It was entered for sale by Monkton Combe School, the alma mater of Eric Marshall (1879-1963) who was the expedition ship Nimrod’s surgeon, cartographer and photographer. Marshall (1879-1963), a medic, rower and rugby player, met Shackleton at a party in 1906, and volunteered for the expedition on the spot.
The two men did not always see eye to eye. Marshall’s diaries frequently expressed irritation and much later he would call his boss “the biggest mountebank of the century”.
However, Shackleton chose Marshall alongside Jameson Adams, and Frank Wild to undertake the four-man march to the South Pole. Although the quartet had to abandon the attempt, in January 1907 they were within 100 geographical miles of the pole and, at the time, the furthest south ever travelled.
The sledge proved a superior form of transport than others chosen for the expedition. One of the Nimrod sponsors was the Arrol-Johnston motor company whose four-cylinder, 15-horsepower air cooled car was untested in situations much less demanding than Antarctica.
A total of eighteen 11ft (3.36m) long ash and hickory sledges ‘of the Nansen pattern’ were purchased from LH Hagen and Company for the expedition. Shackleton favoured the size as the “best for general work, for it was not so long as to be unwieldy, and at the same time was long enough to ride over sastrugi and hummocky ice”. They were pulled by ponies that gradually succumbed to the conditions.
Estimated at £60,000-100,000, the sledge was the subject of competition from bidders in the room, on the phone and on the internet. A sledge flag (also from Monkton Combe School which received their donation from Marshall in 1952) sold for a further £60,000. A 25% buyer’s premium was charged.
A number of other Nimrod sledges are known, including seven in The Museum of New Zealand that were brought to New Zealand in 1917 with the rescued men of the ‘Ross Sea Party’ and sold at auction in Wellington in March of that year.