An artifact of the pioneering days of Antarctic exploration is going up for auction at the Bonhams Bonhams Travel and Exploration Sale in London. The 11-ft (3.4-m) sledge was used by Lieutenant Colonel Eric Marshall on Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1907 failed attempt to reach the pole and is expected to fetch between £60,000 and £100,000 (US$77,000 to US$129,000).
The British Antarctic or Nimrod Expedition that ran from 1907 to 1909 was the first of three expeditions led by Shackleton to the Antarctic and was the longest expedition to the frozen continent to that time. Among its various scientific and geographic goals, Shackleton was determined to be the first to reach the South Pole and to achieve this he commissioned a number of wooden sledges of various sizes.
Eric Marshall's was one of 18 eleven-foot (3.4-m) sledges made of hickory, metal, and leather – four of which were used by Shackleton, Marshall, Captain Sir Jameson Adams, and Commander Frank Wild as they attempted to reach the Pole. Each was pulled by a pony as the men walked or skied alongside. They set out on October 29, 1908 and the ponies soon turned out not to be up to the job, with three having to be put down humanely while the fourth fell into a crevice that almost took its sledge and Wild with it.
Though the team was reduced to man-hauling two of the sledges and was down to survival rations, they managed to discover the Beardmore Glacier and the Edward VII Plateau, and came within 97.5 mi (157 km) of the Pole before being forced to turn back to make a dramatic race for their expedition ship, which was under orders to abandon them if they were late.
Marshall's sledge was returned to England, where he donated it to the present owner,Monkton Combe School, in about 1952. Along with the sledge, Bonhams is also offering for auction Marshall's sledge flag.
"Shackleton was one of the great figures of the heroic age of Polar exploration, and the Nimrod expedition was an important chapter in the story of the race to the South Pole," says Bonhams Head of Books and Manuscripts Matthew Haley. "Few of the sledges used during the Nimrod expedition survive; of those that do, this appears to be the only one with a direct link to one of the four Southern Party explorers, and I think it will be of great interest to collectors."
The Travel and Exploration Sale is on February 6.
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