18-21 September, 1921 – Gravesend to Sheerness
Sunday 18 September, 1921
Off Gravesend during the night of 17/18 September, Quest drags her anchor and collides with a nearby Thames barge. Little damage is caused but it is decided to put in at the dockyard at Sheerness for repairs.
In the evening, the inaugural concert of The Adair Wounded Fund, founded by Alan Adair, is held at Wigmore Hall. Adair is in fact Basil Leakey, John Rowett’s business partner in Rowett, Leakey and Co Ltd. John Quiller Rowett sponsors the event.
Monday 19 September, 1921
The Quest arrives off Southend Pier, then anchors for an hour off the Nore Buoy before proceeding to Sheerness. According to Admiralty regulations, all of Quest’s supplies of ammunition and petrol have to be temporarily unloaded before she can enter the Royal Navy Dockyard. Quest enters Sheerness harbour just before 10.00 am and berths alongside the basin wall between entrances no 2 and no 3 (Naval and Military Record, 28 September 1921).
The Glasgow Bulletin comments “Two willing scouts will be more use to Shackleton that a couple of wistful stockbrokers seeking escape from the weariness of the Bourse”
Tuesday 20 September, 1921
With the approval of Captain Superintendent F S Litchfield-Speer, and under the supervision of Chief Constructor Mr H J Blandford, repairs are carried out to the Quest in the Royal Navy dockyard. Additionally, fifty square feet of copper earthing – part of the wireless radio installation – are fitted below the waterline by divers, work not fully completed before departure from St Katharine Docks.
Frank Wild is well known in the port of Sheerness as he once served on the staff of the Gunnery School there. In the evening, the Quest crew attend Sheerness Hippodrome where they had “a hearty welcome and a good send-off” (Naval and Military Record, 28 September 1921).
Meanwhile, Shackleton is making last minute efforts in London to secure cash in return for French language rights, helped by Sir Andrew Caird of Associated Newspapers, who has the English language rights. These attempts are unsuccessful. An unsigned draft agreement was offered in the Christie’s Polar Sale of 2001.
Wednesday 21 September, 1921
Work finishes on Quest at Sheerness.
At 3.42 pm, John Rowett sends a telegram from Sheerness to Ellie Rowett at Ely Place: “Send you greetings from the Quest off Sheerness just leaving for Plymouth”.
Rowett and Shackleton then both travel by car to the Rowetts’ home, Ely Place, on the evening of 21 September.
Meanwhile, Quest makes her way into the English Channel, under the guidance of the Channel Pilot, Captain W Bridgland.