CHICAGO — Other than those who undertook the dangerous mission, no one knows more about the 1910-12 Japanese Antarctic Expedition than Chet Ross. Pulling from myriad sources, Ross authored what is considered to be the definitive bibliography of accounts of the expedition, the first by a non-Western nation.
In doing so, Ross acquired an unparalleled collection of artifacts and accounts from participants in the adventure, which came to auction at Potter & Potter October 12. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.
Interestingly, two of the leading lots related to expedition commander Nobu Shirase failed to sell: the only known copy of the lost 16mm film shot during the expedition, and a framed commemorative fan signed by Shirase shortly after his return from Antarctica.
Polar exploration collectors instead focused on rare books from the Ross collection. Nankyoku Tanken to Kotaijingu no Hosai (South Pole Expedition and the Enshrinement of Kotaijingu) by Yoshitake Shima is considered the rarest of the first-person narratives related to the expedition and comes complete with photos and a color map. A Shinto priest, Shima served as purser aboard the Kainan Maru and clerk for both seasons of exploration. Estimated at $10,000-$15,000, it sold for $30,000 ($37,500 with buyer’s premium).
From an edition of 15 and the only known surviving copy, Hokuyo Nankyoku no Kaitaku-sha: Shirase Chui (Pioneer of Northern Antarctica: Lieutenant Shirase) by Zenya Taniguchi and Kimura Yoshimasa, sold for $28,000 ($35,000 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $10,000-$15,000. The authors met the elderly Nobu Shirase at university and formed the Nippon Polar Research Institute, with Shirase serving as its first president.
A first edition of what amounts to an official account of the Japanese Antarctic Expedition, published in 1913 by the Japanese Antarctic Expedition Support Committee, was based on the journals and logs of Lt. Shirase and other expedition members. It contains a red seal on the title page, indicating this volume had been read by the Emperor of Japan. It sold for $14,000 ($17,500 with buyer’s premium), having been estimated at $6,000-$8,000.