Again he was frustrated by pack ice and was unable to reach Hut Point near the site of the present-day United States McMurdo Station. Instead, he selected a site to winter-over at some 32km further north at Cape Royds, named by Captain Scott’s Discovery expedition after its meteorologist, Lieutenant Charles Royds RN.
A camp had previously been established at this site by Scott and Wilson in January 1904 when a lookout was maintained for the relief ship Morning. Shackleton hoped the bare black rocks of the Cape would offer some protection against the storms. On 3 February he, Jameson Adams and Frank Wild ran their whaleboat into a natural ice dock and scrambled ashore. Shackleton, nicknamed ‘The Boss’ by his crew, was 34 years old when Nimrod arrived at Cape Royds.
The men immediately set to work constructing their base. They finished the basic construction of the hut in the first 10 days, although insulating it against the cold went on for another three weeks. The hut would be their only refuge from the fury of the blizzards and their only home through the dark months of the Antarctic winter. It was also the base for various journeys that Shackleton’s expedition undertook.
These journeys were highly successful. Six of his men led by Professor Edgeworth David made the first ascent of Mount Erebus, the 3,794m active volcano that stands like a sentinel over Ross Island and which had been discovered by the Englishman Ross’s expedition in 1841. Professor David’s party reached the crater rim on 10 March 1908 after a rugged five-day climb. In the spring and summer of 1908-09, while the Polar party was out, three of the expedition’s members – Douglas Mawson, Alistair Mackay and Professor David again leading – reached the South Magnetic Pole on 16 January 1909 after an epic 1,600km trudge.
The expedition was also the first to test a motor car in Antarctica, finding the New Arrol-Johnston no good in snow but useful for transporting loads from Nimrod across the sea ice and for trips as far as south as the Erebus Glacier Tongue. Further, in the winter of 1908, a book called Aurora Australis, was the first book to be produced and published in Antarctica. The whimsical collection of essays, stories and poems was printed by Wild and Joyce on a printing press they had only just learnt to use. The ink was kept warm by a candle being held beneath the inkplate. Some 60 to 70 copies were bound using packing cases and leather by Bernard Day, the expedition’s motor mechanic.