Polar medal from Shackleton expedition goes up for auction

The polar medal awarded to Tim McCarthy, Kinsale born seaman and polar explorer who sailed with Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, is going up for auction today.


Launching The James Caird

Tim McCarthy was one of the five men that accompanied Shackleton on the small lifeboat James Caird as they embarked on an epic 800 mile journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Shackleton’s crew had become stranded on Elephant Island after their ship Endurance got stuck in pack ice and slowly sank. The journey on the James Caird was their last chance to find help and Shackleton choose his best men to accompany him on this harsh and unforgiving voyage. After one of the greatest open boat voyages of all time, they made it safely to South Georgia. Help was sent to the rest of the crew on Elephant island and despite all the seemingly impossible challenges, all crew members made it home alive.

mccarthy bust

The bust of Tim McCarthy and his brother Morty in their home town of Kinsale. Image Sara Smith

The Endurance wasn’t Tim’s first Antarctic expedition, he had previously joined Captain Robert Scott’s “Aurora” and “Terra Nova” with his brother Mortimer (Morty). Tim was an accomplished seaman and Shackleton thought very highly of him. A joint bust of him and his brother was unveiled in September of 2000 in their hometown of Kinsale.

After the Endurance expedition he joined the Royal Navy Reserve as a Leading Seaman but just three weeks after signing up his life was cut short at the age of 28 when he was killed in action on board the S.S. Narragansett, an armed British steam tanker.  She was hit by a torpedo from a German U Boat and went down off the south-west coast of Ireland.

polar medal

Tim McCarthy’s polar medal. Image: Dix Noonan Webb

Sadly Tim McCarthy died before he could receive his polar medal. The medal goes on sale today in Dix Noonan Webb an international coin, medal and jewellery specialist. The lot is estimated to go for €18,000 – €24,000.


The medal was sold for £65,000 (around €77,000) to a private buyer. The Athy Heritage Centre Museum was hoping to acquire to medal for the museum which houses the only permanent exhibition dedicated to Shackleton.

About the Author

Daniel Farrell
Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews