'One can imagine the feelings and emotions of the expedition members as they steamed away from the Otago coastline, little knowing if and when they would return, and conscious that they would be completely cut off from the outside world'.
Murray Ellis, from his introduction to Ian Church's Last Port to Antarctica.
On 29 November 1910, the Terra Nova sailed from Port Chalmers, New Zealand, bound for Antarctica. Crowds from Dunedin gathered at the wharf to farewell its captain, Robert Falcon Scott, and his crew as they set off to become the first men to reach the South Pole. The journey, however, ended in tragedy, as Scott and the other members of his party perished on the Antarctic Continent two years later in what has become a tale of endurance and courage.
2012 is the centennial year marking Scott's death on the frozen, southern continent. The ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition was Scott's second Antarctic voyage to depart from Port Chalmers, with his earlier Discovery mission taking place in 1901–1904. Scott's two voyages to Antarctica were neither the first nor the last such undertakings to launch from Port Chalmers. Indeed, the aptly named ship Antarctic, which carried the first men to claim setting foot on the Antarctic mainland, departed from Port Chalmers in 1894. To this very day, Dunedin, of which Port Chalmers is now a part, has maintained a connection to the exploration of the Antarctic. 'Next Stop Antarctica' explores and celebrates the first half of this nearly 118-year history.
On display are more than sixty items, including first editions of printed books, handwritten and typed letters, issues of Little America Times and the Antarctic News Bulletin, photographs, artefacts (most notably Scott's typewriter), and memorabilia relating to the American explorer Richard E. Byrd, who used Dunedin as a base of operations in the late 1920s and 1930s.
The Antarctic has long been a region of interest for intrepid explorers, and so the exhibition begins with a brief look at the voyages made by such men as James Cook, Jules Dumont d'Urville and Sir James Clark Ross, and ends with the United States missions to Antarctica codenamed 'Operation Deep Freeze' in the mid-1950s. At the centre of the exhibition are Scott's two expeditions, with surrounding cases highlighting other Antarctic explorers, such as Ernest Shackleton, Lincoln Ellsworth, Sir Edmund Hillary and the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, and the whaling expeditions that set out from Port Chalmers during the early twentieth century.
'Next Stop Antarctica' would not be as rich in material were it not for a number of Dunedin institutions, to whom the curators offer their thanks and acknowledgements for the loaning of items and image reproduction privileges. These organisations are: Dunedin City Council Archives (DCCA), the Dunedin Club (DC), Port Chalmers Regional Maritime Museum (PCRMM), and Port Otago Limited (POL). Ownership of the loaned or reproduced material is identified in the item list by the bracketed acronyms. All other items are held by the Heritage Collections, Dunedin City Library.