princess Victoria, Prince Edward and the Duke of Connaught.  Nimrod sailed on to Torquay early the next day finally setting off for New Zealand on August 7 arriving at Lyttelton on November 23. Nimrod was then towed down to the Antarctic Circle to save coal.  The voyage was not easy with severe gales and seasickness talking its toll.  Beset by icebergs Shackleton had to abandon his original intended landfall, King Edward VII Land, and make for the McMurdo Sound at Cape Royds. The stores and ten ponies were landed and the expedition hut, essential for their survival over the winter, was built. On 22 February Nimrod sailed back to New Zealand and the men began their adventure in earnest finding that the mundane chores of winter life filled their time, the cold and wind making even simple activities involved and time consuming.

Shackleton decided to give the expedition impetus by ordering an immediate attempt to ascend Mount Erebus, 12,450 feet (3,790 m) high, which had never been climbed. The Erebus party, consisted of Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson and Alistair Mackay, with Marshall, Adams and Brocklehurst forming a support group, the ascent began on 5 March and in spite of a blizzard the summit was reached on 9 March.

Once spring arrived they were ready to launch the plans worked out over the winter. Edgeworth David and team mates Mackay and Mawson would lead the Northern Party on a 1260 mile journey to locate the Magnetic South Pole and Shackleton, Wild, Marshal and Adams would head south for the Geographic Pole, a 1700 mile trek.

On October 29th 1908.Shackelton's four-man team set out at 10 am on a cloudless day with the wind at their backs to conquer the South Pole.  Only those who have experienced Antarctica directly can appreciate the feeling of exhilaration and excitement that setting out on a journey on a fine day in the Antarctic spring can give.  On November the 26th they passed the previous furthest south point that Shackleton had reached with Robert Scott's Discovery Expedition in 1902.

By the 3rd December they discovered 'an open road to the South....a great glacier running almost south to north between two huge mountain ranges" (later named the Beardmore after Shackleton's chief sponsor) their route through Transantarctic Mountains. The weather conditions were dreadful, continually being held up by blizzards made rations short; bravery and enthusiasm were not enough and by early January they were freezing and starving to death, their hands and feet on the verge of frostbite.

After a blizzard on 7 and 8 January kept them in their sleeping bags for the entire two days at 4 am on the 9 January 1908 Shackleton had to admit defeat; he made the bravest decision of his career, to turn back, knowing that if they went on they would surely die. The four men took the flag, a brass cylinder containing stamps and documents to mark their furthest south, camera, glasses and a compass.  At 9 am they planted Queen Alexandra's flag, took a photograph of themselves at what was the new 'Furthest South' - 88° 23 S, just 97 miles from The South Pole.  Adams was to say later: 'If we had gone on one more hour we shouldn't have got back'.  On his return Shackleton said to his wife: "I thought, dear, that you would rather have a live ass than a dead lion."

The Union Jack of the British Antarctic Expedition


The achievements of the  expedition were tremendous; Shackleton's new 'furthest south', the ascent of Mount Erebus and the discovery of the approximate location of the South Magnetic Pole which had been reached on 16 January 1909 by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson and Alistair Mackay.

Shackleton returned to the UK as a hero. He was showered with honours including the Royal Geographical Society's Gold Medal, presented by the Prince of Wales. On 10 July the King awarded Shackleton the CVO (Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) and he received a knighthood in the November Honours.   In August the government voted him £20,000, which allowed him to settle many of the expedition's debts.


Nimrod is an ancient word that means 'Hunter' and in a sense that is what Shackleton and his team were doing hunting the fame and fortune that would be earned by anyone who conquered the South Pole.


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