My Ancestor go to Antarctica in the Heroic Age?
- "Dear CoolAntarctica, there
is a family story that Great Uncle Bill went to
Antarctica to help rescue Shackleton, is this true?
His name was Bill Smith."
Ok, so I've simplified the question
a bit, but this is similar in essence to many emails
I get from people, naming Shackleton or one of the other
expedition leaders of the Heroic Age (1900 - 1922) of
To start with, see if the name
is here, if it
is not, then I have no other records to check on, as
soon as I am aware of anyone additional who sailed on
any of the ships during the heroic age, they are added
to this site.
The lists on this
site and other such readily available lists have the
1 - those who wintered in Antarctica
The "officers and gentlemen" who were part
of the ships' crews.
They do not generally
have the names of the ordinary seamen who sailed the
ships, so they are often incomplete.
- What are the chances that <insert
name of ancestor> really did sail with <insert
name of famous Antarctic hero> then?
If there is a tale,
then it must have arisen from somewhere and there may
be a chance.
The ships sailed
from the country of origin to Antarctica, sometimes
crew would join or leave at a port en route, there
were many who made part of the journey only.
The ships would
also not necessarily winter in Antarctica, the shore/wintering
party would be left behind while the ship headed north
for the Antarctic winter, usually calling at a southern
hemisphere port. The ship would then return the following
spring, there may have been three visits in a two year
/ three Antarctic summer expedition. There also may
have been relief ships that were part of the expedition.
There may have been
many opportunities therefore for a crew member to sail
with an expedition for a part of the time without actually
being a part of the expedition. Such crew members were
regarded as short-term labour and were generally not
included in lists of crew as they may have only served
for two or three months with that time being largely
spent at sea.
- Is there any chance that
my ancestor may be an unsung hero?
It's pretty unlikely
that your man will have played any particularly significant
role without you having found out so far, if he had
you will be able to find out very easily on this site
or the wider internet. The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration
is very well documented in the main.
This doesn't mean
that there isn't any point in trying to find out if
there was a role that may well have been interesting
in its own way. Even the smallest role on a ship in
the Heroic Age is to have an identifiable part in Antarctic
history and can be a fascinating part of your family
or community story.
Human beings have
a tendency to exaggerate tales and the importance of
an individuals role seems to grow down the years, the
chances are if you have got this far, your man won't
have had a particularly large part to play.
For a record of
an ordinary sailor who doesn't appear on any official
lists of expeditioners or crew members, see
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