Shackleton Centenary Expedition

"The Mate" July 01 2007

Commander Sir Jameson Boyd Adams KCVO CBE DSO

Extract is taken from an article written by A Diggins for "The Poacher", an annual companion to Lincolnshire life.

Jameson Boyd Adams like Sir John Franklin, was born in Lincolnshire and found fame exploring Polar regions. Franklin's aim was the Northwest Passage; Adams' was the South Pole. Even away from the Pole he was muted as an adept fund raiser, administrator and war hero.


Early years of discipline and hardship at sea moulded him into a colourful character. A hardened, frankly spoken sea dog, constantly cursing, tempered by his mischievous sense of humour. A life time of selfless devotion to his country and fellow men made him many friends. He always greeted them as "mate" and they in turn affectionately called him "The Mate."


He was born in 1880 at Down Hall on the outskirts of Rippingale. His father, the local Doctor, rented the house from Lord Ancaster for £65 8s a year.


His brother Arnold and sister Marjorie were born in the following years, before the family finally left the county in 1886. From the age of thirteen, having run away to sea, he served in the Merchant Service before joining the Royal Naval Reserves. Reaching the rank of Lieutenant, he was one of the last to gain a Master Mariner's Certificate "under sail". In 1906 he and his fellow officers attended a party given by Ernest Shackleton. The invitation, sent by semaphore, had been received on HMS Berwick as she sailed up the Firth of Forth close to Shackleton's home.


During the party their host enthused about his intended expedition to the Antarctic. Adams was enthralled and asked to be included. A year passed and a permanent commission was offered by the Royal Navy, guaranteeing financial security. On the same day Shackleton's telegram arrived; he chose to go with him. If the Pole could be claimed for England, he wanted to be there.


Work began immediately, gathering stores, and assisting in the vetting of prospective members of the expedition. As he was to take meteorological readings he took a short intensive course on the subject. In 1908 Shackleton, Wild, Marshall and Adams as second-in-command began their walk South.


They encountered gales, blizzards, and temperatures well below freezing. At various stages they suffered from snow blindness, dysentery, frost bite and in the latter stages altitude sickness and scurvy. It was a gruelling task. Not for them the comparative flatness of the Arctic; their route inclined from sea level up to 12,000 feet onto the highest plateau in the world.


Seventy days out they stood less than 100 miles from their goal. Although physically and mentally drained they could have gone on. Prudently with food stores dangerously low, they retraced their steps.


As it was their return became a race for life, from one food depot to the next. Miraculously they all retuned safely but 126 days and 1600 miles had taken its toll. Adams had lost 3 stones in weight on the journey. Thin and gaunt he was hardly recognisable to the support party. For his endeavour he had an Antarctic mountain range named in his honour and was awarded two Polar medals. The medals are displayed at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge.


They returned to England as national heroes. Shackleton wanted "The Mate" to accompany on the lecture tours. He declined, as always unassuming; he preferred the quite life.


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