Alfred Buchanan Cheetham (1867-1918)
 - Biographical notes

Morning - relief ship for the Discovery 1902
Third officer and boatswain Nimrod 1907-09
Boatswain, R.N.R. Terra Nova 1910 - 13
Third officer  Endurance 1914-17 - 47 at the start of the expedition

Alf Cheetham (left) with Tom Crean  on the Endurance, 1914


Born in Liverpool in 1867, his family moved to Hull about ten years later, at the time Hull was a great fishing port and Cheetham ran away to sea as a teenager working in the fishing fleet of the North Sea. He became a merchant navy boatswain working out of Hull and a Royal Naval Reservist.

He became a merchant navy boatswain working out of Hull and a Royal Naval Reservist. Alf married Eliza Sawyer and they produced 13 children.

Cheetham first went to Antarctica on the Morning, the relief ship for Scott's Discovery expedition in the austral summers of 1902-3 and 1903-04. He met Shackleton who was invalided home on the second voyage and was invited on his Nimrod expedition as boatswain and third officer. He held the same roles on the Terra Nova and again with Shackleton on the Endurance.

A popular and cheerful member of crews on which he served, Frank Worsley (captain of the Endurance) called him "a pirate to his fingertips".

On return from the Antarctic he enlisted in the Mercantile Marine and while serving as second Officer on the S.S. Prunelle  on Thursday 22nd August 1918, at the age of 51, his ship was torpedoed in the North Sea by a German U-Boat . Alf went down with the ship, he was the second of the men of the Endurance  to be killed in the Great War.

6 May 1867 - 22 August 1918

The Endurance Expedition

Alf Cheetham (at the left in the picture with Tom Crean aboard Endurance) was an old hand on Antarctic expeditions when he joined the Endurance at the age of 47, it being his 4th voyage in 12 years. He was well known for his positive attitude and was a popular member of crews on which he served.

While on the Terra Nova expedition, he had volunteered to help search for Scott and his missing south pole party in 1913, but had been turned down as he was a married man with children.

References to Alf Cheetham in Shackleton's book "South!" buy USA   buy UK

Alf Cheetham preparing signal flags
  • Three emperor penguins made their appearance in a lead west of the ship on May 3.

    "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."

  • My anxiety, as a matter of fact, was groundless. I will quote Worsley's own account of what happened to the Dudley Docker:

    "As it was we shipped several bad seas over the stern as well as abeam and over the bows, although we were on a wind.' Lees, who owned himself to be a rotten oarsman, made good here by strenuous baling, in which he was well seconded by Cheetham. Greenstreet, a splendid fellow, relieved me at the tiller and helped generally. He and Macklin were my right and left bowers as stroke-oars throughout. McLeod and Cheetham were two good sailors and oars, the former a typical old deep-sea salt and growler, the latter a pirate to his finger-tips. In the height of the gale that night Cheetham was buying matches from me for bottles of champagne, one bottle per match (too cheap; I should have charged him two bottles). The champagne is to be paid when he opens his pub in Hull and I am able to call that way. . . . We had now had one hundred and eight hours of toil, tumbling, freezing, and soaking, with little or no sleep. I think Sir Ernest, Wild, Greenstreet, and I could say that we had no sleep at all. Although it was sixteen months since we had been in a rough sea, only four men were actually seasick, but several others were off colour. "

  • A strong south-westerly wind was blowing on October 20 and the pack was working. The Endurance was imprisoned securely in the pool, but our chance might come at any time. Watches were set so as to be ready for working ship. Wild and Hudson, Greenstreet and Cheetham, Worsley and Crean, took the deck watches, and the Chief Engineer and Second Engineer kept watch and watch with three of the A.B.'s for stokers.

Landmarks named after Alfred Cheetham

    Feature Name: Cheetham Ice Tongue
    Feature Type:
    Latitude: 75 45S
    Longitude: 162 55E
    Description: A small ice tongue on the E coast of Victoria Land between Lamplugh Island and Whitmer Peninsula. It projects eastward into Ross Sea. The tongue appears to be nourished in part by Davis Glacier and partly by ice draining from Lamplugh Island and Whitmer Peninsula. First charted by the BrAE, 1907-09, under Shackleton - Nimrod expedition.
    Variant Name(s) - Cheetham Glacier Tongue, Cheetham Ice Barrier Tongue.

    Feature Name: Cape Cheetham
    Feature Type: cape
    Latitude: 70 18S
    Longitude: 162 42E
    Description: An ice-covered cape forming the NE extremity of Stuhlinger Ice Piedmont. First charted by members of the BrAE, 1910-13, who explored this coast in the location assigned on maps of the ANARE (Thala Dan), 1962.


Other Crew of the Endurance Expedition

Bakewell, William - Able Seaman
Blackborow, Percy - Stowaway (later steward)
Cheetham, Alfred - Third Officer
Clark, Robert S. - Biologist
Crean, Thomas - Second Officer
Green, Charles J. - Cook
Greenstreet, Lionel - First Officer
Holness, Ernest - Fireman/stoker
How, Walter E. - Able Seaman
Hudson, Hubert T. - Navigator
Hurley, James Francis (Frank) - Official Photographer
Hussey, Leonard D. A. - Meteorologist
James, Reginald W. - Physicist
Kerr, A. J. - Second Engineer

Macklin, Dr. Alexander H. - Surgeon
Marston, George E. - Official Artist
McCarthy, Timothy - Able Seaman
McIlroy, Dr. James A. - Surgeon
McLeod, Thomas - Able Seaman
McNish, Henry - Carpenter
Orde-Lees, Thomas  - Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Rickinson, Lewis - First Engineer
Shackleton, Ernest H. - Expedition Leader
Stephenson, William - Fireman/stoker
Vincent, John - Able Seaman
Wild, Frank - Second in Command
Wordie, James M. - Geologist
Worsley, Frank - Captain

Biographical information - I am concentrating on the Polar experiences of the men involved. Any further information or pictures visitors may have is gratefully received. Please email  - Paul Ward, webmaster.

What are the chances that my ancestor was an unsung part of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration?

  Ernest Shackleton Books and Video

South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
South - Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919)
original footage - DVD

Shackleton - The Greatest Survival Story of All Time (3-Disc Collector's Edition)
Kenneth Branagh (2002) - DVD

Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (Large Format)
Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (2001)
IMAX dramatization - DVD

The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Expedition (2000)
PBS NOVA, dramatization with original footage - DVD
Endurance, The Greatest Adventure Story Ever Told, book
Endurance : Shackleton's Incredible Voyage
Alfred Lansing (Preface) - Book

South with Endurance:
Frank Hurley - official photographer

South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-17
South! Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton's own words

 Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer
Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer

Shackleton's Boat Journey: The narrative of Frank Worsley


biography by Roland

The Quest for Frank Wild, biography by Angie Butler

The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
by Caroline Alexander

Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition:
The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton's Polar-Bound Cat

Shackleton's Forgotten Men
Lennard Bickel

Elephant Island and Beyond: The Life and Diaries of Thomas Orde Lees Book
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, The True Story of the Endurance Expedition
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World -
Jennifer Armstrong
for ages 12 and up