88° 23'S, SHACKLETON'S FURTHEST SOUTH, JANUARY 9, 1909
Shackleton was presented with a Union Jack to carry on the Southern sledging journey by Queen Alexandra when the Royal party inspected the Nimrod at Cowes shortly before she sailed. 'She was inspected by their Majesties; Queen Alexandra presented a Union Jack to be placed somewhere amid the spectral solitudes of the mysterious wastes untrodden since the world began' (The Daily Telegraph). It was one of two Union Jacks he would take on the Southern Journey, the Queen's wrapped around a bamboo pole to be planted at their Furthest South. Shackleton recorded the departure of the sledging journey in his diary on 29 October 1908: 'Last night as we sat at dinner the evening sun entered through the ventilator and the circle of light shone full on the portrait of [King Edward VII], slowly it moved across and found the portrait of Her Majesty [Queen Alexandra]: it seemed an omen of good luck for only on this day and at that particular time could this have happened and today we started to strive and plant Her flag on the last spot of the world that counts as worth striving for though ungilded by aught but adventure'.
Sixty-five days later, on New Year's Day 1909 they had climbed the Beardmore Glacier and were on the Antarctic Plateau: 'January 1, 1909. Head too bad to write much. We did 11 miles 900 yards (statute) to-day, and the latitude at 6 P.M. was 87°6½' South, so we have beaten North and South records. Struggling uphill all day in very soft snow. Every one done up and weak from want of food ... Only 172½ miles from the Pole ... January 2 ... God knows we are doing all we can, but the outlook is serious if this surface continues and the plateau gets higher, for we are not travelling fast enough to make our food spin out and get back to our depot in time. I cannot think of failure yet ... January 4. The end is in sight. We can only go for three more days at the most, for we are weakening rapidly ... January 6. This must be our last outward march with the sledge and camp equipment. To-morrow we must leave camp with some food, and push as far south as possible, and then plant the flag. To-day's story is 57° of frost, with a strong blizzard and high drift ... The most trying day we have yet spent, our fingers and faces being frost-bitten continually. To-morrow we will rush South with the flag ... January 7. A blinding, shrieking blizzard all day, with the temperature ranging from 60° to 70° of frost. It has been impossible to leave the tent ... January 9. Our last day outwards. We have shot out bolt ... At 4 A.M. started south, with the Queen's Union Jack, a brass cylinder containing stamps and documents to place at the furthest south point, camera, glasses, and compass ... At 9 A.M. we were in 88°23' South ... We hoisted Her Majesty's flag and the other Union Jack afterwards, and took possession of the plateau in the name of His Majesty. While the Union Jack flew out stiffly in the icy gale that cut us to the bone, we looked south with our powerful glasses, but could see nothing but the dead white snow plain ... We stayed only a few minutes, and then, taking the Queen's flag and eating our scanty meal as we went, we hurried back and reached our camp about 3 P.M. ... Homeward bound at last. Whatever regrets may be, we have done our best.' (Sir E. Shackleton, The Heart of the Antarctic, London 1909, I, pp.345-8)