Forgotten men

Macquarie Island Party toughed it out for another year
The Forgotten Men the Macquarie Island Party toughed it out for another year. From left to right Sandell, Ainsworth (Leader), Sawyer, Hamilton, Blake. Mitchell Collection, State Library of New South Wales

The ‘Forgotten Men’ of Shackleton’s British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition were the members of the Ross Sea party, set up to lay depots for a continental crossing that never happened because of the loss of Endurance thousands of kilometres away. With so strong a focus on Cape Denison and the drama of Mawson’s survival march, the Forgotten Men of the AAE were Wild’s Western Party – and the men of Macquarie Island.

Not for them the glamour of Antarctic ice. For young men seeking to be heroes, the wet, cloud-covered hills of Macquarie Island, known to sealers for a century, was a poor substitute for surviving crevasses, katabatics or an ice shelf winter buried under snow. They were there mainly because Mawson needed a half-way station to relay his wireless messages to the outside world.

Yet they worked tirelessly to build knowledge of a place that has since been recognised as one of the world’s natural treasures. And given the option of returning home before the onset of a second winter, they agreed to endure a second, unplanned year on the island – despite the prospect of a serious shortage of supplies.

This page was last modified on July 2, 2014.