Key Points:

  • Bonhams is offering a Robert Gardner-made marine chronometer that was used in Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition in a July auction.
  • The chronometer, now mounted as a mantle clock, has a provenance backed by extensive research.
  • The chronometer played a significant role in Shackleton’s exploration of Antarctica and is a valuable piece of horological history.

In January 1909, Ernest Shackleton’s team came agonizingly close to reaching the South Pole after enduring a grueling expedition across the Antarctic landscape. Although they fell short of their goal, Shackleton and his team’s resilience made them the closest explorers to the South Pole at the time.

Before embarking on the Nimrod expedition, Shackleton relied on the forty-year-old sealer ship named Nimrod, which was not ideal for such a challenging Arctic journey. To navigate their way, the team used a marine chronometer crafted by Robert Gardner. This very chronometer, among others, is now up for auction by Bonhams on July 13th as part of their “Fine Clocks Sale.”

Shackleton Clock

The Gardner Marine Chronometer cased as a mantle clock. Photo: courtesy Bonhams

Although the Nimrod expedition was not a complete success, it showcased Shackleton’s capabilities as an explorer and set the stage for future Antarctic expeditions. The expedition included the first ascent of Mount Erebus, the second-highest volcano in Antarctica. As for the chronometer, it continued its journey beyond the initial expedition, being acquired by the Admiralty in 1899 and traveling to various locations like Sydney, Turkey during World War I, and eventually ending up in India in 1920.

Bonhams has estimated the value of the Nimrod chronometer to be between £3,000 – £5,000. While the movement is now mounted in a mantle clock configuration, which differs from its original state, the price seems fair considering the historical significance and provenance that comes with this piece of exploration history. Moreover, a later American-made marine chronometer would cost about half the price and lack the same level of historical significance.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Nimrod Chronometer and the upcoming auction, you can visit Bonhams’ website.