Mrs. Chippy

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Mrs. Chippy on the shoulder of crew member Perce Blackborow

Mrs. Chippy was a cat who accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17, and—along with some of the sled dogs—was eventually shot after the expedition's ship, Endurance, was destroyed when it became trapped in pack ice.


Mrs. Chippy, a tiger-striped tabby, was taken on board Endurance by Harry McNish, the carpenter nicknamed "Chippy" (as in chips of wood, chips or chippy being a standard British nickname for a carpenter or for a man named Carpenter[1]), as a ship's cat. One month after the ship set sail for Antarctica it was discovered that, despite her name, Mrs. Chippy was actually a male, but by that time the name had stuck. He was described as "full of character" by members of the expedition and impressed the crew by his ability to walk along the ship's inch-wide rails in even the roughest seas. After the ship was destroyed, Shackleton decided that Mrs. Chippy and five of the dogs would not survive, and on 29 October 1915 recorded:

This afternoon Sallie’s three youngest pups, Sue’s Sirius, and Mrs. Chippy, the carpenter’s cat, have to be shot. We could not undertake the maintenance of weaklings under the new conditions. Macklin, Crean, and the carpenter seemed to feel the loss of their friends rather badly.[2]

McNish had become particularly attached to the cat, and never forgave Shackleton for having him shot. He clashed with Shackleton during the expedition and, despite eventually constructing the boats that would take the party to safety, and displaying considerable fortitude and bravery, McNish was denied the Polar Medal awarded to most of the rest of the crew, on the grounds of his earlier insubordination. In 2004 a life-size bronze statue of Mrs. Chippy was placed on the grave of McNish by the New Zealand Antarctic Society in recognition of his efforts on the expedition.[3] In February 2011 Mrs Chippy was featured on a postage stamp. The stamp was issued by South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.[4]

Bronze sculpture of Mrs Chippy on the grave of Harry McNish in Karori Cemetery which was added by the New Zealand Antarctic Society

Cultural references[edit]

Wolf Howard. Mrs Chippy

The painting Mrs Chippy, by Wolf Howard, shows the cat "about to be shot", while in the background the crew launch a small open boat on a rescue mission and Endurance is stuck in the ice.[5] The painting was shown in The Stuckists Punk Victorian at the Walker Art Gallery during the 2004 Liverpool Biennial.[6]

An opera for primary schoolers named "Shackleton's Cat" by Russell Hepplewhite was commissioned by the English Touring Opera.[7]


  1. ^ Beale, Paul; Partridge, Eric (1984). A dictionary of slang and unconventional English: colloquialisms and catch-phrases, solecisms and catachreses, nicknames, and vulgarisms. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-594980-2. 
  2. ^ Shackleton, Ernest (1919). South. New York: Signet. ISBN 0-451-19880-8. 
  3. ^ Griggs, Kim. "Antarctic hero 'reunited' with cat", BBC, 21 June 2004. Retrieved 5 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Pets: New Stamp Issue, South Georgia Newsletter, February 2011. Retrieved 20 january 2015.
  5. ^ Frank Milner (November 2004). The Stuckists: Punk Victorian. p. 80. ISBN 1-902700-27-9. 
  6. ^ "'Mrs Chippy', Wolf Howard", National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  7. ^


External links[edit]