Forgotten men

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.