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Mertz & I … The Antarctic Diary of Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis

Author(s): Mornement, Allan & Beau Riffenburgh, eds.

Copyright: 2014, UK
Specifications: 1st, Ltd ed #n/400 on photo bookplate, 8vo, pp.448, photo frontis, 20 color & 86 bw photos, sketch, plan, 4 maps, black cloth
Condition: dj & cloth new

On the afternoon of 10 November 1912, the Far Eastern Party, consisting of three men and seventeen dogs set off on a sledging trip. The men were Douglas Mawson, Xavier Mertz and Belgrave Ninnis. Two of these men tragically died, and only the leader, Douglas Mawson, returned after what has been described as ‘the greatest survival story in the history of exploration’.

Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis was born on 22 June 1887. His father had sailed as ship’s surgeon on Discovery on the 1875–76 British Arctic Expedition led by Captain George Nares. It is evident from his diary that the young Ninnis was determined to follow in his father’s steps as a polar explorer though he had enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. Whilst serving in Africa and Mauritius he made continuous efforts to obtain a position on Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, but without luck. Finally he felt he had to return to England on leave to seek interviews with Scott.

Inside the diary is the story of a young man and his determined and ultimately successful attempt to become a polar explorer. It is a continuous record, from March 1908 to the final entry on 9 November 1912, though this book concentrates on his Antarctic endeavours. It is also the story of a fairly self-opinionated and arrogant young man who came to be liked and admired by his comrades. From the period of his acceptance on the expedition he focused on the enormity of the challenge ahead, and the diary provides a detailed record of the preparations, the voyage and the expedition itself.

Ninnis forged a strong bond with Xavier Mertz, who was 28, a graduate of Leipzig and Basel universities. He was also a champion skier, which was one of the reasons why Mawson had selected him. The story of Mawson’s epic fight to survive is well known – the story of the other two men is not.

Co-editor Mornement has a maternal connection to the Ninnis family – Belgrave Ninnis who sailed with Capt. George Nares in the Arctic (1875), Aubrey Ninnis who was a crew member on Robert Scott’s ‘Terra Nova’ (1910) and a member of Ernest Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party (1914), and Lt. Belgrave Ninnis, the subject of this book.



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