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Shackleton's ship 'Endurance' located in Antarctica

Shackleton's ship 'Endurance' located in Antarctica

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Shackleton's ship 'Endurance' located in Antarctica

'Astonishing' news for Blairgowrie and Rattray

The discovery of Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship Endurance after 107 years is truly astonishing.

No apology is made for the repeated use of the word 'astonishing'.  These are just some of the astonishing facts:

Endurance is reported to be in an astonishing state of preservation.

It is astonishing that Endurance was discovered on 5 March 2022, exactly 100 years since Sir Ernest Shackleton was buried in the Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia, on 5 March 1922.

It is astonishing that Endurance was located in the Weddell Sea around only 4 miles from the last co-ordinates recorded by the crew.

It is astonishing that all 28 of the crew made it safely back, after a hazardous journey across the pack ice to Elephant Island, where 22 crew members spent four and a half months until Shackleton sent a rescue party.

It is astonishing that one of those 22, Robert Selbie Clark, the Biologist on the expedition, had a connection to Blairgowrie and Rattray.

This is the life story of 


Robert Selbie Clark was born on 11 September 1882 in Henry Street in the Old Machar District of Aberdeen.  His parents were William Clark, a Blacksmith, and Ann Mitchell.

He received his education at Aberdeen Grammar School before attending the University of Aberdeen.  In 1908 he graduated with an MA degree.

It may be that he came to Blairgowrie sometime after that, and worked as a teacher at Rattray Public School.

The 1911 Census for West Cottage, Perth Road, Blairgowrie, shows Robert S. Clark, a Visitor, aged 28 and a Science Student born in Aberdeen, living with Thomas Farquharson, 68, a Coachman at Hotel Stables, his wife Jessie, 63, their three daughters and a lodger.

Later that year Robert Selbie Clark gained a BSc degree and found employment as a Zoologist at the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory in Edinburgh, where his work involved Antarctic specimens collected by William Speirs Bruce during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-04.

In 1912, being a skilled sportsman, he was selected to play cricket for Scotland.  He was also a keen golfer and angler.

When, in early 1914, Ernest Shackleton published details of his planned Imperial Trans-Antarctica Expedition there were more than 5000 applications to join it. A crew of 56 were selected: 28 for the Endurance and 28 for the Aurora.

Robert Selbie Clark was selected to be the Biologist aboard the Endurance.  He is said to have worked assiduously collecting, categorising, recording and preserving biological specimens throughout the expedition.  Sadly, when the Endurance had to be abandoned, he had to leave all his specimens on board.

The Endurance sank on 21 November 1915.

Robert Selbie Clark was among the 22 crew who spent four and a half months on inhospitable Elephant Island, while Shackleton and 5 crew made the 720 nautical mile journey to the South Georgia whaling station to summon help, in the James Caird, a small lifeboat named after Sir James Caird of Dundee, a sponsor of the expedition.  A rescue party finally reached Elephant Island on 30 August 1916 and the 22 men, including Robert Selbie Clark, were quickly evacuated to Valparaiso in Chile.

Robert Selbie Clark married Christina Ferguson Macdonald in Brighton, Sussex, in 1916.

He served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and returned to Plymouth in 1919 when WWI ended, but later returned to Scotland.

In 1924 he was again selected to play cricket for Scotland.

In 1925 he gained a D.Sc. (Doctor of Science) and appointed director of the Fisheries Research Laboratory in Torry, Aberdeen.  In 1935 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (F.R.S.E.).

He retired in 1948 and, sadly, died on 29 September 1950 aged 68 in Woodend Hospital, Aberdeen.   His widow, Christina Ferguson Macdonald, also died in Woodend Hospital on 26 February 1958 aged 70.  Their usual residence is recorded as The Cottage, Murtle, Peterculter, Aberdeen.

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