Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis

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Belgrave Ninnis
Belgrave Ninnis.jpg
Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis

(1887-06-22)22 June 1887
Streatham, Surrey, England
Died14 December 1912(1912-12-14) (aged 25)
Known forAustralasian Antarctic expedition

Belgrave Edward Sutton Ninnis (22 June 1887 – 14 December 1912) was an English officer in the Royal Fusiliers and an Antarctic explorer who was a member of Douglas Mawson's 1911 Australasian Antarctic expedition.

Antarctica, 1911–1912[edit]

Following the fame he achieved on Ernest Shackleton's 1907 Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica, Douglas Mawson travelled to England in early 1910 to raise interest and sponsorship for an Australian Expedition focussed on scientific outcomes.[1] On that trip he purchased the whaler SY Aurora and in London he loaded it with the many items of specialist equipment he was able to obtain there and 48 sledging dogs procured from Greenland. Ninnis joined the Expedition in London as a minder of the Greenland dogs, and sailed with the Aurora on its voyage from London to Sydney commanded by Captain John King Davis. On the trip Ninnis formed a firm friendship with Dr. Xavier Mertz, a Swiss mountaineer who joined the Expedition in London and who was also appointed to handle the dogs.[2]

Ninnis was in the 36-man party who set sail from Hobart on 2 December 1911. A base was built at Macquarie Island and a small party of five men were deployed to man a radio relay station and to conduct research. Ninnis landed in Antarctica with the main party Commonwealth Bay on 8 January 1912, and established the Main Base. The summer was spent building a hut at Cape Denison for the 18 man Adelie Land base party to winter in.[3]

Ninnis was part of the three-man sledging team, the Far Eastern Party, with Mawson and Mertz who headed east on 10 November 1912 to survey King George V Land. After three weeks of excellent progress the party was crossing the Ninnis Glacier, when Ninnis fell through a snow-covered crevasse. Mertz had skied over the crevasse lid, Mawson had been on his sled with his weight dispersed but Ninnis was jogging beside the second sled and his body weight is likely to have breached the lid. Six dogs, most of the party's rations, their tent and other essential supplies disappeared into a massive crevasse 480 km east of the main base. Mertz and Mawson spotted one dead and one injured dog on a ledge 46 metres (151 ft) down but Ninnis was not seen again.[4]


Ninnis was the son of British arctic explorer Belgrave Ninnis (1837–1922), Inspector Surgeon General of the Royal Navy and member of Captain Sir George Nares' British Arctic Expedition of 1875–1876. Ninnis' cousin Lieut. Aubrey Howard Ninnis was an engineer on Shackleton's 1914–1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Ross Sea Party.



  1. ^ Hall p. 55
  2. ^ Hall p. 65
  3. ^ Hall p. 70
  4. ^


  • Hall, Lincoln (2000) Douglas Mawson, The Life of an Explorer New Holland, Sydney ISBN 1-86436-670-2

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