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Jameson Boyd Adams - Rippingale’s Antarctic Hero

We’re writing this on the Centenary of Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic – his attempt on January 17 1912, to be the first man to reach the South Pole, ending in his terrible death and those of his expedition party, in temperatures of 30 deg. below freezing.

Jameson Boyd Adams
What’s often forgotten is that there had been several previous attempts by Englishmen to reach the geographical pole (90 Deg S), each ending in failure, but only just. The attempts made heroes of the expedition leaders, and one man who became as famous as Scott was Ernest Shackleton. His first attempt was in 1907-09 and was known as the Nimrod expedition after the name of the ship they used, and earned the admiring title of “furthest South ”, reaching 88 deg 23 S, just 112 miles short of the target and further than anyone else until Amundsen planted the Norwegian flag at 90 deg S three years later. And what’s little-known is that his second-in-command on the Nimrod attempt was from Rippingale.

Jameson Boyd Adams was born in Down Hall on Doctor’s Lane in Rippingale in 1880 where his father was the local doctor – hence “Doctor’s Lane.” At the age of 13 he ran away to sea and served on merchant ships ‘til he joined the Royal Navy and became one of the last to earn his Master Mariner’s Certificate "under sail". He quickly earned a reputation as a great character and joker and called everyone he talked to "mate", this earning himself the nickname “Mate”. Adams met Shackleton in 1906, and when offered the chance of becoming his deputy and to claim the South Pole for England he didn’t hesitate. Each member of the team needed to have specialist knowledge of some subject which would be useful to the expedition and Adams made an intensive study of meteorology – a vital skill.

There was no public funding and arguably the expedition was badly planned from the start – Nimrod was a very small ship and Shackleton planned to walk to the South Pole from McMurdo Sound which involved climbing a 12,000 ft plateau. Other expeditions had bigger support teams and used dog sleds and tractors. The “Shore Team” had horse drawn sleds to start with but, as they ran out of fodder, had to kill the horses one-by-one and leave their carcasses alongside food supplies buried in the snow, ending up carrying all their stores and equipment themselves.

They built a hut as their winter base at McMurdo Sound which still stands today and in October 1908, the party of four set out. They met terrible conditions – blizzards, gales, temperatures far below freezing – they suffered frostbite, disease, starvation and emaciation. Digging up and eating horse carcasses on their two-month return journey gave them dysentery.The photographs of Adams tell you all you need to know about their suffering. Seventy days out, on 9th January 1909, almost at their goal, they realised they could go no further and turned back.

Adams’ part in the attempt is recognised by a mountain being named after him – Mount Adams at 84 deg 26 S.

He later rejoined the Royal Navy, served on the Dover Patrol and was wounded during WW1. He was awarded two medals, became a civil servant but devoted his life to youth development, taking over the King George Jubilee Trust for Youth and was knighted in 1948. He died in 1962.

© Jim Latham, January 2012


You can read more about the Shackleton Expedition on the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition Website at


© Images with kind permission of the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition Website