From Sailors to Soldiers

Lyttelton served as the port of departure for many British Antarctic expeditions in the early twentieth century, bringing excitement and a sense of adventure to Christchurch.

Crew of Terra Nova waving as they left Lyttelton Harbour in 1910

Canterbury Museum 1979.249.4


Cantabrians welcomed the heroic explorers and held dinners, dances and church services in their honour. Locals also visited the ships and gathered to farewell them as they left.

Many crew members who served on Antarctic expeditions later volunteered for the war effort, continuing the sense of adventure and the heroic spirit of the age.

1968 53 49 Felix Rooney Hugh McGowan3

Fearless Felix

Glasgow-born Felix Rooney was a man who looked for adventure. In 1907, he joined Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition to Antarctica along with his stepfather, Hugh McGowan. Felix’s mother Mary grew tired of waiting for her son and husband in Scotland and she moved to Lyttelton. In March 1915, Felix enlisted with the Canterbury Regiment, serving at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.


Felix Rooney and Hugh McGowan on the Nimrod at Gladstone Pier Lyttelton, 1907

Canterbury Museum 1968.53.49

WW014 180801

Canterbury Museum 1913.14.1

Flying the Flag

This miniature silk New Zealand flag was flown at the South Pole on 18 January 1912. Miss Anne Hardy of Rakaia asked Dr Edward Wilson to take it with him to the Pole. The flag was returned to his wife Oriana with his other personal effects. After Dr Wilson died on the journey back from the South Pole, she sent it to Miss Hardy.