Robert Selbie Clark
The Endurance Expedition
An almost archetypal "dour Scot", Clark
nonetheless gained respect from the crew due to his willingness to
turn out for any work that needed to be done and always pull at
least his own weight. He was never quite so excited as when he had
found a new or novel specimen for his biological collections. This
made him the butt of a particular practical joke when the crew
bottled some cooked spaghetti in one of his specimen jars causing
he gathered many preserved creatures from dredges of the sea floor
and many bird skins, they were all lost with the Endurance and none
were taken when the men left for Elephant Island. In Worsley's words
"I felt sorry for Clark,
as I lay there that night and realised that he had been obliged
to leave on the Endurance the whole of his valuable collection
that he had been at such pains to classify and study."
Robert Clark was born in Aberdeen and attended
Aberdeen Grammar School. He went on to Aberdeen University and put
his education to use as a zoologist at the Scottish Oceanographical
Laboratory in Edinburgh. While here, he worked on some of the
specimens brought back from Antarctica by W. S. Bruce from the
Scottish National Antarctic
Expedition 1902-04. In 1913 he obtained a position as a naturalist
in the Plymouth Marine Biological Association.
On return from the Antarctic, Clark served for the rest of the First
World War as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and
like many of the other men from the Endurance did his service on
He was awarded the degree of D.Sc. (Doctor of Science) in 1925 and
became the director of the Fisheries Research station in Torry,
Aberdeen. In 1934 he was appointed Superintendent of Scientific
Investigations under the Fishery Board.
Robert Clark retired in 1948 and died on the 29th of September 1950 at home in Murtle,
References to Robert
Clark in Shackleton's book "South!"
- The quaint little penguins found the
ship a cause of much apparent excitement and provided a
lot of amusement aboard. One of the standing jokes was
that all the adelies on the floe seemed to know
Clark, and when he was at
the wheel rushed along as fast as their legs could carry
them, yelling out "Clark! Clark!" and apparently very
indignant and perturbed that he never waited for them or
even answered them.
- Many bergs were in sight, and they
appeared to be travelling through the pack in a
south-westerly direction under the current influence.
Probably the pack itself was moving north-east with the
gale. Clark put down a net
in search of specimens, and at two fathoms it was
carried south-west by the current and fouled the
propeller. He lost the net, two leads, and a line.
- The view was obscured, but we
proceeded to the south-east and had gained 24 miles by
noon, when three soundings in lat. 74° 4´ S., long. 22°
48´ W. gave 95, 128, and 103 fathoms, with a bottom of
sand, pebbles, and mud. Clark
got a good haul of biological specimens in the dredge.
On the 7th Wordie and Worsley found
some small pebbles, a piece of moss, a perfect bivalve
shell, and some dust on a berg fragment, and brought
their treasure-trove proudly to the ship.
Clark was using the
drag-net frequently in the leads and secured good hauls
of plankton, with occasional specimens of greater
The quarters in the 'tween decks were
completed by the 10th, and the men took possession of
the cubicles that had been built. The largest cubicle
contained Macklin, McIlroy, Hurley, and Hussey and it
was named "The Billabong." Clark
and Wordie lived opposite in a room called "Auld Reekie."
All hands are cheered by the
indication that the end of the winter darkness is near.
. . . Clark finds that with
returning daylight the diatoms are again appearing. His
nets and line are stained a pale yellow, and much of the
newly formed ice has also a faint brown or yellow tinge.
The diatoms cannot multiply without light, and the ice
formed since February can be distinguished in the
pressure-ridges by its clear blue colour. The older
masses of ice are of a dark earthy brown, dull yellow,
or reddish brown."
By the middle of September we were
running short of fresh meat for the dogs. The seals and
penguins seemed to have abandoned our neighbourhood
altogether. Nearly five months had passed since we
killed a seal, and penguins had been seen seldom.
Clark, who was using his
trawl as often as possible, reported that there was a
marked absence of plankton in the sea, and we assumed
that the seals and the penguins had gone in search of
their accustomed food.
This ice had been slightly thicker in
the early part of September, and I assumed that some
melting had begun below. Clark
had recorded plus temperatures at depths of 150 and 200
fathoms in the concluding days of September.
Returning to the camp, we found the
men resting or attending to their gear.
Clark had tried angling in
the shallows off the rocks and had secured one or two
Twice the usual number of penguin
steaks were cooked at breakfast, and the ones intended
for supper were kept hot in the pots by wrapping up in
coats, etc. "Clark put our
saucepanful in his sleeping-bag to-day to keep it hot,
and it really was a great success in spite of the extra
helping of reindeer hairs that it contained. In this way
we can make ten penguin skins do for one day."
- One stop was due to water having run
over the friction gear and frozen. It was a day or two
later that we heard a great yell from the floe and found
Clark dancing about and
shouting Scottish war-cries. He had secured his first
complete specimen of an Antarctic fish, apparently a new
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.