Medals awarded to heroic Doctor who served with Shackleton in the Antarctic for sale at Bonhams

16 Oct 2013, The Dr A.L.Lloyd O.B.E. K.St.J. Medal Collection: Part Two

Dr Alister Forbes Mackay, of the Royal Navy joined Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition of 1907-09 as a surgeon and was one of three men to reach the South Magnetic Pole. He received the Polar Medal which Bonhams will sell with his other medals from the Boer War for £3,000 to £5,000 in a Medals and Coin sale on October 16th in Knightsbridge.

The Shackleton expedition arrived in Antarctica on the ship Nimrod at Cape Royds in February 1908, and set up camp in a small expedition hut that would house the 15-man party through the winter. In March 1908, along with D. Mawson and T.W.E. David, Dr Mackay made up the party who undertook the first ascent of Mount Erebus.

The following spring when Shackleton set off to attempt to reach the South Pole, he despatched Mackay, Mawson, and David northward to reach the South Magnetic Pole, which lay approximately 650 km north-north-west of Ross Island. The trek commenced on 5th October 1908, with the men hauling their own sleds and relaying the loads which meant that every kilometer gained by the sledges involved them traveling three kilometers by foot.

For ten weeks the men followed the coast north, supplementing their stores with a diet of seals and penguins. They then crossed the Drygalski Ice Tongue and turned inland. They still faced a 700 kilometer return journey, and established a depot to enable them to transfer their load to one overladen sled and to remove the need to relay. On 16th January 1909 they arrived at the South Magnetic Pole, took possession of the region for the British Crown, and Mackay suggested three cheers for the King.

David had been appointed leader of the expedition by Shackleton but by the end of January, with all three of the party experiencing severe physical deterioration, David was increasingly unable to contribute. On 31st January, with Mawson out of earshot, Mackay exerted his authority as the party's doctor and threatened to declare the Professor insane unless he gave written authority of leadership to Mawson. Mawson reluctantly took command, but by 3rd February he acknowledged in his diary that "the Prof was now certainly partly demented". That day the party reached the coast line in perfect timing, as within 24 hours they were collected by the Nimrod for the return trip to Cape Royds.

Mackay was also the ship's doctor on the ill-fated Karluk expedition in 1913, led by Vilhjalmur Stefansson to explore the regions west of Parry Archipelago for the Government of Canada. After the Karluk, captained by Robert Bartlett, was stranded, crushed, and sunk by pack ice, Mackay and three other members of the crew died of exposure while struggling across the Arctic ice to reach Wrangel Island or Herald Island.

Dr Alister Forbes Mackay was the son of Lieutenant Colonel A.Forbes Mackay, 92nd Gordon Highlanders. He was educated at Edinburgh M.B., Ch.B., and then studied Biology under Professors Geddes and D'Arcy Thompson at Dundee. Dr Mackay served in the Boer War as a Trooper with the CIV, and later with Baden Powell's police, he returned to the UK to pass his final examinations in medicine; he then returned to the Boer War as a Civil Surgeon. He entered the Royal Navy as a Surgeon on 21st November 1902 when he was appointed to HMS Vivid, the Depot Ship at Devonport; he was then 'lent' to HMS Research, a Surveying Vessel, in April 1903, until he was appointed to HMS Royal Oak until March 1905 when he returned to HMS Vivid. In September 1905 he was appointed to HMS Dwarf on the West Coast of Africa, and he remained in Dwarf until February 1906. He joined Shackleton in 1907 for the expedition to the Antarctic.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

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