Antarctic publications up for auction on 30 September 2015

September 23, 2015

Fans of Shackleton will be interested by items coming up for auction on 30 September at Sotheby’s London. For the ultimate collector, the following are available:

A facsimile of The South Polar Times

A copy of The Aurora Australis

A copy of The Heart of the Antarctic signed by Shackleton and all of the crew of the British Antarctic Expedition

The South Polar Times was a monthly magazine produced for and by the crew of Capt. Scott’s Discovery as a means of entertainment and winter distraction. Shackleton was appointed editor. Only one copy of each edition was produced and contained stories, factual reports, poems and pictures. It was bound in thin wooden boards and richly illustrated by Edward Wilson.

Shackleton wrote the editorials in The South Polar Times and his poetic contributions were signed ‘Nemo’. His poem ‘To the Great Barrier’, referring to the Ross Ice Shelf, was published in the August 1902 edition, which included the closing lines:

Shall we learn that you are from the mountains? Shall we call you a frozen sea?

Shall we sail to the Northward and leave you, still a Secret for ever to be?

Before leaving the Discovery team in early 1903, Shackleton left his poem ‘L’Envoi’ in the in-tray for The South Polar Times. For the full poem and Jim Mayer’s difficulties in locating the original form, see his book, listed below.

The Aurora Australis was the first book to the printed in the Antarctic and one of the most celebrated travel books ever written. Of the hundred possible copies printed, seventy are known to still be intact. It was produced by the crew of the Nimrod on the British Imperial Antarctic Expedition. It contained a mix of poems, stories and illustrations by George Marston. Shackleton’s contributions (poems ‘Midwinter Night’ and ‘Erebus’) were again accredited to ‘Nemo’. The book is bound in the original venesta boards (an early plywood) taken from the expedition packing crates and the spine is fashioned from leather horse harnesses.

Read a digitised The Aurora Australis at:

The Heart of the Antarctic was published in November 1909. The book told the story of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909 and the famous attempt at the South Pole. As Shackleton could orate better than he could write, he hired New Zealand journalist Edward Saunders to turn his eloquent dictations into strong readable prose. Together the men worked fluently and produced a wonderful piece of storytelling with a literary flair that was very well received upon its publication.

Read a digitised The Heart of the Antarctic at:


Internet Archive.

Mayer, J. Shackleton: A Life in Poetry. Oxford, 2014.

Parsons, M. ‘Shackleton’s icy publishing enterprise’. The Irish Times, Saturday, 19 September, 2015. Access at:

Smith, M. Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer. Wilton, 2014.

Go top