Blog

'A dear friend by the strange shore'

By: Vanessa Finney, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 17 Nov 2011

'Let me meet you once more! A dear friend by the strange shore.' Captain Nomure, 19/11/1911.

Shirase expedition autograph album #18

 © Dot Miller

100 years ago

On Saturday 19th November it will be 100 years since the members of Nobu Shirase's Japanese Antarctic Expedition left Sydney bound for Antarctica.

An unlikely friendship

While the expedition team and ship's crew waited out the winter in Parsley Bay near Vaucluse, they met and befriended Sydney girl Dot Miller. In an unlikely cross cultural moment, she collected autographs from the Shirase team and, in an extraordinary stroke of luck, the autograph book has survived and recently been loaned to the Australian Museum by her descendants.

Among messages from Dot's friends and family are 17 pages of drawings and notes from the Shirase team, including some delicate watercolour paintings. The last of the messages were written on November 19th, the day the ship sailed.

History of the autograph book

The book has been kept in Dot's family since her death in the 1980s. Dot never spoke to her family of meeting the Shirase expedition and great-grandson Brendon Wood realised the autograph book's importance only recently. As Brendon started researching the book and his great grandmother's unlikely part in Japanese Antarctic history, he came across the Australian Museum's own Shirase connection and brought the book in to show us.

We are continuing to research and identify the signatures and paintings with the help of Colin MacGregor from our Conservation Department (who has a particular interest in our Shirase connections) and the Shirase Museum in Japan.

On display now

You can see the autograph book in our Atrium showcases in a display celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Shirase expedition.

We have also created a web gallery of the Shirase expedition pages from the album -- please add to our comments if you can help with Japanese translations.