Terra Nova arrives at Oamaru

Terra Nova arrives at Oamaru

This article about the return of the Terra Nova appeared in the Evening Post on 10 February 1913.

Night watchman’s hut, Oamaru

A small red night watchman's shed on the Oamaru wharf has a passing link to Scott's Terra Nova expedition.

In the early hours of 10 February 1913 the Oamaru Harbour Board's night watchman, Neil McKinnon, was expecting the arrival of the Ngatoro. Instead another ship arrived and ignored his signals to identify itself. Eventually two men were rowed ashore but they refused to provide any information on why they were there and asked to speak to an official. McKinnon escorted the two men to his hut and telephoned the harbourmaster, Captain James Ramsey.

The two men were Dr Edward Atkinson and Lieutenant Harry Pennell from Scott's Terra Nova. They were sent ashore at Oamaru to send a coded message to the expedition's New Zealand agent, Joseph Kinsey, informing him that Scott and his polar party had perished in the Antarctic.

McKinnon directed the men to Ramsey's house on Wharfe Street, as the harbourmaster made his way down Arun Street to meet them. The men identified themselves to Ramsey and the port's medical officer, Dr Alexander Douglas, but apparently swore the pair to secrecy. They stayed at Ramsey's house until daylight, when the coded message was sent from the Post Office to Kinsey. The men took the next train to Christchurch to meet the Terra Nova in Lyttelton.

After news of the fate of Scott's party broke, Ramsey sent Atkinson a telegram expressing his sympathy. Atkinson responded, thanking Ramsey and commenting that:

Lieut Pennell and I are also very indebted to Mrs Ramsey and yourself for your great kindness to two complete strangers who arrived under suspicious circumstances ... Thank you also for your kindness in keeping silent.

Further information

  • Gavin McLean, Kiwitown's Port: the story of Oamaru's harbour, Otago University Press, Dunedin, 2008
  • David Harrowfield, ‘Oamaru and Antarctica’, Antarctic: the magazine of the New Zealand Antarctic Society, 26, 4, 2008, pp. 67-71

Community contributions

1 comment has been posted about Terra Nova arrives at Oamaru

What do you know?

David Hirzel

Posted: 21 May 2010

Hello, You are probably already aware of this note, from "Worst Journey in the World" (p 592 of my Picador copy), naming Crean as one of the seaman handling the landing boat. "A boat was lowered and Pennell and Atkinson were rowed ashore and landed. The seamen had strict orders to answer no questions. After a little the boat returned, and Crean announced: 'We was chased, sorr, but they got nothing out of us." David HIrzel, author of "Tom Crean: Sailor on Ice"