England 1870 – 1935
Captain Oates and ponies, on the 'Terra Nova' 1910 Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
Tractors, the forerunners of snowmobiles, and huskies were popular transportation choices in the Antarctic. Shackleton had used ponies successfully on his Nimrod expedition of 1907–9 and Meares, who had been sent to Siberia to select the dogs, also purchased nineteen Manchurian ponies – though his selection was poor. On seeing them, Oates immediately realised they were too old, too lame and too diseased to carry out the work expected of them. Many of the thirty-three Siberian sledge dogs survived their trip though the dogs and the ponies, for the most part stabled on the upper deck under the fo’c’sle, had a dreadful time of it on the passage down. Once in the Antarctic, the ponies continued to face problems. Some had to be destroyed and others died soon after arrival. Those that remained suffered from snow blindness for which various solutions were proposed including dying their forelocks and making sun bonnets. Walking was also difficult and snowshoes were trialled.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra