Pro tip! Use the "find on this page" function in your browser to search

South! by Sir Ernest Shackleton



By J. M. WORDIE, M.A. (Cantab.), Lieut. R.F.A.

The research undertaken by the Expedition was originally planned for a shore party working from a fixed base on land, but it was only in South Georgia that this condition of affairs was fully realized. On this island, where a full month was spent, the geologist made very extensive collections, and began the mapping of the country; the magnetician had some of his instruments in working order for a short while; and the meteorologist was able to co-operate with the Argentine observer stationed at Grytviken. It had been realized how important the meteorological observations were going to be to the Argentine Government, and they accordingly did all in their power to help, both before and at the end of the Expedition. The biologist devoted most of his time, meanwhile, to the whaling industry, there being no less than seven stations on the island; he also made collections of the neritic fauna, and, accompanied by the photographer, studied the bird life and the habits of the sea-elephants along the east coast.

By the time the actual southern voyage commenced, each individual had his own particular line of work which he was prepared to follow out. The biologist at first confined himself to collecting the plankton, and a start was made in securing water samples for temperature and salinity. In this, from the beginning, he had the help of the geologist, who also gave instructions for the taking of a line of soundings under the charge of the ship's officers. This period of the southward voyage was a very busy time so far as the scientists were concerned, for, besides their own particular work, they took the full share of looking after the dogs and working the ship watch by watch. At the same time, moreover, the biologist had to try and avoid being too lavish with his preserving material at the expense of the shore station collections which were yet to make.

When it was finally known that the ship had no longer any chance of getting free of the ice in the 1914 - 1915 season, a radical change was made in the arrangements. The scientists were freed, as far as possible, from ship's duties, and were thus able to devote themselves almost entirely to their own particular spheres. The meteorological investigations took on a more definite shape; the instruments intended for the land base were set up on board ship, including self-recording barographs, thermometers, and a Dines anemometer, with which very satisfactory results were got. The physicist set up his quadrant electrometer after a good deal of trouble, but throughout the winter had to struggle constantly with rime forming on the parts of his apparatus exposed to the outer air. Good runs were being thus continually spoilt. The determination of the magnetic constants also took up a good part of his time.

Besides collecting plankton the biologist was now able to put down one or other of his dredges at more frequent intervals, always taking care, however, not to exhaust his store of preserving material, which was limited. The taking of water samples was established on a better system, so that the series should be about equally spaced out over the ship's course. The geologist suppressed all thought of rocks, though occasionally they were met with in bottom samples; his work became almost entirely oceanographical, and included a study of the sea-ice, of the physiography of the sea floor as shown by daily soundings, and of the bottom deposits; besides this he helped the biologist in the temperature and salinity observations.

The work undertaken and accomplished by each member was as wide as possible; but it was only in keeping with the spirit of the times that more attention should be paid to work from which practical and economic results were likely to accrue. The meteorologist had always in view the effect of Antarctic climate on the other southern continents, the geologist looked on ice from a seaman's point of view, and the biologist not unwillingly put whales in the forefront of his programme. The accounts which follow on these very practical points show how closely scientific work in the Antarctica is in touch with, and helps on the economic development of, the inhabited lands to the north.