Antarctic tiles

The Diaries and Letters

WITH SHACKLETON and MAWSON. The Antarctic Diaries of Frank Wild - Beau Riffenburg & Angie Butler

Frank Wild is a name well known to anyone interested in the history of Polar exploration. He was one of only two men — along with Ernest Joyce— to earn the Polar Medal with four clasps. He was also the only man to serve in the Antarctic under the British Empire’s three greats—Scott, Shackleton and Mawson. This book, however, is not a biography, but rather a chance to view Wild’s role and accomplishments from his own writings — his diary kept during the Southern Journey of Shackleton’s BAE, his sledging diary from Mawson’s expedition, and his report to Mawson about the operations of the AAE’s Western Base, which he commanded in 1912—13. These have been quoted in other works, but they have never been published before in their entirety.
It is thought that Wild did keep other diaries, but these have not come to light.

The two diaries included here are the only two diaries of Wild known with certainty to be extant.

Hardback, jacketed, 276pp, over 100 photographs and illustrations, 2 fold-out maps. £35.00   Order



The story of Shackleton and his Endurance adventure is very well known in the canon of Antarctic literature. His attempt to cross the Antarctic continent failed spectacularly. When the ship was crushed, he and his crew made their way to the desolation of Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton, Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, Harry McNeish, John Vincent and Timothy McCarthy made that epic voyage to South Georgia in the James Caird to ultimately arrange the rescue the crew.
Orde Lees was selected originally as the motor expert but when this became redundant Lees became the storeman, and thus was responsible for maintaining and distributing supplies on the Endurance and on Elephant Island and naturally in this capacity he was destined to become an easy target for the bored and hungry. He was also the only member who maintained a personal daily diary of the voyage, from Day 1 to the day the rescued men left South America for England more than two years later. Lees was often a `man alone' on the ship but was always capable of appreciating and describing in touching and sensitive language a beautiful polar dawn or nature at its most inspiring.

Margaret Scott, in her capacity as manuscript librarian at the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, has said the diary `has a rare dramatic quality and an eye and ear for the unusual and interesting. Perhaps because it is also ingenuous and different from the official accounts it has its own intrinsic value’.

508 pp + 16 pp colour and B & W plates 250 COPIES ONLY £45.00  Order


THE ANTARCTIC DIARY OF ARCHIBALD LANG MCLEAN - Edited and with an introduction by Beau Riffenburgh

Archibald Lang McLean was a graduate in Arts and Medicine at Sydney University who in 1911 applied to join Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition as the expedition’s doctor and bacteriologist. On the expedition he studied the effects of the Antarctic environment on other members of the expedition, taking regular blood samples and skin swabs.

From the beginning, McLean distinguished himself by his willingness to engage in hard manual labour, a trait that showed itself again on Macquarie Island, during the period when the base and wireless station were set up. He also carried out medical tests and examinations. He was the first to demonstrate that hair and nail growth decrease in the Antarctic, due to the cold, which causes vasoconstriction. He also was the first in the Antarctic to describe his methods of measuring haemoglobin, cell counts, and blood pressure. In fact, it has been suggested that through this work he laid the foundations for modern physiological research in the Antarctic.
When Aurora returned to collect the expedition, Mawson, Ninnis and Mertz had not come back from their sledging expedition and McLean volunteered to stay and if necessary search for Mawson.

On 8 February Aurora sailed, leaving the small party behind. Within hours of the ship’s departure, Mawson returned in terrible physical condition, bearing with him the tragic tale of the deaths of Ninnis and Mertz. A wireless message was sent to Davis, asking him to come back to pick up the remaining men but the weather conditions prevented the men on shore from reaching the ship, and Davis eventually made the decision to leave the seven of them at Cape Denison. Mawson, McLean and the others would spend another year at their base.

The story of the second year at Commonwealth Bay was originally told in Mawson’s The Home of the Blizzard. The published primary sources about the second wintering have in the past been the diaries of Mawson and Madigan, two men who often did not see eye to eye. McLean’s contribution therefore adds a valuable perspective.

Hardback, jacketed, 404pp, 100 photographs and illustrations and one foldout colour map. £27.50   Order


The Antarctic Diaries of Andrew Watson and Alexander Kennedy together with the paintings of Charles Turnbull Harrisson
A stunning limited edition package which includes:

- Hardback, cloth bound, blocked on cover and spine, 260pp, 70 pictures

- Hardback, cloth bound, blocked on cover and spine; 192pp 60 pictures

- 36pp + cover, soft back on art paper, 55 pictures

- 16pp + cover, booklet, 15 pictures

- removable.

Antarctic Diaries of Andrew Watson and Alexander Kennedy


All encased in a rigid slip cover.

Harrisson, Kennedy and Watson were all members of Mawson's Western party led by the legendary Frank Wild, the only person to be awarded the Polar medal with four bars.

Charles Harrisson was the biologist on Mawson’s expedition who was also an enormously talented painter. He charted the life of the Western Party through his paintings and drawings. In 1914 he tragically lost his life when the ship he was on was returning from Macquarie Island and was lost with all hands.

The fourth book is a short biography of Harrisson.
This is a limited numbered edition of 300 copies. The books will not be available separately. Price: £60.00.

Mertz & I …
The Antarctic Diary of Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis

Edited by Allan Mornement & Beau Riffenburgh

The Antarctic Diary of Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis

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On the afternoon of 10 November 1912, the Far Eastern Party, consisting of three men and seventeen dogs set off on a sledging trip. The men were Douglas Mawson, Xavier Mertz and Belgrave Ninnis. Two of these men tragically died, and only the leader, Douglas Mawson, returned after what has been described as ‘the greatest survival story in the history of exploration’. Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis was born on 22 June 1887. His father had sailed as ship’s surgeon on Discovery on the 1875–76 British Arctic Expedition led by Captain George Nares. It is evident from his diary that the young Ninnis was determined to follow in his father’s steps as a polar explorer though he had enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. Whilst serving in Africa and Mauritius he made continuous efforts to obtain a position on Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, but without luck.

Finally he felt he had to return to England on leave to seek interviews with Scott. Inside the diary is the story of a young man and his determined and ultimately successful attempt to become a polar explorer. It is a continuous record, from March 1908 to the final entry on 9 November 1912, though this book concentrates on his Antarctic endeavours. It is also the story of a fairly self-opinionated and arrogant young man who came to be liked and admired by his comrades. From the period of his acceptance on the expedition he focused on the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the diary provides a detailed record of the preparations, the voyage and the expedition itself.

Ninnis forged a strong bond with Xavier Mertz, who was 28, a graduate of Leipzig and Basel universities. He was also a champion skier, which was one of the reasons why Mawson had selected him. The story of Mawson’s epic fight to survive is well known – the story of the other two men is not. 

Hardback, jacketed, 456pp +8pp colour & 16pp b&w plates. Over 110 drawings, illustrations and maps. £35.00 REDUCED TO £25.00  Order

The Shackleton Letters

Behind the Scenes of the Nimrod Expedition

Regina W Daly

The Shackleton Letters

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Behind the Scenes of the Nimrod Expedition

Ernest Shackleton was obsessed by the Antarctic. He had written to his sister saying ‘You can’t think what it is like to walk over places where no man has walked before.’ He was disappointed at his showing during Scott’s Discovery Expedition—he had collapsed and spent much of the time as a passenger - and possibly felt that Scott had to a degree blamed him for the ultimate failure of the expedition.

He wanted to be first to the South Pole, partly for the glory but also because he felt he had to redeem himself after Scott sent him back on the relief ship in 1903, because of his “ill health”.

Raising the money for another expedition was fraught with difficulties but in 1907 he finally set sail, aboard the Nimrod .

Here, gathered together for the first time, are 156 letters and telegrams exploring the inner thoughts of an heroic man with far-reaching dreams. His emotions are revealed through personal correspondence with Scott, Dr. Edward Wilson, Sir Clements Markham and many others. They give an insight not only into the mind and character of this great explorer but into the internal politics of the time. 

The author details the history leading up to the expedition, through the trials of the year on the ice and the various journeys and then the return to England and the reception they received from the public, the press and such as the Royal Geographic Society.

Correspondence covering the dismissal of Captain England, Shackleton’s ‘bequests’ in the event of his non-return from his attempt to reach the Pole and his worries about the financial situation are included and the last section of the book reproduces Shackleton’s intimate letters to his wife, Emily, and to Elspeth Beardmore, for whom he had a deep affection. 

368pp, 235 x 165mm. Over 40 photographs and illustrations; pull-out map of Explorations and Surveys of the Expedition (440 x 430mm)

Softback, jacketed, blocked on spine. £15.00  Order

8 men in a crate - The Ordeal of the Advance Party of the Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1955–1957
Anthea Arnold. Based on the diaries of Rainer Goldsmith

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Once the pole had been ‘conquered’ by Amundsen and Scott the next great journey was the crossing of the Antarctic continent, first attempted by Filchner in 1912 and then by Shackleton in 1914. As part of the International Geographical Year the Trans-Antarctic Expedition was set up with Vivian Fuchs in charge. He would start from a base on the Weddell Sea and after reaching the Pole, continue to the Ross Sea using supply depots laid by a New Zealand team working from McMurdo and led by the conqueror of Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary. In January 1956 an advance party of eight men was left at Shackleton base to build accommodation, explore and lay depots to ease the passage of Fuchs’s team the following year.

The achievement of this expedition still resonates today but the near-death experience of the Advance Party at Shackleton Base has been largely forgotten. The eight men left behind only just survived in a dreadful Antarctic winter, living by day in a sno-cat crate and sleeping in tents at night while trying to erect a poorly designed hut with inadequate manpower and equipment. The loss of much of their stores put their survival on a knife-edge.

This account, based on the diary of the young medical officer, shows how close to disaster they came and how lucky they were to survive. Fuchs later admitted that apart from Scott’s marooned Northern Party theirs was the most severe ordeal in the history of Antarctic exploration.
144pp 16pp colour pictures, 50 photographs, paperback £12.75  REDUCED TO £10.00   Order

Tales Told at Tea Time
Frank Debenham

Edited by Barbara Debenham


Frank Debenham was a member of the scientific staff on Scott’s 1910 expedition. He conceived the idea for a Polar Institute whilst sitting in Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds and after the death of the polar party he campaigned for a living memorial to Scott. On 26th November 1920 the Scott Polar Research Institute came into being and Frank Debenham was its first director.

When he returned from the Antarctic in 1913 he resolved not to publish any reminiscences but at the urging of many friends he published, in 1952, IN THE ANTARCTIC which deals chiefly with the three years he spent there. The book has extensive illustrations which the author hopes ‘...may convey something of the spirit of harmony which reigned in that crammed but cosy hut forty years ago’.

IN THE ARCTIC, which was first published in 1997, was written in Deb’s retirement as his way of remembering some of the people—explorers, staff, research students—who passed through his tenure as a Director of SPRI. These delightful stories are a mixture of facts and fantasy, some poignant, some amusing but all delightful. 

IN THE ARCTIC - 144pp, hardback, blocked on front and spine; over 30 photographs and illustrations £15.00  REDUCED TO £10.00

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