Aeneas MackintoshAeneas Mackintosh
Born July 1, 1879(1879-07-01)
Tirhut, IndiaDied May 8, 1916(aged 36)
McMurdo Sound, AntarcticaEducation Bedford Modern SchoolOccupation British Merchant Navyofficer and Antarctic explorer Spouse Gladys, nee Campbell Children 2 daughters Parents Alexander and Annie Mackintosh
Aeneas Lionel Acton Mackintosh (1 July 1879 – 8 May 1916) was a British Merchant Navy officer and Antarctic explorer who was a member of two of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expeditions: the Nimrod Expedition (1907–09) and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–17). He was second officer on Nimrod, later transferring to the shore party, but his involvement with the expedition was quickly curtailed when an accident while shifting equipment aboard ship destroyed his right eye. Although he was invalided back to New Zealand, his will and determination had impressed Shackleton. In 1914, Shackleton appointed him to the key position of commander of the Ross Sea party, a depot-laying mission in support of the transcontinental crossing during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
The Ross Sea party was dogged with organizational difficulties and misfortunes, which tested Mackintosh up to and beyond the limits of his capacity. In the later stages of the main depot-laying journey on the Great Ice Barrier, he was overcome both physically and mentally, and yielded the effective leadership of the party to his subordinate, Ernest Joyce—but not before he had ensured that all of the required depots had been laid. Close to death from scurvy and exhaustion, he was brought to safety by the combined efforts of Joyce, Ernest Wild and Dick Richards. On recovery, however, he rashly attempted to walk on unsafe pack ice from Hut Point to the party’s main base at Cape Evans, a distance of 13 miles (21 km), and disappeared during a blizzard, together with a companion, Victor Hayward.
Due to lack of groundwork in Australia, and financial restrictions imposed by Shackleton, the Ross Sea venture began late and in a state of some confusion which, fairly or otherwise, reflected on Mackintosh's perceived leadership capabilities. He apparently lacked the skills for dealing with the public or the press, while his traditional, hierarchical style of command and aloof manner failed to establish good relations with most of his men. Chroniclers have further described him as "haphazard", and as "erratic and accident-prone". On the other hand he has been acknowledged by Lord Shackleton, the explorer's son, as one of the heroes of the expedition, together with Joyce and Richards. Shackleton himself wrote of Mackintosh’s iron will, adding that he had "died for his country as surely as any who gave up their lives on the fields of France or Flanders".McMurdo Sound, frozen over. Mackintosh and Hayward set out on 8 May 1916 from Hut Point (A), intending to walk across the ice to Cape Evans (B). They disappeared in the area indicated as C; no trace of them was ever found.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Nimrod Expedition
- 3 Between expeditions
- 4 Ross Sea party
- 5 Reputation
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes and references
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
Mackintosh was born in Tirhut, India, on 1 July 1879. He was one of six children (five sons and a daughter) of a Scottish indigo planter, Alexander Mackintosh, who was descended from the chieftains of Clan Chattan. Aeneas would in due course be named as an heir to the chieftainship, and to the ancient manor at Inverness that went with it. His privileged expatriate background may explain some of the difficulties he would experience later in dealing with subordinates—his friend and contemporary Antarctic captain John King Davis referred to him as a "sahib". When his mother, Annie Mackintosh, suddenly returned to England, she brought the children with her, and the father thereafter disappears from the family story. Back in England Mackintosh attended Bedford Modern School. He then followed the same path as had Shackleton five years earlier, leaving school aged 15 to go to sea. After serving a tough Merchant Officer's apprenticeship he joined the P and O Line, remaining with this company until recruited by Shackleton in 1907. He was commissioned Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve in 1908.
- Main article: Nimrod Expedition
The Nimrod Expedition, 1907–1909, was the first of three Antarctic expeditions led by Ernest Shackleton. The purpose of the expedition was, as stated by Shackleton, to "proceed to the Ross Quadrant of the Antarctic with a view to reaching the Geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole". It is not recorded how or where Shackleton and Mackintosh first met, or how the latter's appointment as Nimrod's second officer was arranged. It appears, however, that Mackintosh soon earned Shackleton's confidence, and impressed others with, among other qualities, his will and determination. While Nimrod was in New Zealand prior to the journey south, Shackleton added Mackintosh to the shore party.
On 31 January 1908, not long after Nimrod's arrival in the Antarctic, Mackintosh was assisting in the transfer of sledging gear aboard ship when a hook swung across the deck and struck his right eye, virtually destroying it. He was immediately taken to the captain's cabin where, later that day, expedition doctor Eric Marshall operated to remove the eye, using partly improvised surgical equipment. Marshall was deeply impressed by his fortitude. This accident cost Mackintosh his place on the shore party, since it required his return to New Zealand for further treatment. Mackintosh therefore took no part in the main events of the expedition, but he came back south with Nimrod in January 1909, to participate in its closing stages.
Lost on the ice
On 1 January 1909 Nimrod, on its return trip south, was stopped by the ice, still 25 miles (40 km) from the expedition's shore base at Cape Royds. Mackintosh decided that he would lead a party in a march across the ice, to carry the mails ashore. Thus began what polar historian Beau Riffenburgh describes as "one of the most ill-considered parts of the entire expedition".
The party, which left the ship on the morning of 3 January, consisted of Mackintosh and three sailors, with a sledge containing supplies and a large postbag. Two sailors quickly returned to the ship, while Mackintosh and a companion went forward. They camped on the ice that evening, only to find next day that the whole area around them had broken up. After a desperate dash over the moving floes they managed to reach a small glacier tongue, where they camped and waited for several days for their snow-blindness to subside. When their sight returned, they found that Cape Royds was visible, but the sea-ice leading to it had gone. After a further wait, they decided to make for the hut by land, an extremely dangerous undertaking given their complete lack of experience and equipment.
On 11 January they set out. The next 48 hours involved a terrifying struggle over the hostile terrain, through regions of deep crevasses and treacherous snowfields. They soon parted company with all their equipment and supplies. At one point, in order to proceed, they had to ascend to 3,000 feet (910 m) and then slide to the foot of a snow-slope. It was only after another 24 hours of stumbling around in the fog that, by chance, they blundered into Bernard Day, a member of the shore party, a short distance from the hut. The ship later recovered the abandoned postbag. There are pre-echoes in this escapade of Mackintosh's fatal ice-walk, seven years later. John King Davis remarked: "Mackintosh was always the man to take the hundredth chance. This time he got away with it."
Undeterred by his ordeal, Mackintosh soon joined Ernest Joyce and others on a journey across the Great Ice Barrier to Minna Bluff, to lay a depot for Shackleton. On 3 March, while pacing the deck of Aurora, Mackintosh observed a flare from the direction of Hut Point, which signalled the arrival of Shackleton's southern party, returned from their record trek to 88°23'S.
Between expeditionsMap of Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean, where Mackintosh searched for treasure in 1911
Mackintosh returned to England in June 1909. On reporting to the P & O, he was informed that due to his impaired sight he was discharged. This left him at something of a loose end, and he agreed, early in 1910, to accompany Douglas Mawson on a trip to Hungary, to survey a potential goldfield which Shackleton was hoping would form the basis of a lucrative business venture. Despite a promising report from Mawson nothing came of this. Mackintosh later launched his own treasure-hunting expedition to Cocos Island off the Panama Pacific coast, but again returned home empty-handed.
In February 1912 Mackintosh married Gladys Campbell, and settled into an office job as assistant secretary to the Imperial Merchant Service Guild in Liverpool. He was, however, dissatisfied. He expressed his latent Antarctic ambitions to a former colleague: "I always feel I never completed my first initiation—so would like to have one final wallow, for good or bad!"
Ross Sea party
- Main article: Ross Sea party
Early difficultiesMembers of the Ross sea party, photographed in Australia. Mackintosh is seated in the middle row, third from left. Ernest Joyce is standing, extreme left, back row. Arnold Spencer-Smith is the tall figure, centre back row.
Mackintosh readily accepted Shackleton's invitation to join the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, originally as one of the party that would make the transcontinental crossing from the Weddell Sea. However, he was appointed to captain the support vessel Aurora and to lead the Ross Sea party, after another Nimrod stalwart, Eric Marshall, had turned the assignment down. The Ross Sea party's task was to lay a series of depots across the Great Ice Barrier, to support the cross-continental party in the later stages of its journey. Shackleton considered this to be a routine assignment.
Mackintosh arrived in Australia in November 1914 to take up his duties, and was immediately faced with major problems. Without warning, Shackleton had cut the Ross Sea party's allocated funds from £2,000 (2008 equivalent about £80,000) to £1,000; Mackintosh was instructed to "get whatever you can free as gifts", and to mortgage the expedition's ship to raise further money. It then emerged that the purchase of Aurora had not been properly completed, which delayed Mackintosh's attempts to mortgage it. Worse, Aurora was quite unfit for Antarctic work without an extensive overhaul, which required co-operation from an exasperated Australian Government. The tasks of dealing with these difficulties within a very restricted timescale caused Mackintosh great anxiety, and the ensuing muddles together with public relations failures caused "an unpleasant feeling with regard to the Expedition" among the Australian public. Recruiting a full complement of crew and scientific staff was also problematic, many of the appointments being last-minute affairs leaving the party critically short of Antarctic experience.
Depot-laying, first season
Aurora finally left Hobart, Tasmania, on 24 December 1914, and reached McMurdo Sound on 16 January 1915, establishing its base at Captain Scott's old headquarters at Cape Evans. Mackintosh was determined that sledging work should begin at once, with supply depots being laid at 79° and 80°S—he believed it possible that Shackleton would attempt a crossing in that first season. Ernest Joyce, the expedition's only seasoned Antarctic traveller, protested that men and dogs needed time for acclimatization and training, but was overruled. The depot-laying journey which followed, led by Mackintosh during January to March 1915, was a series of mishaps which largely justified Joyce's fears. A blizzard delayed their start, a motor sledge broke down after a few miles, and Mackintosh and his party lost their way on the sea ice. Most of the stores taken on to the Barrier did not reach the two depots, being dumped on the ice to reduce loads. After Mackintosh insisted on taking the dogs all the way to 80°S—over Joyce's urgent protests—all died on the return journey. The men, frostbitten and exhausted, reached Hut Point on 24 March, cut off from the ship and from their Cape Evans base by unsafe sea ice. After this experience confidence in Mackintosh's leadership was low, and bickering rife.
Loss of Aurora
See also Aurora's driftExpedition ship Aurora
When Mackintosh and the Hut Point party finally arrived back at Cape Evans from Hut in mid-June, they were confronted with a new crisis: Aurora, with its crew of 18 and most of the shore party's supplies and equipment, had been torn loose from its moorings on 7 May and been forced out to sea. The condition of the sea ice and the oncoming winter made its return improbable. On 26 June Mackintosh gathered the marooned party of 10 together and summarised their situation. In the absence of the ship their task now would be to salvage all usable supplies left over from Scott's "lavish" expedition, improvise clothing and equipment from Scott's abandoned materials, and equip themselves as best they could for next season's depot-laying journeys. It would, according to Mackintosh, require "a record-breaking feat of polar travel to accomplish their mission". The entire ten-man party pledged their unreserved support to this effort, and Joyce, normally Mackintosh's sharpest critic, recorded that "the Captain was going great guns, stimulating us all, keeping us cheerful and bright".
Depot-laying, second season
The long 1915–16 depot-laying mission began in September 1915. One man was required to stay at Cape Evans and watch for the ship, as the other nine began hauling stores on to the Barrier. One team of three men returned to base after an equipment failure while the other six men, under Mackintosh, carried out the final stage of the mission—a line of depots between 80°S and the Beardmore Glacier. By January 1916 Mackintosh's health was deteriorating, as he showed the first signs of scurvy, but he was still insistent that his duty was to see personally that every depot was laid. Arnold Spencer-Smith, the expedition's chaplain and photographer, had meanwhile collapsed and became a passenger, but Mackintosh, in a demonstration of what Shackleton called his "will of iron", refused the suggestion that he should remain with the invalid while the others went forward. The last of the depots, at Mount Hope near the foot of the glacier at 83°45'S, was placed on 26 January 1916.Spencer-Smith and Mackintosh being hauled on the sledge
On the homeward march Spencer-Smith had to be drawn on the sledge. Mackintosh, unable to pull, staggered alongside, the safe return of the party now in the hands of Joyce. As the effects of his scurvy developed, Mackintosh was forced, from time to time, to join Spencer-Smith as a passenger on the sledge. As they proceeded northward towards safety, even the four fittest—Joyce, Ernest Wild, Dick Richards and Victor Hayward—were all suffering from frostbite, snow-blindness and incipient scurvy. Close to the safety of Hut Point, Spencer-Smith died on 9 March.
Richards, Wild and Joyce struggled on to Hut Point with the now stricken Hayward, leaving Mackintosh alone in the tent until they were able to return for him. By 18 March all five survivors were back at Hut Point, having carried out Shackleton's orders in full.
DisappearanceThe frozen waters of McMurdo Sound, where Mackintosh and Hayward disappeared in May 1916. The Delbridge Islands, which were searched during the following summer, are clearly visible.
With the help of fresh seal meat the survivors slowly recuperated. They were unable to complete the journey to the Cape Evans base because of the unstable condition of the sea ice. Conditions at Hut Point were gloomy and depressing, with an unrelieved diet of seal, and no normal comforts. Mackintosh in particular found the squalor of the hut intolerable, and dreaded the possibility that, caught at Hut Point, they might miss the return of the ship. After a few days' reconnaissance with Hayward, Mackintosh announced, on 8 May 1916, that he and Hayward were prepared to risk the ice, and against the urgent advice of their comrades they set off carrying only light supplies. Shortly after they had moved out of sight of Hut Point a severe blizzard developed which lasted for two days. When it subsided, Joyce and Richards followed the still visible footmarks on the ice up to a large crack, where the tracks stopped. Neither Mackintosh nor Hayward arrived at Cape Evans and no trace of either was ever found, despite extensive searches carried out by Joyce after he, Richards and Wild finally managed to reach Cape Evans in June. Searches for the bodies continued, even after the arrival of Aurora in January 1917 brought relief to the party. All the indications were that Mackintosh and Hayward had either fallen through the ice, or that the ice on which they had been walking had been blown out to sea during the blizzard.
Mackintosh's own expedition diaries, which cover the period up to 30 September 1915, have not been published; they are held by the Scott Polar Research Institute. The two main sources available to Ross Sea party historians are Joyce's diaries, published in 1929 as The South Polar Trail, and the account of Richard W Richards: The Ross Sea Shore Party 1914–17. Mackintosh's reputation is not well-served by either, particularly Joyce's partisan record, described by one commentator as his "self-aggrandizing epic". Joyce is generally scathing about Mackintosh's leadership: "I never in my experience came across such an idiot in charge of men", he wrote in one diary entry. Richards's account is much shorter and more straightforward, but decades later, when he was the only member of the expedition still alive (he died in 1985, aged 91), he claimed that Mackintosh on the depot-laying march was "tremendously pathetic", had "lost his nerve completely", and that the fatal ice walk was "suicide".Four of the survivors from the Ross Sea party: (l to r) Irvine Gaze, Ernest Joyce (seated), Keith Jack, and Dick Richards. The dogs are Oscar, Gunner, and Towser.
The ignominious circumstances of Mackintosh's death appear to justify the impression of impetuousness and incompetence usually given in expedition histories. This generally negative view of him was not, however, unanimous among his comrades. Alexander Stevens, who had travelled with the Ross Sea party as chief scientist, found Mackintosh "steadfast and reliable", and believed that the Ross Sea party would have achieved much less, but for Mackintosh's unwearying drive. John King Davis, too, admired Mackintosh's dedication and called the depot-laying journey a "magnificent achievement".
Shackleton was equivocal. In South he acknowledges that Mackintosh and his men achieved their object, praises the party's qualities of endurance and self-sacrifice, and asserts that Mackintosh died for his country. On the other hand, in a letter home he is highly critical: "Mackintosh seemed to have no idea of discipline or organisation ...". Shackleton did, however, donate part of the proceeds from a short New Zealand lecture tour to assist the Mackintosh family.
Mackintosh had two daughters, the second born while he was in Australia awaiting the Aurora's departure. On the return Barrier journey in February 1916, expecting to die, he wrote a poignant farewell message, with echoes of Captain Scott. The message concludes: "If it is God's will that we should have given up our lives then we do so in the British manner as our tradition holds us in honour bound to do. Goodbye, friends. I feel sure that my dear wife and children will not be neglected." Gladys Mackintosh eventually married Joseph Stenhouse, Aurora's first officer and later captain, in 1923.
Notes and references
- ^ a b Huntford, p. 407
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 140
- ^ a b c d e f g h Tyler-Lewis, pp. 35–36
- ^ Huntford, p. 413
- ^ Bickel, preface, p. viii
- ^ Shackleton, p. 340
- ^ Fisher, p. 492, gives his birth year as 1881, but this does not fit his career chronology.
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 248
- ^ Mackintosh biographical details on Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand) site
- ^ Riffenburgh, p. 103
- ^ a b Tyler-Lewis, p. 22
- ^ Riffenburgh, p. 159
- ^ Shackleton, who had earlier fallen out with the ship's master, Rupert England, wanted Mackintosh to captain Nimrod on this second voyage south, but his eye injury had not healed sufficiently. Riffenburgh, p. 170
- ^ a b c d e Riffenburgh, pp. 266–68
- ^ Riffenburgh, p. 267
- ^ Chief officer of Nimrod, later one of the most renowned of Antarctic ships' captains
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 108
- ^ Hut Point, close to the Barrier edge, was Captain Scott's old Discovery headquarters, used thereafter by successor expeditions as a staging post for Barrier journeys.
- ^ Shackleton, Heart of the Antarctic, p. 339
- ^ Mawson had served as a geologist on the Nimrod Expedition, and was later to lead the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
- ^ Huntford, pp. 323–27
- ^ Fisher, p. 300 footnote
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 27
- ^ Shackleton, p. 242
- ^ a b c Fisher, pp. 397–400
- ^ Alexander Stevens in a later report to Shackleton, quoted by Fisher, p. 399
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 53
- ^ Scott had based his Terra Nova Expedition here during 1911–13.
- ^ Joyce had been with Captain Scott's Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, and had distinguished himself on the Nimrod Expedition.
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, pp. 67–68. Joyce, in view of his superior experience, had expected that Mackintosh would defer to him on sledging matters, and was shocked by Mackintosh's hierarchical style. "If I had Shacks here I would make him see my way of arguing", the frustrated Joyce wrote in his diary.
- ^ a b Tyler-Lewis, p. 71
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 84
- ^ Tyler-Lewis. pp. 104–05
- ^ Pinkey, the last of the dogs died on 4 March. Tyler-Lewis, p. 97
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, pp. 99–100
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, pp. 105–06
- ^ Bickel, pp. 72–74
- ^ Aurora drifted into the Ross Sea, and northward into the Southern Ocean, before breaking free in February 1916. She reached New Zealand a month later.
- ^ Bickel's term, p. 80
- ^ a b Tyler-Lewis, pp. 135–37
- ^ Bickel, p. 79
- ^ a b c d Fisher, pp. 407–09
- ^ a b Tyler-Lewis, p. 171
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 184
- ^ Joyce, Richards, Wild and Hayward were all awarded the Albert Medal (the last two posthumously) for their attempts to save the lives of Mackintosh and Spencer-Smith on the ice. In 1952 Richards's award was upgraded to that of the George Cross.
- ^ a b Bickel, pp. 205–07
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 195
- ^ Bickel, p. 209
- ^ a b c Bickel, pp. 212–13
- ^ Shackleton, pp. 302–03: Joyce's report
- ^ Shackleton, pp. 335–36
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 346
- ^ a b c Tyler-Lewis, p. 25–60
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 159
- ^ Transcript of Richards archive recording, on Ross Sea Party – Australian TV Rewind series
- ^ Huntford in particular uses these terms: pp. 413–14, pp. 450–51, and p. 481 are examples.
- ^ Shackleton, pp. 241–42 and p. 340
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 252
- ^ Fisher, p. 423
- ^ Bickel, pp. 169–71
- ^ Tyler-Lewis, p. 271
- Bickel, Lennard: Shackleton's Forgotten Men Pimlico, Random House, London 2001 ISBN 0 7126 6807 1
- Fisher, M & J: Shackleton (biography) James Barrie Books, London 1957
- Huntford, Roland: Shackleton (biography) Hodder & Stoughton, London 1985 ISBN 0 340 25007 0
- Riffenburgh, Beau: Nimrod Bloomsbury Publications, London 2004 ISBN 0 7475 7253 4
- Shackleton, Ernest: South Century Publishing, London 1983 ISBN 0 7126 0111 2
- Shackleton, Ernest: Heart of the Antarctic Heinemann, London 1911
- Tyler-Lewis, Kelly: The Lost Men Bloomsbury Publications, London 2006 ISBN 978 0 7475 7972 4
- Arrow, Michelle: Ross Sea Party (transcript of 10 October 2004 broadcast) on abc.net.au accessed 13 April 2008
- "Meet the Crew: ALA Mackintosh" (biographical summary) on norwaysforgottenexplorer.org, Antarctic Heritage Trust (New Zealand) accessed 18 April 2008
- Aeneas Mackintosh at Scott Polar Research Institute includes letter and sledging plan prepared by Mackintosh
- "SY Aurora - Ships of the Polar Explorers" at coolantarctica.com
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