Like many items from the Lyttelton Museum’s collection, these beautifully sleek, albeit ordinary-looking wooden skis hide stories of adventure and ultimately, tragedy. They were once owned – and judging by the hand-carved initials, firmly claimed – by William Knowles, a resident of Lyttelton.
An Able Seaman, Knowles was a crew member of the Terra Nova on Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910–13 expedition to Antarctica. On his return to New Zealand, Knowles joined the Naval Reserves, went to war, and in February 1915 was shot in a skirmish with Turkish troops. He later died of his wounds, and is believed to be the first New Zealander killed in action during World War One.