Pickfords searches for origin of historic photograph

Pickfords horse and cart in front of Terra Nova

Removals and storage giant Pickfords is appealing for help to identify the origins of a black and white image linking the firm to the world famous ship, Terra Nova. 

Discovered in the centenary year of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic, the black and white image apparently shows a Pickfords horse and cart delivering Shell motor spirit to the ship, which is best known for sailing under the command of Captain Scott on his mission to be the first to reach the South Pole. 

The photograph was found on a website and used as part of a presentation for a removals industry conference, however, it was only after the presentation took place that name on the ship was recognised. Despite extensive searches to find where the image was sourced, Pickfords has no idea which website the photograph came from. 

Following the find, Pickfords teamed up with the International Polar Foundation and has since embarked on a rollercoaster search to find the origins of the image. 

Michael Andrews, Area Manager for Pickfords, explains: “At first we thought the image might have been taken just before Scott’s famous British Antarctic Expedition sailed in 1910, but lengthy conversations with archivists at Shell UK, the International Polar Foundation and the Scott Polar Research Institute failed to find any evidence to support our theories.”

 Dr Liz Pasteur from the International Polar Foundation takes up the story: “After we drew a blank with the most famous of Terra Nova’s commissions, we started looking a little further afield. After speaking to Terra Nova expert and author Mike Tarver, we were informed that the ship’s name, just about visible in the picture, was not on the hull by the time it was purchased by Scott in 1909, so the photo must have been taken some time before then. 

“From what Mike has told us, the most plausible explanation is that the photo was taken at London’s West India Docks in 1905 as the ship prepared to sail on a rescue mission to reach members of the failed Ziegler polar expedition. The US party was stranded north of the Arctic Circle for two years after attempting to reach the North Pole.”

Michael continues: “After speaking to Mike our investigations have led us as far afield as the US descendant of one the Ziegler party and to the Norwegian Polar Institute, but no one can confirm when or where the image was taken; it’s a complete mystery. We’ve run out of leads, so we’re throwing it open to the public to see if we can shed any more light on one of the most interesting periods in Pickfords’ history.

Pickfords has been working closely with the International Polar Foundation throughout 2011 to transport adapted teaching tools and educational puzzles to UK schools learning about the importance of the Polar Regions and climate change.

 If anyone has any information on the origins or background of the photograph, they are urged to contact Lyndsey Daykin at Pickfords on 0203 188 2248

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