Alexander John Henry
Quest- Ernest Shackleton 1921 - 1922
The Endurance Expedition
Alexander Kerr was a quiet man, capable and
dependable in his job. Until the stowaway Blackborow was
discovered, was the youngest member of the Endurance crew, being
just 21 years old on leaving England.
He got on particularly well with the 1st Engineer
Rickinson, the two being similar in height, temperament and
interests, the two men shared a cubicle on the ship.
He was born in Ilford, Essex, the son of a ship's
master and joined the Royal navy directly from school. He passed his
engineering exams and had worked on oil tank steam ships before
joining Shackleton's expedition.
On return to England, like several of the other
men, Kerr married his sweetheart Lillian within a few months and
they settled in East Ham, London. He re-joined the Royal Navy and
worked on mine-sweepers in Northern Russia for the duration of the
war, afterwards moving with Lillian to his birthplace of Ilford,
Essex. They had two children, Jack in 1918 and Eileen in 1920.
He was invited by Shackleton like many on the
Endurance expedition to go South once again on the Quest. Kerr
accepted the position of First Engineer, though the expedition ended
with the death of Shackleton at South Georgia.
On return to England, he joined the Merchant Navy
and worked on tug boats in and around the Port of London which
avoided the long periods away from home of deep sea voyages. He
retired from the sea in 1934 setting himself up in business in
Ilford as a wholesaler. He was a founder member of the British
Kerr died on Friday 4th December 1964 in hospital in London. It was
the year of the 50th reunion of the expedition.
References to Robert
Clark in Shackleton's book "South!"
We walk up to them, talking loudly
and assuming a threatening aspect. Notwithstanding our
bad manners, the three birds turn towards us, bowing
ceremoniously. Then, after a closer inspection, they
conclude that we are undesirable acquaintances and make
off across the floe. We head them off and finally
shepherd them close to the ship, where the frenzied
barking of the dogs so frightens them that they make a
determined effort to break through the line. We seize
them. One bird of philosophic mien goes quietly, led by
one flipper. The others show fight, but all are
imprisoned in an igloo for the night. . . . In the
afternoon we see five emperors in the western lead and
capture one. Kerr and
Cheetham fight a valiant action with two large birds.
Kerr rushes at one, seizes it, and is promptly knocked
down by the angered penguin, which jumps on his chest
before retiring. Cheetham comes to
Kerr's assistance; and between them they seize
another penguin, bind his bill and lead him, muttering
muffled protests, to the ship like an inebriated old man
between two policemen. He weighs 85 lbs., or 5 lbs. less
than the heaviest emperor captured previously.
Kerr and Cheetham insist
that he is nothing to the big fellow who escaped them.
At 10 a.m. Hurley and Hudson left for
the old camp in order to bring some additional
dog-pemmican, since there were no seals to be found near
us. Then, as the weather cleared, Worsley and I made a
prospect to the west and tried to find a practicable
road. A large floe offered a fairly good road for at
least another mile to the north-west, and we went back
prepared for another move. The weather cleared a little,
and after lunch we struck camp. I took Rickenson,
Kerr, Wordie, and Hudson as
a breakdown gang to pioneer a path among the
pressure-ridges. Five dog teams followed. Wild's and
Hurley's teams were hitched on to the cutter and they
started off in splendid style. They needed to be helped
only once; indeed fourteen dogs did as well or even
better than eighteen men. The ice was moving beneath and
around us as we worked towards the big floe, and where
this floe met the smaller ones there was a mass of
pressed-up ice, still in motion, with water between the
ridges. But it is wonderful what a dozen men can do with
picks and shovels. We could cut a road through a
pressure-ridge about 14 ft. high in ten minutes and
leave a smooth, or comparatively smooth, path for the
sledges and teams.
A chimney was soon fitted, made by
Kerr out of the tin lining
of one of the biscuit-cases, and passed through a
close-fitting tin grummet sewn into the canvas of the
roof just between the keels of the two boats, and the
smoke nuisance was soon a thing of the past. Later on,
another old oil-drum was made to surround this chimney,
so that two pots could be cooked at once on the one
stove. Those whose billets were near the stove suffered
from the effects of the local thaw caused by its heat,
but they were repaid by being able to warm up portions
of steak and hooshes left over from previous meals, and
even to warm up those of the less fortunate ones, for a
consideration. This consisted generally of part of the
hoosh or one or two pieces of sugar.
Again, later on, one writes: "Now
that Wild's window allows a shaft of light to enter our
hut, one can begin to ‘see' things inside. Previously
one relied upon one's sense of touch, assisted by the
remarks from those whose faces were inadvertently
trodden on, to guide one to the door. Looking down in
the semi-darkness to the far end, one observes two very
small smoky flares that dimly illuminate a row of five,
endeavouring to make time pass by reading or argument.
These are Macklin, Kerr,
Wordie, Hudson, and Blackborow—the last two being
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.