HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in Antarctica, 1956-7

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was the first member of the Royal Family to cross the Antarctic Circle.

In December 1956, His Royal Highness travelled to New Zealand after he had opened the Melbourne Olympic Games on behalf of The Queen. In Lyttelton, Christchurch, he met Sir Edmund Hillary (the conqueror of Everest) and other members of the New Zealand Ross Sea support team which formed part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic expedition.  This expedition, led by Vivian Fuchs, was to complete the first land crossing of Antarctica - the expedition which Shackleton had attempted in 1914-16.  

The Duke of Edinburgh sailed for Antarctica on board HMY Britannia on 17 December.  The first iceberg was sighted on 26 December and Britannia crossed the Antarctic Circle on 31 December.  On the voyage, The Duke was accompanied by the artist Edward Seago who painted a series of works throughout the tour. The Duke of Edinburgh transferred to the RRS John Biscoe for part of the journey along the coast of Graham Land.  His Royal Highness transferred to the John Biscoe as her bows were reinforced against the ice and Britannia’s were not.

Leaving Antarctic waters, Britannia sailed to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.  At Grytviken on South Georgia, he paid tribute to Shackleton at the memorial cross. At the Bay of Isles the Duke saw the large colony of King Penguins, one of the many viewings of southern oceans wildlife during the voyage which were photographed by the party. The Duke of Edinburgh then returned to Europe on board HMY Britannia  via Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension Island and the Gambia (in West Africa).

During the four-month voyage Britannia circumnavigated the globe.

Back