'I had been anxious to have the Nimrod towed south in order to save coal. The ship could not take in a large quantity of coal after our provisions and equipment had been placed on board, for she was considerably overloaded, and it was important that there should be enough coal to take the ship through the ice and back to New Zealand, and also to provide for the warming of the hut during the winter. The Government of the Dominion consented to pay half the cost of the tow, and Sir James Mills, Chairman of the Union Steamship Company, offered to pay the other half. The Koonya, a steel-built steamer of about 1100 tons, was chartered and placed under the command of Captain F.P. Evans...' (E.H. Shackleton, The Heart of the Antarctic, London, 1909, I, p.38).
The Nimrod took the Koonya's cable on 1 January 1908 in the open sea off Lyttelton and proceeded 'like a reluctant child being dragged to school...No Antarctic exploring ship had been towed to the ice before, but it meant the saving of coal to us for a time when the tons saved in this manner might have the salvation of the expedition...Bad weather was not long delayed. As the night of January 1 wore on the wind began to freshen from the south-west, and the following morning two vessels were pitching somewhat heavily and steering wildly...As the gale increased in vehemence, she seemed to throw off the lethargy, one might almost say the sulkiness, which possessed her when she found herself outward bound at the end of a tow-line, for the first time in her strenuous life of forty years. Now that the tow-line, in the fury of the gale, was but of little use, save to steady us, the Nimrod began to play her own hand. It was wonderful to see how she rose to the largest oncoming waves. She was flung to and fro, a tiny speck in the waste of waters, now poised on the summit of a huge sea, whence we got almost a birds-eye view of the gallant Koonya smashing into the turmoil ahead; now dipping into the wave valleys, from which all we could discern of our consort was in very truth "just a funnel and a mast lurching through the spray." ...The weather grew steadily worse, and by midnight the squalls were of hurricane force...A moderate estimate of the height of the waves is forty-two feet...Each green wave rushed at us as though it meant to swampt the ship, but each time the Nimrod rose bravely...There was constant rain during the morning of January 8...[and] the gale increased again. It was so bad, owing to the confused sea, that we had to signal the Koonya to heave to. We did this with the sea on our starboard quater. Suddenly one enormous wave rushed at us, and it appeared as though nothing could prevent our decks being swept, but the ship rose to it, and missed the greater part though to us it seemed as if the full weight of water had come on board. We clung tightly to the poop rails...' (E.H. Shackleton, op. cit., pp.38-54).