Jameson Adams, Frank Wild and Eric Marshall (from left to right) plant the Union Jack at their southernmost position, 88° 23', on 9 January 1909. The photograph was taken by expedition leader
The British Antarctic Expedition 1907–09, otherwise known as the Nimrod Expedition, was the first of three expeditions to the
Antarctic led by
Ernest Shackleton. Its main target, among a range of geographical and scientific objectives, was to be first to the
South Pole. This was not attained, but the expedition's southern march reached a
Farthest South latitude of 88° 23' S, just 97.5 nautical miles (180.6 km; 112.2 mi) from the pole. This was by far the longest southern polar journey to that date and a record convergence on either Pole.
[a] A separate group led by
Welsh Australian geology professor
Edgeworth David reached the estimated location of the
South Magnetic Pole, and the expedition also achieved the first ascent of
Mount Erebus, Antarctica's second highest volcano.
The expedition lacked governmental or institutional support, and relied on private loans and individual contributions. It was beset by financial problems and its preparations were hurried. Its ship,
Nimrod, was less than half of the size of
Robert Falcon Scott's 1901–04 expedition ship
Discovery, and Shackleton's crew lacked relevant experience. Controversy arose from Shackleton's decision to base the expedition in
McMurdo Sound, close to Scott's old headquarters, in contravention of a promise to Scott that he would not do so. Nevertheless, although the expedition's profile was initially much lower than that of Scott's six years earlier, its achievements attracted nationwide interest and made Shackleton a public hero. The scientific team, which included the future
Australasian Antarctic Expedition leader
Douglas Mawson, carried out extensive geological,
meteorological work. Shackleton's transport arrangements, based on
Manchurian ponies, motor traction, and
sled dogs, were innovations which, despite limited success, were later copied by Scott for his ill-fated
Terra Nova Expedition.
On his return, Shackleton overcame the
Royal Geographical Society's initial scepticism about his achievements and received many public honours, including a
King Edward VII. He made little financial gain from the expedition and eventually depended on a government grant to cover its liabilities. Within three years his southernmost record had been surpassed, as first
Amundsen and then Scott reached the South Pole. In his own moment of triumph, Amundsen nevertheless observed: "Sir Ernest Shackleton's name will always be written in the annals of Antarctic exploration in letters of fire".