Sledge and flag used on Shackleton’s South Pole expedition to stay in the UK

PA

A sledge and flag used on explorer Ernest Shackleton’s famed attempt to reach the South Pole in the early 1900s will be put on show in London and Cambridge.

The artefacts had earlier been sold at auction to an overseas buyer, leading to the British Government to impose an export ban on the artefacts due to their national importance.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund, which is funded by the Government, said on Wednesday that the items had been acquired for the nation after it awarded a £204,700 grant.

The fund was set up “to save some of the UK’s finest heritage at risk of loss”, and the items will go to two UK museums.

The Christmas camp on the plateau. (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/ PA)
The Christmas camp on the plateau. (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/ PA)

The sledge and flag were used on Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition, better known as Nimrod, which came within 100 miles of the South Pole before having to turn back.

The explorers would have died had they not turned back, having already stretched their rations to the limit and it became a race against time to return safely.

On their return to the UK, the men of the 1907 to 1909 expedition were hailed as heroes.

The 11ft sledge, one of four used to haul supplies and equipment, was brought back to England along with the flag by Dr Eric Marshall.

The 11-foot sledge from Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition (Bonhams/ PA)
The 11-foot sledge from Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition (Bonhams/ PA)

Dr Marshall, who served as a surgeon, surveyor, cartographer and photographer on the expedition, later donated the items to his former school.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “Few objects from the Nimrod expedition survive and these tell a gripping story about determination and resilience in the race to the South Pole, and one of the most daring and groundbreaking expeditions of the 20th century.”

Both artefacts are undergoing quarantining and conservation.

The sledge will go on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the flag will join collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.

The flag from Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition (Bonhams/ PA)
The flag from Shackleton’s British Antarctic Expedition (Bonhams/ PA)

Charlotte Connelly, museum curator of the Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute, said: “Although the sledging party fell short of their goal, by coming within 100 miles of the Pole they showed that it was achievable.

“This flag is an important witness to the hardship and successes of that expedition”

The expedition was named after their ship, Nimrod. (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/ PA)
The expedition was named after their ship, Nimrod. (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/ PA)

Jeremy Michell, senior curator at the National Maritime Museum, said: “Adding Dr Eric Marshall’s 11ft sledge from Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to the collections is a great opportunity for the National Maritime Museum to explore human adaptability and ingenuity in extreme environments.

“The sledge will be the starting point for multiple threads of research into personal relationships, technology, and the links to Britain’s earlier Arctic expeditions.”

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