1-9 September, 1921

(Contrary to certain legend) Quest is well equipped with a wide range of the latest scientific equipment – particularly for meteorology, topographical and hydrographical surveying, biological specimen collection and geology. This in addition to modern navigational equipment and sounding gear, a (slightly dented!) Sperry Gyrocompass, Marconi wirelesses, photographic and “kinematography” equipment, a dark-room, a seaplane and even a heated crow’s nest. They have one of only three existing Odographs, an electrically powered innovation that can trace route and record speed. The enclosed bridge is fitted with two heated, “clear-view” panels – electrically driven revolving panes which clear spray etc, manufactured by George Kent Ltd (Luton). The ship is appointed as an official reporting ship of the Meteorological Office, and is to be reporting to the Air Ministry and the Admiralty.

The Sperry Gyro-compass – before and after someone put a dent in it. It had luminous dials and was described by the Daily Mail of 9 September 1921 as “looking like a cross between a wash-basin and a vertical searchlight, a mysterious black japanned bowl is set in a deck-cabin aboard Quest”

Quest’s Avro Baby seaplane

(Also contrary to later prevailing legend) The expedition has clear, if not highly defined or timetabled, aims.  It has neither a “first to achieve” goal nor is it a flag-planting exercise. Instead, on the face of it, it is an extended journey (likely two years long) seeking to accumulate a diverse and useful body of information about lesser known, if less glamourous, regions of the South. The plan is to visit the islands of the South Atlantic including Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island before arriving at Cape Town to rearrange stores and equipment – including picking up essential components of the seaplane and specialised polar gear. Then to the Antarctic to explore the 2,000 miles of Antarctic coastline of Enderby Land, and likely ending up westwards in the Weddell Sea, whence back to Cape Town. Then they will travel east into the South Pacific, completely circumnavigating the Antarctic before returning north along the western edge of the Atlantic.  This extensive time in largely uncharted waters should undoubtedly generate valuable knowledge of all kinds, including potential locations for wireless, meteorological and shipping supply stations supporting the trade and economies of the region.

Shackleton explains in an interview: “A large amount of scientific equipment has been lent by the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, but all through Mr Rowett has stood behind us and agreed to the increased costs, personnel, insurance and alterations to the ship. He has two great desires. First, that the ship should be fully equipped and made as safe as possible for a heavy-weather voyage. He has repeatedly urged on me that every vital part of the equipment, every rope even, should make for safety. Instead of having to make bricks without straw (like most explorers), I have been in the position of being able to get without difficulty everything that was necessary. Mr Rowett’s other desire is that the expedition should be representative of the Empire as a whole. It has consequently become an imperial undertaking , and on board the Quest will be representatives of each of the self-governing dominions. The net result of his generous attitude is that, in my opinion, this expedition is more completely equipped with the most up-to-date arrangements and instruments for obtaining scientific and economic results than any other expedition that has left these or any other shores for either arctic or Antarctic discovery.”

Wednesday 7 September, 1921

Expedition members Commander Frank Wild, aviator Roderick Carr, geologist George Vibert Douglas and naturalist George Hubert Wilkins stay as guests of the Rowetts at Ely Place.

Frank Wild at Ely Place, 7 September 1921

Thursday 8 September, 1921

Sir Ernest and Lady Shackleton stay the night at Ely Place. Shackleton tests out the hand stamps to be used for postal services on the expedition.

Friday 9 September, 1921

The London Evening News reports on progress with loading of supplies and equipment on Quest. A triple magnum of Heidsieck, as a gift for Sir Ernest, a quantity of “very rare cognac”, as well as 25,000 cigarettes for the crew are among the provisions loaded.

The Quest’s cook, Charlie Green, tells the Sunday Chronicle “We have enough fresh provisions on board to last a year and they’ve stored the whisky in my cabin because I’m a teetotaller”.

Green, Macklin and Eriksen loading Quest at St Katharine Docks, September 1921