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Legacy of a ‘life in the freezer’ to sell in February

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Cuttlestones’ Ben Gamble with the lots

Items collected by a biologist whose work took him to the Antarctic – including a lot linked to the famous explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton – are set to come under the hammer at West Midlands auctioneers and valuers Cuttlestones’ Friday, 24th February Specialist Collectors’ Sale.

The items’ original owner, the late Mr Bob Bell, worked at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and at the Sunderland Museum as a Taxidermist, before joining the British Antarctic Survey Team. In this role he worked in the Falkland Islands from 1978 until 1980; surveying the islands’ penguin, seal and bird life. Through his work he came into contact with various people connected to exploration and animal welfare and collected some fascinating items.

Of most interest is a lot believed to be linked to the great polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 ‘Nimrod’ Antarctic expedition, during which his team his team climbed Mount Erebus, made many important scientific discoveries and set the record for getting close to the South Pole. On his return, Shackleton was knighted for his achievements and would later lead the ‘Endurance’ expedition; famous for the against-the-odds survival of the entire crew when the ship became ice-bound and later sank.

The lot in question was given to Mr Bell at some point between training for the expedition and leaving for South Georgia. It comprises of a small brass travelling monocular microscope with integral tripod stand and leather case, along with a small oak-cased collection of early 20th century specimen slides. Three of the slides bear a ‘PB’ intertwined sticker, reputedly the monogram for Sir Phillip Brocklehurst, a key sponsor and member of the Nimrod voyage. In addition there is a hardback ‘Shackleton Voyages’ book and a ‘Shackleton at South Georgia’ brochure signed by the co-author, Stephen Venables.

The second lot in the collection has no reputed links to Shackleton but is an interesting polar artefact in its own right. Presented to Mr Bell by a local of the Faulkland Islands during his stay, it is a beautifully carved whale bone carrying an image of what is possibly a whale hunt; with two sailing ships at sea, four long boats with standing figures and whales in the water. Believed to date from the 19th Century it is a beautiful and evocative piece of seafaring art, despite carrying some damage consistent with its age and delicate nature.

Cuttlestones’ MD and Head Auctioneer, Ben Gamble, says:

The romance of polar exploration has spawned a strong community of collectors – and when you add the name Shackleton into the equation, interest rockets. While these items are only reputed to be linked to Shackleton’s Nimrod voyage they remain intriguing and we envisage plenty of interest from specialist collectors in both these lots and the whale bone art.

The lot will go under the hammer at Cuttlestones’ Friday, 24th February Specialist Collectors’ Sale at its Wolverhampton Auction Room. For those unable to attend on the day there are options to bid live via the internet, leave commission bids or use telephone bidding. The catalogue will be available online from Friday, 17th February – for further details call 01785 714905.

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