The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

History of Antarctic Exploration in 30 Objects

This Munroe Anemometer was used by Scott’s ‘Northern Party’ in Cape Adare to measure wind speed.  This simple instrument features four cups each mounted on horizontal arms which are connected at right angles to a shaft.  As the wind catches the cups, the arms of the device spin the shaft.  The turns of the shaft can be counted over a set period of time, allowing an average wind speed to be calculated.  Critical to the team’s scientific work, the anemometer was vulnerable in harsh conditions, seizing up in the low temperatures, with the brass cups frequently ripped off by the ferocious winds.

Whilst Scott and his men were laying depots for the following summer, Victor Campbell and his Northern Party were sailing northwards to explore the area around Cape Adare.  Initially Scott had instructed the six man team to survey the Ross Sea region but after failing to find a landing spot and discovering Amundsen’s base, they changed locations.  Landing at Robertson Bay on 17 February 1911, the British team established a camp close to the site of Borchgrevink’s 1899 base, one of the windiest places in the world.  After spending the winter hunkered down in their hut, the men started their survey.   They were soon disappointed, however, their efforts thwarted by heavy snow conditions and an inability to find a route into the Antarctic interior.

Almost a year later, the Terra Nova returned from New Zealand and transferred the men further along the coast of Victoria Land, nearly four hundred kilometres south of Cape Adare, for them to continue their geological research.  Leaving the men on the 8 January the Terra Nova was expected to return in six weeks’ time but due to heavy pack ice, the ship was not able to reach them.  The team, initially left with ample supplies for six weeks, now faced the prospect of a winter on the ice with meagre rations, supplemented by fish and seal meat cooked over an improvised blubber stove.  Realising that they were stuck for the winter, the men set about burrowing into the ice on Inexpressible Island; this cramped and icy cave would act as their home for the next six months   The men endured incredible hardship, suffering from the effects of frostbite, hunger and dysentery, made worse by the fierce winds and low temperatures.

Knowing that Campbell’s men must be fighting for their lives against the harsh conditions, Edward Atkinson led a party from Cape Evans to relieve the team on 17 April 1912, but were soon beaten back by the weather and unstable sea-ice.  Against the odds the party of six survived the winter and on 30 September 1912 set out for base camp.  Campbell had carefully put rations to one side for their journey home alongside a small store of fresh clothing, knowing that they faced an arduous trek.  Travelling along the sea ice, the men made slow progress, suffering the effects of ill health, only saved from starvation by the discovery of food caches along the route.  On 7 November 1912,  nearly two years after they had set off, they finally reached Cape Evans to discover that Scott’s Polar party were missing, presumed dead.

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Currently on display at the Canterbury Museum. N.Z.