Privately financed and headed by Imperial Army Lieutenant Nobu Shirase (1861-1946), this was the first non-Western Antarctic expedition. Failing in their first try to reach the South Pole, Shirase and his team returned for a second, more successful attempt.
They made landfall and set a number of records, including being first to land on King Edward VII Land in Antarctica and only the fourth team to travel below the 80°S mark.
The expedition failed to capture the world’s attention at the time, and it ultimately fell into obscurity, only recently undergoing a revival of interest.
The collection at Potter & Potter comes from Chet Ross, who authored the definitive and only bibliography about the expedition, poring through countless Japanese-language accounts previously forgotten.
Since the publication of that book several new items have been located, including Shirase’s personal military textbooks. Consequently, Potter & Potter notes that this auction catalogue will serve as a “revised bibliography” to Ross’ original work.
One of the most important artefacts included in the sale is a believed one-off copy of the original 16mm film (now lost) shot over the two years in the Antarctic. The 55-minute film documents the team’s preparation for departure, the journey south, the return to and stay in New Zealand, the second attempt to reach Antarctica, landfall on the Antarctic continent and the return to Japan.
It was given to Ross by the Memorial Hall of the Shirase Expeditionary Party to the South Pole, Nikaho, Japan, in November 2010 as thanks for writing the Shirase JAE bibliography. It is estimated at $15,000-25,000.
The much better-known British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition of 1907-09 was documented by Ernest Shackleton in his The Heart of the Antarctic published by William Heinemann in 1909. Number 104 of 300 special-issue three-volume copies signed by Shackleton and 15 crew members is estimated at $20,000-30,000.