Shackleton’s Aurora Australis: The first book printed in Antarctica

When Ernest Shackleton led his team to Antarctica in 1907, he had already travelled to this most inhospitable of continents as third officer on Scott’s Discovery expedition. One of the problems the Discovery trip revealed to Shackleton was what he called polar ennui, and thus he prepared some plans and schemes to keep his own crew productive and motivated during their long, cold northern winters.

Perhaps the 1907 Nimrod expedition’s most surprising undertaking was the writing, illustration, editing, setting, printing and binding of a book, the Aurora Australis. This required the transportation of paper, ink and a printing press across Antarctica.

Though the copies were not numbered, it’s believed that around 100 copies of Aurora Australis were produced, of which more than 30 remain unaccounted for.

This week, the Bodleian Libraries displayed our copy of Aurora Australis during the Oxford Teacher’s Seminar, which gave an opportunity to take the picture featured in this post.

The bindings of the book were made by Bernard Day from the exhibition’s packing cases. The Bodleian’s copy still shows “…d kidneys,” revealing the case’s original purpose.

There are literally millions of books in the Bodleian collections, and many thousands of genuine treasures. Even amongst this wealth of riches, Aurora Australis remains an inspiring and fascinating achievement.


Aurora Australis flashes over Antarctica


Aurora Australis (NASA, ISS) by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center





 This past week, a lucky group of 134 people had the privilege to witness the elusive Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights. The Australis is typically very difficult to see since the South Pole is so remote that the lights have to travel great distances to reach the nearest municipalities in Australia and New Zealand (unlike in the North).
 That’s why the lucky group of travellers decided to find a way around this problem - through flight. By flying an airplane to the South Pole for the sole purpose of seeing the lights (which cost around $3,000 to $6,000 for the privilege), they were able to experience this rare phenomenon.
 This flight was in all due to the diligence of Otago Museum Director Ian Griffin. “I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” Griffin said. “We were right under it. There were beautiful streamers, auroral streamers. This green-colored stuff that moves quickly, it looks like you’re looking into a green, streaky river.”

Read more about this fascinating story at:–the-southern-lights/2017/03/24/451ca2de-1051-11e7-aa57-2ca1b05c41b8_story.html


After chasing it for more than two years I was finally rewarded with two displays of Aurora Australis (Southern lights) within a week visible from Mornington peninsula, not far from Melbourne. The nights were warm an clear and the Moon was not in the sky either - I could not have asked for better conditions.
The red color of this aurora is caused by the charged particles from the Sun exciting oxygen atoms high in the Earth’s atmosphere. …
Being able to photograph it all night I came up with a nice video. The brighter Aurora happened on January 22nd and the smaller one, featured in the middle section, was from January 16th, followed by a rather bright Moonrise.