'Discovery' expedition's best friend: Original sled-dog's collar is a relic of animal's polar bravery

Polar II; India and Beyond, Travel and Photography
4 Dec 2012
London, Knightsbridge

Sled-dog Joe's leather collar from 'Discovery' expedition on sale with Bonhams

A collar from one of the 'Discovery' expedition's sled-dogs is part of the Polar II sale at Knightsbridge on 4th December (estimate £4,000- £6,000).

This collar survives from two early Antarctic expeditions and belonged to a sled-dog called Joe whose owner was Louis Bernacchi, the 'Discovery' expedition's physician. Joe was born in the Antarctic in 1898 during an expedition and lived a short while in Australia with Bernacchi before they returned to Antarctica in 1900 as members of the 'Discovery' team.

Louis Bernacchi was the first Australian to work in Antarctica and his papers from the 'Discovery' expedition also feature in this sale (estimate £8,000-£12,000) alongside Joe's collar. Joe powered the sledges on the furthest journey South in 1902, but he unfortunately did not survive the return trip as his strength failed due to a lack of food. Joe has been lovingly commemorated in a statue at Hobart, Australia with his owner Bernacchi.

The sled-dog collar is a lasting reminder of the debate surrounding Robert Falcon Scott's use of dogs for Antarctic exploration. His dependency upon dogs on the 'Discovery' expedition, combined with a lack of skilled sled-dog handling within the team, led him to make important transportation decisions during the ill-fated 'Terra Nova' expedition from 1910-1913. On the 'Terra Nova' expedition he was beaten to the South Pole by the team led by Roald Amundsen, who had succeeded on his expedition by efficiently using the strength of over 100 dogs.

Also featured in the sale is a photograph of Captain Oates by Herbert George Ponting (estimate £3,000- £4,000) and a first edition copy of 'The Voyage of the Discovery' by Scott (£5,000- £7,000).


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