Sledging was part and parcel of polar exploration. All the great names of the Golden Era – Scott, Shackleton, Nansen, Amundsen and Peary – used provisions-laden sledges to strike out for the polar north and south.
Now a historic sledge and flag from the first expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton have been saved for the nation.
The two items were bought for £204,700 and looked to be heading to the United States. They will now go to the National Maritime Museum and the Scott Polar Research Institute after they were barred from export.
The 11ft sledge and flag had sold for £115,000 and £60,000 at Bonham’s in 2019, but the National Heritage Memorial Fund facilitated the purchase for the nation.
Shackleton’s 1907 expedition ship, Nimrod, was, of course, a Dundee whaler adapted for Antarctic exploration. Although the sledging party fell short of their goal, by coming within 100 miles of the South Pole, they showed that it was achievable.
So to a quote from Albert Markham RN, second-in-command of the Royal Navy survey ships Discovery and Alert on the 1875-76 British Arctic Expedition. Discovery had begun life as the Dundee-built whaler Bloodhound, while Alert was also constructed at Stephen’s Dundee yards.
Markham led a heroic 74-day sledging trip and on reaching the highest latitude ever achieved at 83⁰ 20’ North, noted in his diary: “On returning to the tents, a magnum of whisky, kindly sent by the Dean of Dundee [the Chamber of Commerce], for the express purpose of being drunk at our highest northern position, was broached and absent friends were duly toasted…”
The old Bloodhound was described by the Admiralty as the “best exploration vessel ever built.” Mind you, Alert and Discovery were still advised to follow the Dundee whaling fleet to the high latitudes!
Picture: Polar sledge saved for the nation (Bonham’s).
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