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The first motor car in Antarctica - 1908

(Bernard) Day with the Motor-car on the Sea Ice

These were the pioneer days of the motor car. Shackleton was given a car specially built for the expedition by the Arrol-Johnston company of Paisley, Scotland. The 4 cylinder, 15 horsepower air cooled car came from the intervention of William Beardmore a major sponsor of the expedition, he had recently taken over Arrol-Johnston to save them from bankruptcy and wanted Scotland to have its own motor industry.

The car was donated for free, though was expected to be used as an advertisement. Great things were expected of it:

"Under favourable circumstances Lieutenant Shackleton computes that the machine can travel 150 miles in twenty four hours and .... he thinks there would be a fair chance of sprinting to the pole"
Interview in "The Car"

Unfortunately however it would transpire otherwise, the petrol engine had not been tested in extreme cold and a suitable system for providing traction in snow had not been devised. The car was taken South without being properly tested in conditions that it was likely to encounter. One thing was abundantly clear to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with such conditions as might be encountered in Antarctica was that ordinary wheels didn't fare well in snow.

Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) British Imperial Antarctic Expedition "Nimrod - Expedition", 1907 -1909

Picture courtesy NOAA

Nimrod expedition | next picture


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