British Antarctic Expedition (Nimrod) 1907–09
When Shackleton was selecting the crew for his Antarctic expedition in Nimrod, Joyce was one of his earliest recruits. Most accounts tell the story that Shackleton saw Joyce on a bus that was passing his expedition offices, sent someone out to fetch him, and recruited him on the spot. To join the expedition, Joyce bought his release from the Navy; in later years he would claim that Shackleton had failed to recompense him for this, despite a promise to do so, one of several disputes over money and recognition which would strain his relations with Shackleton. Joyce, Shackleton and Frank Wild were the only members of the expedition with previous Antarctic experience, and on the basis of his Discovery exploits, Joyce was put in charge of the new expedition's general stores, sledges and dogs. Before departure in August 1907, he and Wild took a crash course in printing at Sir Joseph Causton's printing firm in Hampshire, as Shackleton intended to publish a book or magazine while in the Antarctic.
Inside the Cape Royds Hut, winter 1908. Joyce is on the right, foreground. Also included in the picture are Shackleton (left background), Adams (smoking curved pipe), and Wild (working on the sledge).
Nimrod left New Zealand on 1 January 1908, and as a fuel-saving measure was towed towards the Antarctic pack ice by the tug Koonya. On 23 January, by now under her own power, she reached the Ross Ice Shelf (then known as the "Great Ice Barrier", or "Barrier"), where Shackleton planned to base his headquarters in an inlet discovered during the Discovery voyage. This proved impossible; the inlet, where Scott and Shackleton had taken balloon flights in February 1902, had greatly expanded to become an open bay, christened the "Bay of Whales". Shackleton was convinced that the ice was not secure enough as a landing ground, and could find no feasible alternative site on nearby King Edward VII Land. Before leaving for the Antarctic Shackleton had promised Scott that he would not base his expedition in or near Scott's former headquarters in McMurdo Sound. Shackleton was now forced to break this agreement, and take Nimrod to the safer waters of McMurdo Sound. The site finally chosen as a base was at Cape Royds, some 20 miles (32 km) north of Scott's old Discovery headquarters at Hut Point. During the extended and often difficult process of unloading the ship Joyce remained ashore, looking after the dogs and ponies, and helping to build the expedition hut. In March Joyce assisted the party that made the first successful ascent of Mount Erebus, although he did not make the climb himself.
During the following winter Joyce, with Wild's help, printed copies of the expedition book Aurora Australis, edited by Shackleton. About 25 or 30 copies of the book were printed, sewn and bound. Otherwise Joyce was busy preparing equipment and stores for the next season's journey to the Pole in which, in view of his experience, he fully expected to be included. However, various mishaps had reduced the number of ponies to four, so Shackleton cut the southern party to that number. One of those dropped was Joyce, on advice from expedition doctor Eric Marshall, who noted that Joyce had a liver problem and the early stages of heart disease. Frank Wild, who along with Marshall and Jameson Adams was selected for the southern journey, wrote in his diary after the party's bid to reach the Pole had fallen short: "If we only had Joyce and Marston here instead of these two useless grub-scoffing beggars"—Marshall and Adams—"we would have done it easily." Joyce showed no particular resentment at his exclusion; he assisted the preparatory work and accompanied the polar party on the southward march for the first seven days. In the following months he took charge of enhancing the depots, to ensure adequate supplies for the returning southern party. He deposited a special cache of luxuries at Minna Bluff, together with life-saving food and fuel, earning Wild's spontaneous praise when the cache was discovered.
Shackleton and his party returned safely from their polar journey, on Nimrod's last feasible date for sailing home. They had established a new Farthest South at 88°23′S, only 97 nautical miles (180 km; 112 mi) from the South Pole. Joyce had been ready to remain at the base with a rearguard, to wait for the party or to establish its fate if it did not return in time to catch the ship. Nimrod finally reached London in September 1909 and was prepared, under Joyce's direction, as a floating exhibition of polar artefacts. Shackleton paid him a salary of £250 a year, equivalent to £24,000 in 2016, a generous amount for the time.