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Famous connections to Christchurch.
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Antarctic Explorers

Many scientists and explorers travel down to the ice annually from Christchurch. During the ‘heroic era’ of exploration Christchurch was connected to many famous explorers and their crews including:

Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868 -1912)

At the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street, stands a marble statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott memorialises the death of Scott and his party on their return from the South Pole in 1912.

A Christchurch committee commissioned Captain Scott's widow Kathleen to sculpt an exact replica of the bronze statue of Scott that stood in Waterloo. Because of the rising cost of metal during the First World War, it was more cost effective to sculpt in marble but as Britain had banned the importation of marble, Kathleen had to travel to Carrara, Italy in order to create the statue.

The Scott statue was finally unveiled in 1917, an inscription, one of Scott's last diary entries, is carved into the stone.

The inscription reads: 'I do not regret this journey which shows that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great fortitude as ever in the past.'

Three bronze plaques were added to the statue; one displays the text from the diary entry, another lists the names of the five explorers who died and the last and most recent recognises Kathleen Scott as the sculptor.

The 2.5 tonne, 2.6 metres high statue was badly damaged in the 22 February 2011 earthquake, toppling from its plinth and snapping at its most vulnerable part, the ankles.

Artefacts from Scott’s expeditions, including a sledge used on the Terra Nova expedition and an ice axe, can be found at Canterbury Museum.

Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874 - 1922)

Shackleton spent time in Lyttelton and Christchurch on five separate occasions between 1901 and 1917. His first expedition was as 3rd Officer on Scott's Discovery expedition, but he was invalided out.

Shackleton then went on to lead three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He was knighted for the notable feat of coming within 97 nautical miles of the South Pole after his first Nimrod expedition 1907-1909.

He was called a hero during the Endurance expedition 1914-1917 after he led his men to safety following the loss of his ship and after being marooned for two years on the polar ice.

He died in 1922 during his fourth Antarctic expedition and was buried in the whaler's cemetery on South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic. Discover more about Sir Ernest Shackleton.

For further information about Shackleton's time in Christchurch refer to the paper by Jane Ellis.

Explore more about Shackleton's Hut.

Frank Worsley (1872 – 1943)

Born in Akaroa, Frank Worsley was Shackleton's Captain and navigator during the Endurance expedition. His remarkable navigation skills, culminating in one of the most daring small boat journeys ever recorded, helped to save the lives of Shackleton's men marooned on Elephant Island. Discover more about Frank Worsley.

Worsley is remembered in his hometown, including at Akaroa Museum.

Roald Amundsen (1872 - 1928)

The Norwegian explorer and his party were the first to reach the South Pole in December 1911. In December 1912, Amundsen gave a public lecture in Christchurch stating "We must always remember with gratitude and admiration the first sailors who steered their vessels through storms and mists, and increased our knowledge of the lands of ice in the South."

Amundsen's penknife, sledge, dog harness and bronze bust are on display at Canterbury Museum.

Scott’s and Shackleton’s bases still remain on Ross Island, full of equipment, provisions and remnants of the men’s lives. The huts are cared for by New Zealand’s Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Discover more about Christchurch's historic and modern Antarctic connections.

Photo credits - Ernest Shackleton's Cape Royds Hut by Anthony Powell for The Antarctic Office. Sea ice and penguin by Maddy Bellcroft © Antarctica New Zealand (2016)

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