Ice explorers
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)

Scott led two expeditions to the Antarctic. Lyttleton was the port of departure for both the Discovery 1901- 1904 and Terra Nova 1910-1913 expeditions.

Scott recorded in his diary the kindness shown by New Zealanders during his time in Christchurch. Dinners, church services and provisions were provided during his stay with tens of thousands of people turning out to see the Discovery head for the Ice in December 1901.

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.

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.

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)