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Southward on the "Quest"

Potent record of the 1921 Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic expedition, marked by the death of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Documentary 1922 68 mins Silent


Sir Ernest Shackleton’s fourth and final voyage to Antarctica marked the end of the “Heroic Age” of Antarctic exploration. Restless after the War, the great explorer originally intended to go north to the Arctic, but instead planned a circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent to map around 2000 miles of uncharted coastline and take soundings to investigate the possibility of an underwater continental connection between Africa and America. Although most of this film was shot after Shackleton’s death, the first shot shows the great man bathing and “Query”, the expedition’s dog, on board the Quest. Some views of Grytviken, South Georgia, were taken before Shackleton’s sudden death there, of a coronary thrombosis.

The ship, under Frank Wild, sailed to Montevideo, from where they intended to send the body back to England, but Lady Shackleton requested that they bury him on South Georgia. On the ship’s return members of the expedition and crew were filmed visiting Shackleton’s grave and erecting a memorial cairn. We know very little about the film: JC Bee-Mason, having filmmaking and expedition experience, was appointed as cinematographer, but succumbed to seasickness and was forced to quit the ship at Madeira. Hubert Wilkins, who had been his cabin mate in the ship’s darkroom, undertook the rest of the filming.