Charles’ idea to build a second model came from legendary Antarctic pioneer Syd Kirkby. Syd suggested Charles construct a model of the sledge used by the famed Arctic explorer, the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen. But, Charles had already done his trip of a lifetime on Marina Svetaeva on Aurora”s inaugural “ Mawson’s Antarctica – Commonwealth Bay” 2005 expedition, during which he had made his model of Mawson’s Hut on board.
Visitors to Antarctica realise however, that often that trip of a lifetime sometimes becomes an obsession and the call to return to the ice takes over. So, in July 2007 Charles booked his berth on tour 2008 expedition to the Ross Sea. Syd came good with a plan and all the necessary information for building the sledge. Syd himself was the perfect person to guide Charles in his project, Syd having been an expedition leader in charge of dog teams at Mawson Station in the1960’s. Syd had built his own sledges in the past, based on the Nansen type sledges and the 1934 sledges of the British Grahamland Expedition.
Charles started collecting the various authentic materials – oak, ash, leather and metal fixings that were used on the original sledge. Runners were steamed, uprights crafted and the cane bow piece curved all prior to departure. The complete kit and tools were packed into a box weighing 22 kg and sent to the ship by Aurora.
On the way to Bluff, New Zealand, Charles visited Christchurch Museum and studied and photographed their many sledges from the Heroic age of Antarctic exploration. They were all about 100yrs old and shiny black in colour. As a result of this Charles’ sledge was built to look like it had been made in a smoke blackened hut, heated by a blubber stove. A dummy was also created prior to the voyage as part of a realistic load for the sledge. Charles smuggled his doll, nicknamed Shackleton, out of the cabin where it had been hidden from his cabinmates, and strapped him on to the sledge. However, a few of the ladies on board were upset that their hero Shackleton was depicted in this fashion, so the dummy was re-named Rev. Spencer-Smith of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party. Spencer-Smith was hauled by his comrades 300 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf, but died of scurvy in their tent..
The sledge now hangs in Charles’ back porch awaiting a permanent home, at the Aurora office, alongside his other famous model, Mawson’s Hut.
Third trip of a lifetime? – Not likely, but the draw of Antarctica is not to be underestimated!
And the next project? The “James Caird”, the lifeboat sailed by Shackleton to South Georgia from Antarctica.