The Shirase South Polar Expedition, Sydney, 1911

In late 1910 the Japanese South Polar expedition, led by Nobu Shirase, was one of three expeditions in the race for the South Pole.

By March 1911 the expedition ship, the relatively small three- masted schooner Kainan-maru, had come within sight of Antarctica, but the impenetrable ice barrier, extreme weather conditions and the deaths of many of their dogs forced the expedition to turn back and overwinter in Sydney.

The Kainan-maru dropped anchor in Double Bay on 1st May 1911, and the expedition members were permitted to make camp in the Parsley Bay Reserve, Vaucluse, while their ship was refitted and more funds gathered from supporters back in Japan.

There was initial suspicion in the local newspapers about possible espionage, as the camp was close to the South Head military fortifications, but local Japanese consul Miki Saito and Professor Edgeworth David of Sydney University publicly vouchsafed the scientific purposes of Nobu Shirase and his team.

Sue Myatt
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