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Plymouth, 24 September, 1921

Saturday 24 September, 1921

As well as Gerald Lysaght joining as temporary helmsman as planned, Tom McLeod persuades Shackleton to let him remain with the expedition. The final addition to the Quest’s crew is Query, an Alsatian puppy that has been presented to Shackleton as a mascot.


Last minute items of equipment are loaded, including a flat-bottomed folding boat made by S E Saunders & Co, of Isle of Wight (and formerly of Goring-on-Thames). The folding boat can slide across snow or ice, and with a detachable inboard motor as well as sail.

10.50 am: Ernest Shackleton sends a telegram to Ellie Rowett:

Leaving now Ellie. Nor what you are and, with John, mean to our Endeavour is not just put in a telegram in truth. Ernest.

11.00 am: Shackleton arrives on board Quest and the final preparations are made. Shackleton converses with Thomas Vere Hodgson, the biologist and curator of the Plymouth Museum and who had been the biologist on the Discovery expedition (1901-1904), with Shackleton.

Shackleton with Thomas V Hodgson, as Quest prepares to depart

Quest casts off before noon, still with various visitors on board including John Quiller Rowett, and heads out of Millbay Docks into Plymouth Sound, cheered off by large crowds.

The Quest moors on a buoy in Plymouth Sound and is “swung” for compass setting, by an Admiralty tug. The process is supervised by Commander M P Traill-Smith RN, of the Admiralty Compass Department, assisted by Commander Geoffrey Freyburg RN (who has brought his young son along to watch).

The Admiralty tug coming to swing Quest
George Valentine WIlliams records a final press statement from Sir Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton says : “On sailing in the Quest as leader of the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, I desire to place on record the fact that the expedition is fitted out and equipped with a view to ensuring as far as humanly possible the absolute safety of the ship and its crew in the carrying out of one of the most varied programmes which any expedition has yet undertaken. No money has been spared to make certain that, whatever weather the ship may encounter, she will be able to weather it. All the vital parts have been surveyed and doubly strengthened, and apart from my own Polar and sea experience of 30 years, I have had the advice of the best experts on this matter. In addition to the money expended on general and scientific equipment, both the Admiralty and the Air Ministry have lent a large quantity of special instruments. With the exception of Mr Frederick Becker’s generous contribution of £5,000 and gifts of certain stores from some British firms, the cost of the expedition has been solely defrayed by Mr J Q Rowett, who was the first to recognise the national character of the undertaking and its potential contribution to the sum of human knowledge” (Published in The Daily Mail of 26 September 1921)

Shackleton and John Rowett have a last conversation, on the deck of Quest

With Frank wild standing next to last minute supplies crowding the deck, Macklin exchanges words with the departing Commander Freyburg on the launch. Eriksen looks on from the prow of Quest.

John Rowett and Captain Stenhouse (former Chief Officer of Aurora) are the last visitors on board.

John Quiller Rowett waves goodbye to the Quest. The son of Cdr Geoffrey Freyburg RN watches from the prow of the launch

5.00 pm: Quest casts off from the buoy and sets sail for the Antarctic, still watched by onlookers on shore.