Shackleton's British Antarctic

Sir EH Shackleton

'The qualities… necessary to the explorer are … in … order of importance: first, optimism; second, patience; third, physical endurance; fourth, idealism; fifth and last, courage' Sir E. H. Shackleton, 1914, The Making of an Explorer, Pearsons Magazine, August, 1914 p. 138.

HMS Nimrod

HMS Nimrod

Already a veteran of the Antarctic through Scott's Discovery expedition (1901-04), Ernest H. Shackleton (1874-1922) made his second visit to Antarctica aboard the Nimrod (above). The party established its base at Cape Royds near Mt Erebus on the Ross Sea and set about various scientific and explorational endeavours. Although unlucky in its attempt to get to the pole, the expedition did reach the furthest southerly point, locate the magnetic south pole, climb Mt Erebus and even print Aurora Australis, the first book to be published in Antarctica.

Map of Shackleton's route

Map of Shackleton's route

The majority of the rocks were collected by R.E. Priestley, Douglas Mawson, and the geophysicist T.W.E. David, and are numbered BM1910,199(1-39), BM1911,135(1-127) and BM1911,223(1-27). Of the 39 BM1910,199 specimens, 34 were collected from Ross Island and include gneiss, granite and porphyry erratics, and kenyte and basalt from Cape Royds. Basalt, trachyte and trachydolerite came from the slopes of Mount Erebus. The final five specimens in this collection are from South Australia. The rocks in the BM1911,135 collection were taken from Ross Island and adjacent islands. Most came from Cape Bird, Cape Barne and Cape Royds. Of the specimens, 65% are from Cape Royds, and by far the majority of these specimens are moraine erratics of varied rock types including sodalite-syenite, biotite-granite, minette, lamprophyre, solvsbergite, actinolite-gneiss, scapolite-pyroxene-granulite, Beacon Sandstone and, from the Beardmore Glacier, oolitic limestone.

A partially dolomitised oolitic

A partially dolomitised oolitic (?Cambrian) limestone erratic from The Cloudmaker, Beardmore Glacier (Bar = 10 mm)

The other localities provide in situ examples of predominantly volcanic rocks with minor dyke rocks. Examples include basalt (Cape Barne), kullaite, olivine-basanite, limburgitic-dolerite (Cape Bird), trachyte and trachy-phonolite (Kent Island, Inaccessible Island, The Skuary, Mount Cis), kenyte (Turk's Head) and limburgite, kaersutite-aegerine-augite-trachyte (Observation Hill).

Basalt from Cape Barne

Basalt from Cape Barne (Bar = 10 mm)



Kenyte with distinctive rhomb-shaped anorthoclase phenocrysts, in situ from Turk's Head (Bar = 10 mm)

BM1911,223 comprises chiefly trachyte and microsanidinite (Mount Cis), and gabbroid and olivine-pyroxene nodules from Hut Point, Ross Island.

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