On this date in 1909, a British explorer and members of his expedition reached the farthest south point that anyone had ever reached.
Sir Ernest Shackleton began his quest to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1907 aboard the Nimrod. His original plan was to set up a base camp in McMurdo Sound in Antarctica and attempt to reach the magnetic South Pole as well as the geographical South Pole.
Shackleton was underfunded and in a race against Captain Robert Scott, with whom he had worked with on an Antarctic expedition from 1901 to 1903. Scott claimed McMurdo Sound for himself and his own expedition and wouldn’t allow Shackleton’s ship to land there, so the Nimrod had to find someplace else to drop them off. They attempted two different sites, but neither were safe due to shifting ice that would destroy the ship and wouldn’t be any good for the men, either.
The weather further hindered the attempt by Shackleton and the rest of the expedition. Even though this would have been during the Summer months in the Southern Hemisphere, there were several blizzards or strong winds/blowing snow events that slowed them down. Despite one of these blizzards, some in the expedition climbed the active volcano Mount Erebus!
And they discovered a new glacier, Beardmore Glacier, on December 3, 1908, that they named after one of their benefactors.
Shackleton and three other men set off for the geographical South Pole while others went for the magnetic pole. During the trek, they lost their four ponies, and almost starved to death. They made it to 88 degrees 23 minutes South latitude on January 9, 1909…. the farthest south anyone had ever gotten.
That record only stood less than three years until Raold Amundsen reached the South Pole (90 degrees South latitude) on December 15, 1911.
You can read more about the Nimrod Expedition by clicking here.
You can read more about Ernest Shackleton by clicking here.