John King Davis

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John King Davis
John King Davis.jpg
Born (1884-02-19)19 February 1884
Kew, Surrey, England
Died 8 May 1967(1967-05-08) (aged 83)
Toorak, Melbourne, Australia
Residence Australia
Nationality Anglo-Australian
Employer Explorer, navigator
Known for Captain of the Aurora
Parent(s) James Green Davis and Marion Alice King

John King Davis, CBE (19 February 1884 – 8 May 1967) was an English-born Australian explorer and navigator notable for his work captaining exploration ships in Antarctic waters as well as for establishing meteorological stations on Macquarie Island in the subantarctic and on Willis Island in the Coral Sea.

Early life[edit]

Davis's formal education, at Colet Court, London, and at Burford Grammar School, Oxfordshire, ended in 1900, when he and his father left London for Cape Town, South Africa.[1]


Early exploration work[edit]

Davis served as Chief Officer of the Nimrod during Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition in 1908–1909. He was Captain of the Aurora and second in command of Douglas Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911–1914.[2]

First World War[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Davis volunteered for active service, and was put in charge of the troop transport HMAT Boonah, carrying troops and horses to Egypt and England.[3]

Later exploration work[edit]

He also served as Captain of the Discovery in 1929–1930 in the course of the British Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition.

Davis was Australia's Commonwealth Director of Navigation from 1920 to 1949. It was at the beginning of this period that he volunteered to personally set up the remote Willis Island meteorological and cyclone warning station in 1921–22.[4]

Later work[edit]

Davis was President of the Royal Society of Victoria 1945–46, as well as being a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Davis Station in Antarctica, established in 1957, is named after him.


He was awarded the Polar Medal three times: in 1909,[5] 1917,[6] and 1934.[7]

In 1964 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[8][9]


John King Davis died in 1967 in Toorak, Melbourne, aged 83.


Books authored by Davis include:

  • (1919) With the Aurora in the Antarctic. Andrew Melrose: London
  • (1921) Willis Island: a storm-warning station in the Coral Sea Critchley Parker: Melbourne.
  • (1997) Trial by Ice. The Antarctic Journals of John King Davis (Edited by Louise Crossley) Bluntisham Books and Erskine Press: Bluntisham and Norwich (ISBN 1-85297-047-2)


  1. ^ Béchervaise, John. "Davis, John King (1884–1967)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  2. ^ "Bright Sparcs entry on John King Davis". Bright Sparcs. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  3. ^ "Captain John King Davis". Australian Antarctic Division. Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  4. ^ Fletcher, P. (1996). "Seventy-Five Years at Willis Island. Metarch Papers, No. 9, December 1996. Bureau of Meteorology: Australia". Retrieved 16 September 2008. 
  5. ^ It's an Honour: Polar Medal 1909
  6. ^ It's an Honour: Polar Medal 1917
  7. ^ It's an Honour: Polar Medal 1934
  8. ^ It's an Honour: CBE
  9. ^ "John King Davis". The Peerage. Retrieved 16 September 2008.