Story: Antarctica and New Zealand

Ice trap

Ice trap

Ernest Shackleton’s 1914–17 plan to cross Antarctica from Vahsel Bay in the Weddell Sea to McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea did not succeed. Two ships – the Endurance and the Aurora – were used. The Endurance party, led by Shackleton, was to attempt the crossing from Vahsel Bay, while the Aurora party was to lay supply depots on the McMurdo side of the pole.

The Endurance is shown in this night-time shot trapped by pack ice. It had not yet reached Vahsel Bay, and was eventually crushed and sank. The 28 men on board survived, living first on the ship as it travelled with the ice and then on ice floes, before sailing to Elephant Island. Shackleton and 5 others sailed a further 1,300 kilometres to South Georgia, an inhabited island from which the successful rescue of the rest of the men was organised. 

The Aurora reached McMurdo Sound and its party succeeded in laying supply depots, but at the cost of three lives. The remaining men were trapped in Antarctica for nearly 20 months when the Aurora was blown from her moorings during a gale. Unable to return, the ship sailed to New Zealand, and was joined by Shackleton once the Elephant Island group was saved. After picking up the McMurdo party, the Aurora returned to New Zealand and a boisterous welcome. Of the 18 dogs that had travelled on the Aurora, only three survived; they went to live at the Wellington Zoo.

Using this item

Royal Geographical Society
Reference: S0000143
Photograph by Frank Hurley

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How to cite this page:

Nigel Roberts, 'Antarctica and New Zealand - The heroic age of Antarctic exploration', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2024)

Story by Nigel Roberts, published 20 Jun 2012