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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Shackleton auction concern
Macklin Christie's
Macklin's account of the Endurance voyage has huge historical value
By BBC science correspondent Christine McGourty

British scientists are trying to prevent valuable diaries relating to the "heroic age" of UK polar exploration from being sold abroad.

My fear is that [the diaries] will go abroad and then we will lose track of them

Dr John Heap
The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), of Cambridge University, UK, wants to buy certain lots going under the auctioneer's hammer at Christie's in London next week.

The Polar Sale, which goes on public view from Tuesday, includes more than 200 items relating to Arctic and Antarctic exploration - the highlight is the Shackleton Collection, which traces the explorer's life from his early journey on Scott's Discovery expedition until his death at South Georgia in 1922.

Shackleton PA
Shackleton's adventures have inspired many books
The SPRI, which has raised thousands of pounds to help secure the items, fears it may not have sufficient funds to prevent much of the historical material from falling into the hands of foreign collectors.

'Nation's heritage'

As well as portraits, photographs, letters, books - and even a 100-year-old bar of chocolate from the Discovery expedition - the collection includes the diaries of Alexander Macklin, doctor on the now legendary Endurance expedition of 1914-1917.

Dr John Heap, former director of SPRI and now chairman of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, said the diaries were "part of the nation's heritage" and should remain in the UK.

"The Macklin diary is one of the few records we have of what happened on Elephant Island after Shackleton left to get help. The world has decided that the Shackleton story is a story they want to know about and this is the original of that."

Chocolate Christie's
A Cadbury's bar of chocolate that went on the British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-1904
The tale of how Sir Ernest Shackleton rescued his men after the Endurance became stuck in the Antarctic ice has spawned a series of best-selling books. An Imax film of the expedition, called Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure is premiered in London next month and a Channel 4 film will follow in the New Year.

'Finest archive'

There has been huge interest in Shackleton in America, and it is thought much of the "Shackletoniana" will be sold to collectors there.

Papers Christie's
Macklin's papers describe Shackleton's death
Macklin's journal from the Endurance voyage has an estimated value of 50,000 - 80,000 and his documentation from Shackleton's final expedition, the Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition, is valued at 60,000 - 80,000, according to Christie's.

The SPRI has raised over 40,000 and has applied to the National Heritage Memorial Fund for more funds to help it buy the diaries.

"The SPRI has Britain's finest archive of polar material and we believe that's where the Macklin diaries should be," said Dr Heap. "They'd be there for everyone to see.

My fear is that they will go abroad and then we will lose track of them."

Shackleton PA
Endurance trapped: Shackleton and his men had to escape across the ice
Dr John Heap
"I really want to get this for the nation"
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