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Aurora australis
Title : Aurora australis Aurora australis
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Place Of Creation : Antarctica
Publisher : s.n.
Date of creation : 1908
Additional Creator : Marston, George Shackleton; Ernest Henry, Sir, 1874-1922
Format : Book
Dimensions : 271 x 210 x 35 mm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Donated by : the Estate of Sir Josiah Symon
Copyright : Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia. This image may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires permission from the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

Taking its title from the 'southern lights' phenomenon, Auroraaustralis is the first book created entirely in the Antarctic. Not just conceived, written and produced on a typewriter, but printed on a press, with the illustrations lithographed and etched, and bound on site as well.

To help maintain morale, British Antarctic Expedition leader, Ernest Shackleton, provided the men of the Nimrod with the means to produce a book. Shackleton had been the member of Robert Scott's National Antarctic expedition 1901-1904, and had edited the expedition's paper The South Polar Times. When he decided to lead his own expedition to the Antarctic in 1907-1909, Shackleton decided to improve upon the South Polar Times, which had been produced on a typewriter, and use a printing press instead.

The British printers Causton & Sons lent the press, an Albion with the 'Amateur' platten 10 x 7 inches, and donated the high quality paper, ink and type. Caustons also produced the distinctive penguin stamp that was used on the binding. They arranged several weeks of instruction in printing and typesetting for the 'printers' Ernest Joyce and Frank Wild. George Marston, the expedition's artist, also received some training in lithography and etching.

The binder, Bernard Day, was the expedition's motor mechanic. He used the Venesta board (a precursor of plywood) from the packing cases to make book covers. These boards with the stencilled letters indicating the cases' contents are frequently used to identify copies of this very rare and distinctive book. The State Library of South Australia's copy is identified by the numbers '007' and the bottom half of some indecipherable letters.

The working conditions in the expedition's hut were difficult. Imagine - the ink froze in the chilly conditions of the hut, so a candle has to be held under the plate to keep it liquid. On one occasion at least it was left too long and the inking roller that was made of a gelatinous substance, melted. It was, of course, the only one on the entire continent! And if the printers had problems of which the above were only a few, then the chief (and only) lithographer had worse. He was reduced to doing his work in the middle of the night to alleviate the problems of vibration and noise in the overcrowded hut and the smuts inherent in their fuel.

  About 100 copies were produced; the exact figure is not known, as the copies were not numbered. Of these only about 25-30 copies were bound. The contents also differ somewhat from copy to copy.

'Printed at the sign of the penguins', the compilation contains crew's accounts of the expedition, fiction, poetry and humorous essays. George Marston illustrated the book, and contributors included Douglas Mawson, who later led Australasian exploration in the Antarctic. The publication of the book is a testament to the dedication of the team, as they struggled in cramped conditions to produce it.

Related names :

Day, Bernard

Joyce, Ernest

Mawson, Douglas, Sir, 1882-1958

Wild, Frank, 1873-1939

Coverage year : 1908
Period : 1884-1913
Place : Antarctica
Further reading :

Ayres, Philip. Mawson: a life, Carlton South, Vic.: Miegunyah Press: Melbourne University Press, 1999

Huntford, Roland. Scott and Amundsen, London: Hodder and Stoughton, c1979

Shackleton, EH, ed. Aurora Australis: the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909, Alburgh, Norfolk: Bluntisham [and] Paradigm, 1986

Shackleton, EH. The heart of the Antarctic; being the story of the British Antarctic expedition 1907-1909, London: W. Heinemann, 1909

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