Skip to content

By Jan Shearsmith on

On this day: Shackleton sets sail for New Zealand

110 years ago, Shackleton set sail for New Zealand aboard Nimrod. In this post, archivist Jan Shearsmith discusses the fate of the famous ship.

On 11 August 1907, Ernest Shackleton’s ship Nimrod set sail for New Zealand, the starting point for his expedition to Antarctica.

The British Antarctic Expedition 1907–09, known as the Nimrod Expedition, was the first that Shackleton led to the South Pole. He set about organising equipment and stores, which included the purchase of a ship built to withstand the hostile conditions it would face during their voyage to Antarctica. However, when a financial backer pulled out of an agreement to help finance the expedition, Shackleton found himself having to look at purchasing a smaller vessel. He was offered a 41 year-old vessel built in Dundee by Alexander Stephens and Sons Ltd, which had been used to hunt seals in Newfoundland, and purchased it for £5,000.

Nimrod was often battered by storms and had to be towed from New Zealand towards the South Pole, due to the large amount of stores onboard, which reduced the amount of coal it could carry to power the steam engine. The ship eventually arrived in the area on 15 January 1908, when pack ice forced the towing ship to release Nimrod, and from there it made its own way towards the South Pole. Nimrod reached the Pole, offloaded the stores and returned to New Zealand in February 1908. It made one more trip to the Pole to bring back the expedition in 1909, after which Shackleton sold it.

Nimrod at Pomona Docks, Manchester
Nimrod at Pomona Docks, Manchester

In the photographic print above, you can see Nimrod in a less adventurous role tied up at Pomona Docks, Manchester in 1911. It is clear that the cable drums have been added to the photograph. Glovers were always keen to promote their cables, and had a novel approach using an early form of photoshopping. There are other examples of the use of this kind of photographic manipulation in the Glover Collection, which can be viewed online.


Sadly, Nimrod ran aground just off the Norfolk coast, and was battered to pieces in a storm in January 1919. A sad end for such a mighty small ship.

2 comments on “On this day: Shackleton sets sail for New Zealand

  1. I read somewhere Shackleton did not travel to NZ in 1907 aboard Nimrod but sailed on a passenger ship. What was the name of that ship ?. I understand my great grandparents were also passengers and we have a ships menu signed by Shackleton and others but there is no name of the ship on the menu. Do you know the name of the passenger ship please?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.