Dogs on Ice

(Shakespeare the dog and team, Frank Hurley 1915)

“What’s with the dogs scanned from a newspaper?” asked my sister in regards to the header of this blog.  As it turns out, it is not a scanned picture from a newspaper but a very old photograph.

Dogs were taken to Antartica in the early 20th century expeditions. Antartica, being the last continent to be conquered, had inspired a race where many nations tried to reach latitude 90°S first. England and the Royal Geographical Society have sponsored many of those expeditions, one which was captained by Ernest Shackleton in the ship Endurance.

(Dr. Leonard Hussey and Samson, members of the Endurance expedition. Photo by Frank Hurley, 1915)

The expeditions were manned by a crew of of both sailors and scientists. Besides the political interests in reaching the south pole, the expeditions were also meant as scientific exploration. Biologists, geologists, zoologists and meteorologists were all aboard, and performed experiments in the antarctic waters, weather, and creatures. From the local fauna, the Endurance and other expeditions (such as Terra Nova, Captain Scott’s ship that sailed to Antarctica in 1914, and not the Spielberg show) studied Emperor Penguins, birds bigger than my german shepherd.

(Frank Hurley)

Among Endurance’s crew was photographer Frank Hurley, who documented the journey. His job was not purely scientific or journalistic, but also commercial: to obtain funds for the trip, Shackleton pre-sold the rights to books, films, photographs and advertisement. Hurley and the crew had to make sure sponsored products were photographed. One very amusing photograph, and my favorite from the Antarctica advertisements, was taken by Herbert Ponting on the Terra Nova (below, a little askew after I scanned it from Ponting’s book). Before the formula-1 jumpsuits covered in ads, there was Dr. Hooper and his can of heinz beans:

(Hooper photographed by Herbert Ponting in 1911 on the Terra Nova expedition)

Dogs were not the only animals brought to Antartica for transportation. Capitan Scott from Terra Nova and Captain Shackleton also took poneys (are ponies making a comeback?).

(Oates and ponies by Herbert Ponting, 1910-1912)

But… that didn’t work out so well. The poneys were sliding in the ice (imagine skater ponies), were easily spooked by seals, and had to be warmed up from the cold by drinking whyskey. (True story. Perhaps the Antarctica ponies deserve a blog post on its own). Scandinavian explorers (such as Roald Amundsen, the norweigian capitain who managed to reach the pole before the Englishman) already knew dogs were the most efficient on ice, and brought extra huskies.

(Crean and Bones the Pony, by Herbert Ponting, October 1911)

In both dog sled images above ( the one on the blog header and the one on the top of the post), the first dog  is named Shakespeare; the leader of that sled team. Next to Shakespeare is his brother Bob, and following is Rugby, Rufus, Sailor, Hackenschmidt, Noel, Jerry and Martin, one team out of many. My favorite Antartica dog photographs though is the one where sailor Crean holds an Antartica-born litter of puppies:

(Crean and puppies, Frank Hurley 1915)


4 responses to “Dogs on Ice

  1. Your post reminded me the book “At the Mountains of Madness”, by HP Lovecraft.

  2. I know! In fact, I’m going to go read it again…

  3. Nice pics but you might want to double check that you have your captions and photographers correct. E.g. Oates died in 1912 on the Terra Nova expedition so there’s no way Hurley could have photographed him alive and well in 1915. The photo of Oates and ponies was taken by Ponting on the Terra Nova expedition (1910-12). And yes, Crean was on the Endurance expedition with Hurley in 1915 but there were no ponies on that expedition. The photo of Crean and ponies was also taken by Ponting on the Terra Nova expedition. Hope this helps.

  4. It certainly does! I had wrong captions in the two pony pictures, like you pointed out. I double checked the Ponting book for the correct years and fixed the captions. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

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