• Foca I (1917–21)
  • Quest RYS (1921–23)
  • Quest (1923–40)
  • HMS Quest (1940–46)
  • Quest (1946–62)
  • A Ingebrigtsen (1917–21)
  • E Shackleton (1921–23)
  • W G Oliffe (1923–24)
  • Schjelderups Sælfangstrederi AS (1924–39)
  • Skips-AS Quest (1939–40)
  • Nortraship (1940–62)
  • A Ingebrigtsen (1917–21)
  • E Shackleton (1921–23)
  • W G Oliffe (1923–24)
  • T Schjelderup (1924–39)
  • I Austad (1939–40)
  • Nortraship (1940)
  • Royal Navy (1940–46)
  • Nortraship (1946–62)
Port of registry
  • Norway Høvik (1917–21)
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Cowes (1921–23)
  • United Kingdom Cowes (1923–24)
  • Norway Bodø (1924–39)
  • Norway Tromsø (1939–40)
  • United Kingdom Royal Navy (1940–46)
  • Norway Tromsø (1946–62)
BuilderErik Lindstøls Båtbyggeri, Risør
  • Fishery registration K-13-K (1917–21)
  • Fishery registration B-94-BN (1924–39)
  • Fishery registration T-24-T (1939–40)
  • Code Letters LJBT (1924–34)
  • Code Letters LCVR (1934–62)
FateFoundered 5 May 1962 in the Labrador Sea
General characteristics
  • Sealer (1917–21)
  • Research Vessel (1921–24)
  • Sealer (1924–40)
  • Minesweeper (1940–46)
  • Sealer (1946–62)
Length110 ft 7 in (33.71 m)
Beam24 ft 9 in (7.54 m)
Depth of hold11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)
  • Sails, aided by compound steam engine (1917–39)
  • Diesel engine (1939–62)
Sail planSchooner[1]

Quest was a low-powered, schooner-rigged steamship that sailed from 1917 until sinking in 1962, best known as the polar exploration vessel of the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition of 1921–1922. It was aboard this vessel that Sir Ernest Shackleton died on 5 January 1922 while in harbour in South Georgia. Prior to and after the Shackleton–Rowett Expedition, Quest operated in commercial service as a seal-hunting vessel or "sealer". Quest was also the primary expedition vessel of the British Arctic Air Route Expedition to the east coast of the island of Greenland in 1930–1931.

Quest was 111 feet (34 m) in length, had a beam of 24 feet (7.3 m), and 12 feet (3.7 m) depth of hold.[2] The vessel has been variously rated at 209 and 214 gross register tons,[1] possibly due to the 1924 refit described below.

Shackleton-Rowett Expedition

Quest under Tower Bridge, 1921

Quest was originally built in Risør, Norway in 1917 as the wooden-hulled sealer Foca I[1] or Foca II.[3] She was the polar expedition vessel of the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition of 1921–1922. The vessel was renamed Quest by Lady Emily Shackleton, wife of expedition leader Ernest Shackleton.[4] At the expense of expedition financier John Quiller Rowett, Quest was refitted for the expedition with modifications overseen by sailing master Frank Worsley, including re-rigging and the addition of a deckhouse.[5] Shackleton was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and so for this voyage Quest bore the RYS suffix and flew the White Ensign.[4]

Sailing from London for the Southern Ocean on 17 September 1921, the ship reached South Georgia on 4 January 1922 while preparing to enter Antarctic waters. The following night Shackleton, the commander of the expedition, died aboard the vessel while she was at anchor in Grytviken. This ended all prospects of the expedition's carrying out its original program of exploring the Antarctic coastline of Enderby Land.[4] Led by Frank Wild, Quest carried out a desultory survey of the Weddell Sea area before returning to the South Atlantic. Quest touched the Tristan da Cunha archipelago in early May,[5] and at Inaccessible Island, ornithologist Hubert Wilkins took type specimens of the grosbeak bunting.

The expedition returned to England in July 1922, having posted disappointing results that were attributed both to replacement commander Wild's alcoholism[4] and deficiencies in Quest's performance in polar sea ice. The weakly powered ship's engine caused continuous difficulties, and the vessel's straight stem made her unsuitable for use in icy seas.[5]

East Greenland Expeditions

Quest was again refitted in Norway in 1924. During the refit, the sealer's Shackleton-Rowett deckhouse was salvaged for shore use.[3] In 1928 the refitted vessel participated in the effort to rescue the survivors of the Italia Arctic airship crash. In 1930, the aging sealer, described as a "broad-beamed, tubby little ship, decks stacked with gear", served as the primary expedition vessel and transport from London to eastern Greenland for the explorers of the British Arctic Air Route Expedition led by Gino Watkins in 1930.[6] Later she was the expedition ship of Count Gaston Micard's East Greenland ventures between 1932 and 1936.[7]

Current status

Quest returned to service as a sealing vessel after 1930. In 1935 she was used by the British East Greenland Expedition. During World War II the wooden-hulled vessel was pressed into service as a minesweeper and light cargo vessel. The small ship returned to sealing duties in 1946. On 5 May 1962, while on a seal-hunting expedition, Quest was holed by ice and sank off the north coast of Labrador. The crew was saved.[1]

Parts of the former deckhouse, including Shackleton's cabin in 1921–1922, survive and, as of 2021 are in the Athy Heritage Center – Museum in Ireland.[8] The crow's nest, made from a barrel, is in the crypt of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London.[9]

An archival collection of 476 photographs from the Quest/Shackleton-Rowett Expedition is maintained by the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "M/S Quest". Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Antarctic Ships". Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Shackleton 'Quest' cabin, new show piece for South Georgia Museum". MercoPress. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Huntford, Roland (1986). Shackleton. New York: Atheneum. pp. 683–694. ISBN 978-0689114298.
  5. ^ a b c Thomson, John (1999). Shackleton's Captain: A Biography of Frank Worsley. Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press. pp. 133–141. ISBN 0889626782.
  6. ^ Scott, Jeremy (2008). Dancing on Ice: A Stirring Tale of Adventure, Risk and Reckless Folly. London: Old Street Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0689114298.
  7. ^ "Count Micard's Winter on Board the Quest, 1936–37". Polar Record. 2 (15): 20–21. 12 January 1938. doi:10.1017/S0032247400036299. S2CID 251062992 – via Cambridge University Press.
  8. ^ "Shackleton's cabin lands in Connemara for restoration". Irish Times. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  9. ^ "The Crypt Museum". All Hallows-by-the-Tower. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  10. ^ "The Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic expedition aboard the 'Quest', 1921–1922". Hubert Wilkins and Alexander Macklin. Retrieved 11 March 2010.

53°10′N 54°27′W / 53.167°N 54.450°W / 53.167; -54.450

Media related to Quest (ship, 1917) at Wikimedia Commons