90th Anniversary of Japanese Antarctic ExpeditionPrint Page Print this page

Photographs supplied by Ian Martin
The plaque commemorates the 90th anniversary of the Japanese Antarctic Expedtion led by Lieutenant Shirase in 1911.

In 1911, three expeditions set out to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and Scott succeeded and are internationally famous. The third group, a Japanese expedition led by Lieutenant Nobu Shirase, did not succeed, but Shirase and his men are celebrated heroes in their homeland.

Shirase's expedition reached Antarctica in the autumn of 1911. It was too late to make their attempt before the onset of winter, so the expedition sailed to Sydney to wait for spring. In Sydney the expedition set up camp in what is now Parsley Bay Reserve in Woollahra, where they lived for several months.

The Sydney press ran stories that suggested the Japanese party were on a spying mission, as it was camped near the South Head military establishment. These accusations created difficulties for Shirase's party, who needed to repair their ship and re-supply the expedition.

Tannatt Edgeworth David, professor of Geology at the University of Sydney and a Trustee of the Australian Museum, defended the Japanese party and assisted them in their negotiations with the local authorities and businesses. Edgeworth David had done fieldwork in Antarctica with Douglas Mawson and freely shared his knowledge and experiences with Shirase. The two men developed a close friendship. In November 1911, as the Japanese prepared to depart again for Antarctica, Shirase expressed his gratitude by presenting his own 17th century Japanese sword to Edgeworth David.

Shirase's second attempt to reach the South Pole was also unsuccessful, though his expedition explored a large area of new territory. The expedition received a heroes' welcome on their return to Japan, and the western end of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica today bears the name Shirase Coast in honour of the attempt.



Address:Parsley Road , Parsley Bay Reserve, Vaucluse, 2030
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.852304
Long: 151.278034
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Landscape
Approx. Event Start Date:1912
Approx. Event End Date:2002


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Wednesday 27th March, 2002
Front Inscription

(Inscription in English and Japanese)

The first Japanese Antarctic expedition team commanded by
Lieutenant Nobu Shirase (1881 -1946) set sail on the 204 ton
schooner " Kainan Maru" from Tokyo in November 1910. Forced
back by treacherous weather, the team arrived in Sydney on 1
May 1911. After attempting to set up camp in a number of
harbourside locations, the team eventually settled at Parsley Bay
Reserve, where they set up shelters behind the former kiosk.
Encouraged and assisted by Professor Edgeworth David
of the University of Sydney, on 19 November 1911 the party
set sail for their second attempt in the wake of the great Antarctic
explorers Scott and Amundsen. 

Shirase's "Dash Patrol" with 5 men and 28 dogs reached 80.05'
South on 28 January 1912. 

To commemorate the 90th anniversary of their Southernmost year
and the early friendly contact between Australia and Japan, this
memorial plaque is a symbol of everlasting friendship between
both countries. 

27 March 2002
Councillor John Comino, Mayor of Woollahra 
Matsumi Sasaki, Mayor of Kenowra Town, Japan
(birthplace of Lieutenant Shirase) 

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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