Robert Forde

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Memorial to Robert Forde in Cobh, Ireland

Robert Forde (29 August 1875 – 13 March 1959) was an Antarctic explorer and member of the Terra Nova Expedition under Captain Robert Falcon Scott from 1910–1912.

Early life[edit]

Robert Forde was born in rural parish of Moviddy near Bandon 16 miles from Cork City, Ireland . His father's name was George and his mother's was Charity (née Payne).[1] George and Charity Forde married in 1859 in Bandon, Co. Cork.[2] His mother was born in 1836. Forde was the youngest of three children. Sarah Forde was born in 1867 and his brother John Forde was born in 1874. In 1901 Charity, now a widow, and her children lived in Teadies, Co. Cork. By 1911 she had relocated with Sarah her eldest child to Brinny, Co. Cork.[3] Forde was a Protestant and he lived near Kilmurry. He was related to the legendary car maker' Henry Forde', who lived near his family. At the age of sixteen, he had joined the Royal Navy which was 1891, rising to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class. This was from his hard work. On 16 April 1910 at 35 years old and as Petty Officer he volunteered to take part in Robert Falcon Scott's second expedition, The British Antarctic [Terra Nova] Expedition 1910–1913.[4] Forde was one of a number of Irishmen who took part, including Tom Crean and another Corkman, Patrick Keohane. Forde was part of a group which headed out from Cape Evans in January 1911 to explore the polar capes.


Forde took part in two depot laying journeys. During the Western Party journey, he was sledge master which was led by Griffith Taylor in 1911.[5] The Terra Nova expedition undertook an extensive survey of the Antarctic from 1911–1913. Forde and his companions had the responsibility of examining the area around Ross Island and the Polar Plateau. This is the reason behind the glacier being called Mount Forde in the Victoria Land. Temperatures dropped as low as -62C leaving Forde to return home due to his hand being severely frostbitten. By March 1912 Forde was suffering so badly that he was ordered to the Terra Nova by Captain Scott.[4] His hands were saved and he was brought back to New Zealand in April 1912.[5] As a result, he did not participate on the final and fatal attempt on the South Pole. He was missed deeply by his team.[5] Scott's logs of the expedition stated that he missed Forde when he was gone - "no one who could replace him,".[4] When he returned home he was able to serve in the Royal Navy at the height of the First World War. He served on number of ships. He received a promotion to chief petty officer. He was assigned to his former ship 'HMS' vivid in October 1913. His job in World War one was to serve on several vessels He survived the war and remained in the Royal Navy 17 February 1920 when he returned to Cobh, Co. Cork.[6] Cobh, Co. Cork was where he spent the rest of his life.[7] Until his death he wore a glove to protect his hand from the effects of the severe frostbite he had suffered half a century before hand.[8]

Terra Nova Expedition[edit]

Robert Forde Cooking Seal Fry on the Terra Nova Expedition on the Blubber Stove at Cape Roberts

On 15 June 1910, The Terra Nova left Cardiff. Some 8000 people volunteered to take part in this expedition. It was traveling via the uninhabited Ilha de Trinidade and Cape Town to New Zealand. On 19 November 1910, they collected supplies and members of the expedition and left Port Chalmers. It reached Ross Island on 4 January 1911 after coming in contact with severe storms and heavy pack ice. A shore party of 34 spent two seasons exploring on and around the Ross Island Shelf.[9] They were unable to reach the old Discovery hut at Hut Point. Scott had to settle for base on Cape Evans and started to unload the same day. One of the expedition's three experimental motor sledges was lost in the process, plunging through the sea ice.

The Terra Nova left on 26 January carrying a four-man team headed for the Victoria Land mountains opposite Ross island, and six-man Eastern Party under Lt Victor Campbell. The Victoria Land Party included the geologists Thomas Griffith Taylor ad Frank Debenhams, the physicist Charles Wright, and PO Edgar Evans. It investigated the geology and glaciology of the McMurdo dry valleys and the Taylor and Koettlitz Glaciers, returning to Hut Point on 14 March . A geologist is a scientist who studies the solid and liquid matter that constitutes the Earth as well as the processes and history that have shaped it.

The Terra Nova left Cape Evans with the remains of the expedition on 19 January 1903; pausing to pick up Taylor's and Debenhams's and the Eastern Party's specimens from Victoria Land, they sailed for New Zealand. They arrived to telegraph the news of Scott's death on 10 February 1913.[10]

Robert Forde's relationship with Captain Scott[edit]

Captain Scott, whose full name was Robert Falcon Scott was the Captain of the Terra Nova.[5] On this expedition Captain Scott was nicknamed ' The Skipper'. While on this expedition with Forde, Robert Scott wrote numerous diaries on the South Pole. This was then published in 1913 as Scotts Expedition.[11] In January 1912 Captain Scott and the remaining men on his team reached the South Pole. They had been gone for 93 days and covered 960 statute miles. Scott died on his way back from the expedition from starvation and exposure. He and the rest of the team had been dead eight months before they were found.


Forde's role in the expedition led to his promotion to Chief Petty Officer on board HMS Vivid, and he served on her and several other British ships during World War 1. After demobilisation he retired to Cobh, which was still then known as Queenstown and was a major naval port for the British in Ireland. Forde attended the film premiere of Scott of the Antarctic in Cork in June of 1949, along with Ellen Crean, the widow of his former Terra Nova colleague, Tom Crean.[12] He died in Cobh in March 1959.

He is remembered by the naming of Mount Forde, a monumental peak of over 1,200 metres at the head of Hunt Glacier in Victoria Land Antarctica (76°53'S, 162°05'E).[13]

Robert Forde is buried at the Clonmel Old Church Cemetery, Cobh in his native County Cork.[4] In March 2009, on the 50th Anniversary of his death, a Memorial was unveiled to Forde by The Robert Forde Memorial Committee in The Promenade, Cobh. The rough hewn granite stone faces out to Cork Harbour and has a bronze plaque showing Forde with his sled. A Plaque was also unveiled at 52 Harbour Row, Cobh where he lived.


  1. ^ "The Old Blog Cabin: Antarctic explorer Forde to be honoured in his adopted home". Old Blog Spot Cabin. Blog Spot Cabin. 7 March 2009.
  2. ^ "Church Records". Irish Genealogy. Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  3. ^ "The National Archives of Ireland". The National Archives of Ireland. The National Archives of Ireland.
  4. ^ a b c d "Memorial to Antarctic explorer Robert Forde". Southern Star. 28 February 2009 – via Irish Newspaper Archive.
  5. ^ a b c d "Meet the Crew of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition". Antarctic Heritage Trust. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012.
  6. ^ "The Labour Party". The Labour Party. 15 March 2009.
  7. ^ "The Old Blog Cabin: Antarctic Explorer Forde to be honoured in his adopted home". The Old Blog Cabin. 7 March 2009.
  8. ^ "From Crean to Crozier: Eight great unsung Irish explorers". Irish post. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Robert Forde, Irish Explorer". Science Photo Library Ltd.
  10. ^ Gardens, T. "Horniman Museum and Gardens".
  11. ^ "Scott of the Antarctic". BBC.
  12. ^ Foley, Tom (2018). Crean - The Extraordinary Life of an Irish Hero. Keel Foley. p. 175. ISBN 978-1999918941.
  13. ^ "Irish Explorers". Beyond Endurance Expedition. Retrieved 2 August 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Smith, 2010, 'Great Endeavour – Ireland's Antarctic Explorers', Collins Press
  • Forde of the Antarctic, article by Tom McSweeney in the Cork Holly Bough, Christmas 2007 edition.