Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX
Scotland and the Antarctic

Section 2: Antarctic Exploration

Robert Swan Expedition 1984-85

Robert Swan led a private expedition 'in the footsteps of Scott' in 1984. Swan and three of his four companions had been with the British Antarctic Survey so had some experience of working in the Antarctic. He travelled south in the Southern Quest, a former whale catcher.

The expedition overwintered on Ross Island near Scott's original base. While at their base they climbed Mount Erebus, Mount Terra Nova, and Mount Terror and even cycled across to the American base at McMurdo Sound.

During the Antarctic summer of 1985 the expedition left for the South Pole. All five set off for the first three days, then two of the party returned to base leaving extra stores with the main polar party. The kevlar sledges each carried 160 kilograms and would lighten as the stores were eaten. Allowance was made for 5,100 calories per day and yet all the party lost weight on the way to the Pole.

Photograph of Southern Crest crushed and sinking in the ice

Swan's party were on skis, towing their sledges behind them. After a great variety of polar weather including extreme cold, blizzards and fine sunny days they arrived at the South Pole, having encountered an American survey party en route (who fed them on steaks and lobster's tails).

Bad news awaited them at Amundsen-Scott Base at the South Pole. Their supply ship, the Southern Quest, had been crushed by the pack ice in the Beaufort Sea north of Ross Island and had sunk. Swan had a Cessna plane standing by to take them back to base from the pole. The Americans advised the pilot not to fly to the pole so the party were flown to New Zealand in a Hercules transport aircraft, stopping at McMurdo Sound to pick up the crew of the Southern Quest.

Three men were left at their base on Ross Island and contact between the British and American base was not allowed until one of the party was attacked and injured by a leopard seal. Swan had to raise more money so that he could return in 1987 and remove all traces of this base. Aircraft, base hut, remaining stores and rubbish were all shipped out.

There was much criticism of this private venture by the scientists in the Antarctic as scientists lost valuable time in the rescue of this party and their transport out of the Antarctic.

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Glasgow Digital Library Voyage of the Scotia BRUCE PEOPLE SHIP ANTARCTIC INDEX