November 22, 2016

On 20 November, 1940, George Marston died. He was official artist on Shackleton’s expeditions aboard the Nimrod and the Endurance.

Signatures of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and George Marston

Signatures of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and George Marston

Marston was born on 19 March, 1882 in Southsea, Portsmouth, England. Having left home in his teens, he studied art at Street Polytechnic to study art. By 1901 he was living in Wandsworth in Surrey and working as a School Board art teacher.

George was friends with two of Shackleton’s sisters, who persuaded him to join the Nimrod expedition of 1907-1909. He was employed as the official expedition artist. Work he produced is seen in the book published in the Antarctic aboard the Nimrod called Aurora Australis.


Returning to Antarctica aboard the Endurance, Marston was official expedition artist for Shackleton again during the ill-fated voyage. Orde-Lees wrote that as well as being ‘our affable artist’, he also ‘repair[ed] all our boots, sewing new soles on them in quite a professional manner. He is wonderfully handy at certain things’.

Marston had the tendency to be a bit moody and pessimistic at times and this, unsurprisingly, was disliked by Shackleton. Orde-Lees wrote that

he is inclined to be a little lethargic and takes a bit of starting at times.

On the boat journey to Elephant Island, Marston was in the Dudley Docker with Frank Worsley as commander. During the dreadful week in the boats, Marston sang songs in the Dudley Docker and this was raised the spirits of the others in the boat as they rowed throughout the day.

As part of the party left on Elephant Island, it was Marston’s penny cookbook that provided much fantasy and discussion amongst the men. They could only dream of the foods described in the book and debate about what they would eat and the value of each answer. Shackleton’s book, South!, it recalls

From this he would read out one recipe each night, so as to make them last. This would be discussed very seriously, and alterations and improvements suggested, and then they would turn into their bags to dream of wonderful meals that they could never reach.

As the Yelcho approached Elephant Island, it was Marston’s shouts of ‘ship, o!’ that raised the attentions of the others on the island. Initially confused as a call to lunch, Marston’s second shout drew the men from whatever they were doing (including lunch) and sent them into a frenzy of lighting flares, waving flags, arms and anything else that could be found.

Following the Endurance expedition, Marston was employed as an arts and crafts teacher at a private school in Petersfield in 1918-1922. His next employment in the Rural Industries Bureau, an organisation to promote rural industries and jobs, allowed Marston to indulge his love of the countryside. Initially working as Handicrafts Advisor, he was promoted to Assistant Director in 1931. In his duties with the Rural Industries Bureau he travelled much, particularly between London and Taunton.

In 1913, George and Hazel Roberts were married and had their first child, Heather, that October. Their son, Bevis, was born in 1917. In time, their marriage broke down and they separated though they were never divorced.

On 22 November, 1940, George Marston, artist and Antarctic explorer, died in the Taunton & Somerset Hospital, England.

Marston's sketch in 'Aurora Australis' of the explorer daydreaming during the long polar winter

Marston’s sketch in ‘Aurora Australis’ of the explorer daydreaming during the long polar winter




Aurora Australis


Marston’s artwork





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