Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

Infobox Person
name = Ernest Henry Shackleton

image_size = 180px
caption = Ernest Shackleton
birth_date = birth date|1874|2|15|df=yes
birth_place = Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland
death_date = dda|1922|1|5|1874|2|15|df=yes
death_place = South Georgia Island
nationality = British
education = Dulwich College
occupation = Explorer
spouse = Emily Dorman
parents = Henry and Henrietta
children = Raymond, Cecily, Edward

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE, (15 February 1874 – 5 January 1922) was an Anglo-Irish explorer who was one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. His first experience of the polar regions had been as third officer on Captain Scott’s Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, from which he was sent home early on health grounds. Determined to make amends for this perceived personal failure, he returned to Antarctica in 1907 as leader of the Nimrod Expedition. In January 1909 he and three companions made a southern march which established a record Farthest South latitude at 88°23'S, 97 geographical miles (114 statute miles, 190 km) from the South Pole, by far the closest convergence on either Pole in exploration history. For this achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home.

After the race to the South Pole ended in 1912 with Roald Amundsen's conquest, Shackleton turned his attention to what he said was the one remaining great object of Antarctic journeying—the crossing of the continent from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Transantarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, "Endurance", was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed, before the shore parties could be landed. There followed a dramatic sequence of exploits, and an ultimate escape with no lives lost, that would eventually assure Shackleton's heroic status, although this was not immediately evident. [Barczewski, p. 146] In 1921 he went back to the Antarctic with the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, intending to carry out a programme of scientific and survey activities. Before the expedition could begin this work, Shackleton died of a heart attack while his ship, "Quest", was moored in South Georgia. At his family's request he was buried there.

Away from his expeditions, Shackleton's life was generally restless and unfulfilled. In his search for rapid pathways to wealth and security he launched many business ventures and other money-making schemes, none of which prospered. His financial affairs were generally muddled; when he died, he owed over £40,000 (more than £1.5 million in 2008 terms). On his death he was lauded in the press, but was thereafter largely forgotten, while the heroic reputation of his rival Scott was sustained for many decades. At the end of the 20th century Shackleton was "rediscovered", [Jones, p. 289] and rapidly became a cult figure, a role model for leadership as one who, in extreme circumstances, kept his team together to accomplish "an incredible survival story". [Barczewski, p. 295]

Early life


Ernest Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874, in Kilkea near Athy, County Kildare, Ireland, about convert|30|mi|km|sigfig=2 from Dublin. Ernest's father, Henry, and mother, born Henrietta Letitia Sophia Gavan, were of Anglo-Irish ancestry. [cite web|title= Historical figures:Ernest Shackleton|url=|publisher=|accessyear= 2008|accessdaymonth= 4 September] Ernest was the second of their ten children and the first of two sons. In 1880, when Ernest was six, Henry Shackleton gave up his life as a landowner to study medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, moving his family into the city.Huntford, pp. 6–9] Four years later, the family moved again, from Ireland to Sydenham in suburban London. Partly this was in search of better professional prospects for the newly-qualified doctor, but another factor may have been unease about their Anglo-Irish ancestry, following the assassination by Irish nationalists of Lord Frederick Cavendish, the British Chief Secretary for Ireland, in 1882.

From early childhood Shackleton was a voracious reader, which sparked a passion for adventure.Kimmell, pp. 4–5] He was schooled by a governess until the age of 11, when he began at Fir Lodge Preparatory School in West Hill. At 13 he entered Dulwich College, a leading public school for boys. The young Shackleton did not distinguish himself as a scholar, and was reputedly said to be "bored" by his studies. He was quoted later as saying: "I never learned much geography at school... Literature, too, consisted in the dissection, the parsing, the analysing of certain passages from our great poets and prose-writers ... teachers should be very careful not to spoil (their pupils') taste for poetry for all time by making it a task and an imposition." In his final term at the school, however, he was able to achieve fifth place in his class of thirty-one.Mill, pp. 24, 72–80, 104–115, 150]

Merchant Navy officer

Shackleton's restlessness at school was such that he was allowed to leave at 16 and go to sea.Huntford, p. 11] The options available were a Royal Naval cadetship at HMS "Britannia", which Dr Shackleton could not afford, the mercantile marine cadet ships "Worcester" and "Conway", or an apprenticeship "before the mast" on a sailing vessel. This third option was chosen. His father was able to secure him a berth with the North Western Shipping Company, aboard the square-rigged sailing ship "Hoghton Tower". During the following four years at sea, Shackleton learned his trade, visiting the far corners of the earth and forming acquaintances with a variety of people from many walks of life, "proving to be at home with all kinds of men".Huntford, pp. 13–18] In August 1894 he passed his examination for Second Mate and accepted a post as third officer on a tramp steamer of the Welsh Shire Line. Two years later he had obtained his First Mate's ticket, and in 1898 he was certified as a Master Mariner, which qualified him to command a British ship anywhere in the world.

In 1898 Shackleton joined the Union-Castle Line, the regular mail and passenger carrier between Southampton and Cape Town. He was, as a shipmate recorded, "a departure from our usual type of young officer", content with his own company though not aloof, "spouting lines from Keats and Browning", a mixture of sensitivity and aggression but withal, sympathetic. [Huntford, pp. 20–23] Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, Shackleton transferred to the troopship "Tintagel Castle" where, in March 1900, he met an army lieutenant, Cedric Longstaff, whose father Llewellyn Longstaff was the main financial backer of the National Antarctic Expedition, then being organised in London.Huntford, pp. 25–30] Shackleton used his acquaintance with the son to obtain an interview with Longstaff senior, with a view to obtaining a place on the expedition. Longstaff, impressed by Shackleton's keenness, recommended him to Sir Clements Markham, the expedition's overlord, making it clear that he wanted Shackleton accepted. On 17 February 1901 his appointment as third officer to the expedition's ship "Discovery" was confirmed; shortly afterwards he was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. [Huntford, p. 42] Although officially he was given leave by Union-Castle, this was in fact the end of Shackleton's Merchant Navy service.

"Discovery" Expedition, 1901–03

The National Antarctic Expedition, known as the Discovery Expedition after the ship "Discovery", was the brainchild of Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, and had been many years in preparation. It was led by Robert Falcon Scott, a Royal Navy torpedo lieutenant lately promoted Commander, [Savours, p. 9] and had objectives that included scientific and geographical discovery. [Fisher, pp.19–20] Although "Discovery" was not a Royal Navy unit, Scott required the crew, officers and scientific staff to accept voluntarily the conditions of the Naval Discipline Act, and the ship and expedition were run on Royal Navy lines. [Fiennes, p. 35] Shackleton accepted this, even though his own background and instincts favoured a different, more informal style of leadership. [Crane, pp. 171–72] Shackleton's particular duties were listed as: "In charge of sea-water analysis. Ward-room caterer. In charge of holds, stores and provisions [...] He also arranges the entertainments". [Fisher, p. 23]

"Discovery" departed London on 31 July 1901, arriving at the Antarctic coast, via Cape Town and New Zealand, on 8 January 1902. After landing, Shackleton took part in an experimental balloon flight on 4 February. [Wilson, p. 111] He also participated, with the scientists Edward Wilson and Hartley Ferrar, in the first sledging trip from the expedition's winter quarters in McMurdo Sound, a journey which established a safe route on to the Great Ice Barrier. During the Antarctic winter of 1902, in the confines of the iced-in "Discovey", Shackleton edited the expedition's magazine "The South Polar Times". [Fiennes, p. 78] He was reportedly "the most popular of the officers among the crew, being a good mixer", [Huntford, p. 76] though claims that this represented an unofficial rival leadership to Scott's are unsupported.Fiennes, p. 83] Scott chose Shackleton to accompany Wilson and himself on the expedition's southern journey, a march southwards to achieve the highest possible latitude in the direction of the South Pole. This march was not a serious attempt on the Pole, although the attainment of a high latitude was of great importance to Scott, and the inclusion of Shackleton indicated a high degree of personal trust. [Fisher, p. 58] The party set out on 2 November 1902. The march was, Scott wrote later, "a combination of success and failure". [Fiennes, p. 104] A record Farthest South latitude of 82°17 was reached, beating the previous record established in 1900 by Carsten Borchgrevink. The journey was marred by the poor performance of the dogs, whose food had become tainted, and who rapidly fell sick. [Crane, p. 205] All 22 dogs died during the march. The three men all suffered at times from snow blindness, frostbite and, ultimately, scurvy. On the return journey Shackleton had by his own admission "broken down" and could no longer carry out his share of the work. [Fiennes, pp. 101–02] He would later strongly refute Scott's claims in "The Voyage of the Discovery", that he had been "carried on the sledge".Huntford, pp. 143–44] However, there is no doubt that he was in a seriously weakened condition; Wilson's diary entry for 14 January reads: "Shackleton has been anything but up to the mark, and today he is decidedly worse, very short winded and coughing constantly, with more serious symptoms that need not be detailed here but which are of no small consequence one hundred and sixty miles from the ship"—believed to be a reference to scurvy. [Wilson, p. 238] Caparrell Morrell, pages 30,31,32,42,53,61,89,91,141.]

On 4 February 1903 the party finally reached the ship. After a medical examination (which proved inconclusive),Preston, p. 68] Scott decided to send Shackleton home on the relief ship "Morning", which had arrived in McMurdo Sound in January 1903. Scott wrote: "He ought not to risk further hardship in his present state of health. There is conjecture that Scott's motives for removing him was resentment of Shackleton's popularity, and that ill-health was used as an excuse to get rid of him.Huntford, pp. 114–18] Years after the deaths of Scott, Wilson and Shackleton, Albert Armitage, the expedition's second-in-command, claimed that there had been a falling-out on the southern journey, and that Scott had told the ship's doctor that "if he does not go back sick he will go back in disgrace." There is no corroboration of Armitage's story. Shackleton and Scott stayed on friendly terms, at least until the publication of Scott's account of the southern journey in "The Voyage of the Discovery", after which, according to Roland Huntford, Shackleton's attitude to Scott turned to "smouldering scorn and dislike". Even so, in public they remained mutually respectful and cordial. [See, for example, Crane, p. 310]

Between the "Discovery" and "Nimrod" expeditions, 1903–07

After a period of convalescence in New Zealand, Shackleton returned to England via San Francisco and New York.Fisher, pp. 78–80] . As the first significant person to return from the Antarctic he found that he was in demand; in particular, the Admiralty wished to consult him about their further proposals for the rescue of "Discovery". [Huntford, pp. 119–20] With Sir Clements Markham's blessing he accepted a temporary post assisting the outfitting of the "Terra Nova" for the second "Discovery" relief operation but turned down the offer to sail with her as chief officer. He also assisted in the equipping of the Argentinian gunboat "Uruguay", which was being fitted out for the relief of the stranded Nordenskiöld Antarctic Expedition.. In search of more regular employment, Shackleton applied for a regular commission in the Royal Navy, via the "back-door" route of the Supplementary List, [Huntford, p. 123] but despite the sponsorship of Markham and of the president of the Royal Society he was not successful. Instead, he became a journalist, working for the "Royal Magazine", but found this unsatisfactory.Huntford, pp. 124–28] He was then offered, and accepted, the secretaryship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS), a post which he took up on 11 January 1904.

In 1905 Shackleton became a shareholder in a speculative company that aimed to make a fortune transporting Russian troops home from the Far East. Despite his assurances to Emily that "we are practically sure of the contract" nothing came of this scheme. [Fisher, pp. 97–98] He also ventured into politics, unsuccessfully standing in the 1906 General Election as the Liberal Unionist Party's candidate for Dundee. [He finished fourth of five candidates, with 3,865 votes to the victor's 9,276. Morrell, p. 32] Meantime he had taken a job with wealthy Clydside industrialist William Beardmore (later Lord Invernairn), with a roving commission which involved interviewing prospective clients and entertaining Beardmore's business friends. [Fisher, p. 99] Shackleton by this time, however, was making no secret of his ambition to return to Antarctica at the head of his own expedition.

Beardmore was sufficiently impressed with Shackleton to offer financial support, [Beardmore's help took the form of guaranteeing a loan at Clydesdale Bank, for £7,000 (2008 equivalent approx. £350,000), not through an outright gift. Riffenburgh, p. 106] but other donations proved hard to come by. Nevertheless, in February 1907 Shackleton presented his plans for an Antarctic expedition to the Royal Geographic Society, the details of which, under the name British Antarctic Expedition, were published in the Royal Society's newsletter, "Geographic Journal". The aim was the conquest of both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole. Shackleton then worked hard to persuade others of his wealthy friends and acquaintances to contribute, including Sir Phillip Lee Brocklehurst, who subscribed £2,000 (2008 equivalent £100,000) to secure a place on the expedition, [Riffenburgh, p. 108] author Campbell Mackellar, and Guinness baron Lord Iveagh whose contribution was secured less than two weeks before the departure of the expedition ship "Nimrod". [Riffenburgh, p. 130]

"Nimrod" Expedition (1907–09)

On 1 January 1908, "Nimrod" sailed for the Antarctic from Lyttleton Harbour, New Zealand. Shackleton's original plans had envisaged using the old "Discovery" base in McMurdo Sound to launch his attempts on the South Pole and South Magnetic Pole. [ Riffenburgh, p. 108] However, before leaving England he had been pressured to give an undertaking to Scott that he would not base himself in the McMurdo area, which Scott was claiming as his own "field of work". Shackleton reluctantly agreed to look for winter quarters either at the Barrier Inlet or at King Edward VII Land. [Riffenburgh, pp. 110–16]

To conserve coal, the ship was towed convert|1650|mi|km|0 by the steamer "Koonya" to the Antarctic ice, after Shackleton had persuaded the New Zealand government and the Union Steamship Company to share the cost. [Riffenburgh, pp. 143–44] In accordance with Shackleton's promise to Scott the ship headed for the eastern sector of the Great Ice Barrier, arriving there on 21 January 1908. They found that the Barrier Inlet from the "Discovery" visit six years earlier had expanded to form a large bay, in which were hundreds of whales, which led to the immediate christening of the area as the Bay of Whales.Riffenburgh, pp. 151–53] It was noted that ice conditions were unstable, precluding the establishment of a safe base there. An extended search for an anchorage at King Edward VII Land proved equally fruitless, so Shackleton was forced to break his undertaking to Scott and set sail for McMurdo Sound, a decision which, according to second officer Arthur Harbord, was "dictated by common sense" in view of the difficulties of ice pressure, coal shortage and the lack of any nearer known base.

"Nimrod" arrived at McMurdo Sound on 29 January, but was stopped by ice convert|16|mi|km north of "Discovery"'s old base at Hut Point.] After considerable weather delays, Shackleton's base was eventually established at Cape Royds, about convert|24|mi|km|0 north of Hut Point. The party was in high spirits, despite the difficult conditions; Shackleton's ability to communicate with each man kept the party happy and focussed. [Riffenburgh, pp. 185–86]

The "Great Southern Journey", [Mills, p. 72] , as Frank Wild called it, began on 19 October 1908. On 9 January 1909 Shackleton and three companions (Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams) reached a new Farthest South latitude of 88°23'S, a point only convert|112|mi|km|0 from the Pole. [Shackleton: "Heart of the Antarctic", p. 210. The distance from the Pole is commonly given as 97 or 98 miles, this being the distance in nautical miles.] En route the South Pole party discovered the Beardmore Glacier, (named after Shackleton's patron), [Mills, pp. 82–86] and became the first persons to see and travel on the South Polar Plateau. [Mills, p. 90] . Their return journey to McMurdo Sound was a race against starvation, on half-rations for much of the Way. At one point Shackleton gave his one biscuit allotted for the day to the ailing Frank Wild, who wrote in his diary: All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remebrance of that sacrifice will never leave me". [ Mills, p. 108] . They arrived at Hut Point just in time to catch the ship.

The expedition's other main accomplishments included the first ascent of Mount Erebus, and the discovery of the approximate location of the South Magnetic Pole, reached on 16 January 1909 by Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson, and Alistair MacKay. [Riffenburgh, p. 244] Shackleton returned to the United Kingdom as a hero, and soon afterwards published his expedition account, "The Heart of the Antarctic". Emily Shackleton later recorded: "The only comment he made to me about not reaching the Pole was "a live donkey is better than a dead lion, isn't it?" and I said "Yes darling, as far as I am concerned". [Huntford, p. 300]

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17


Although Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911, public interest in the Antarctic continued. From early 1913 onwards Shackleton sought financial backing from donors to enable him to launch his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which would carry the British flag across the continent from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea by way of the Pole. The largest contribution, £24,000 (2008 equivalent approximately £1.05million), came from James Key Caird. Shackleton also obtained funds from the British government (£10,000); from the Royal Geographical Society (£1,000); from Dudley Docker of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (£10,000); and from tobacco heiress Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, an undisclosed sum. [Huntford, p. 362 and pp. 375–77] In due course Shackleton would acknowledge the generosity of these private donors by naming geographical features after them, including the Caird Coast and the Stancomb-Wills PromontoryShackleton]

Interest in the expedition was enormous: Shackleton received more than 5,000 applications for participation. Fifty-six men were finally chosen and divided into two groups for the two expedition ships: "Endurance" for the Weddell Sea team and "Aurora" for the Ross Sea party. He chose people he considered the most qualified candidates, either from his personal experience—eight came from the "Nimrod" expedition—or on the recommendation of his colleagues. Shackleton's interviewing methods sometimes seemed eccentric; he believed that character and temperament were as important as technical ability, [Huntford, p. 386] and might ask unconventional questions. Thus physicist Reginald James was asked if he could sing;Fisher, p. 312] others were accepted on sight because Shackleton liked the look of them, or after the briefest of interrogations.Fisher, pp. 313–15] This means of selection was meant to ensure compatibility and camaraderie during the difficult journey ahead. Shackleton also loosened some traditional hierarchies, expecting all men, including the scientists, to take their share of ship's chores, even tasks such as scrubbing the decks.

Loss of the Endurance

"Endurance" left Plymouth for the Antarctic on 8 August 1914. After stops at Buenos Aires and South Georgia she departed for the Weddell Sea on 5 December. As the ship moved southward early ice was encountered, which slowed progress. Deep in the Weddell Sea conditions gradually grew worse until, on 17 January 1915, "Endurance" became frozen fast in an ice floe, and on 24 February, realising that she would not now break free until the following spring, Shackleton ordered the ship wintered. [Frank Worsley, captain of "Endurance", later wrote in "Shackleton's Boat Journey" that after the ship had initially become surrounded by ice, gales from the northeast swept the pack ice from the area from which they had come solidly around the ship.]

In May, the Antarctic sun set for the last time before winter. When spring arrived, however, the breaking of the ice and subsequent movement of giant ice floes splintered the ship's hull.Worsley (1999), "Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure"] Although "Endurance" withstood considerable stress, on 24 October she was forced against a large floe, and water began pouring in. After a few days, on 27 October, with the position at 69°05'S, 51°30'W, Shackleton gave the abandon-ship order and the men, provisions and equipment were transferred to the ice. Mrs. Chippy, the beloved cat of the carpenter, Harry McNish, and the youngest of the pups born during the expedition were shot soon afterwards because Shackleton did not think they would survive the prolonged ordeal ahead. [Huntford, p. 458] On 21 November 1915, the wreck finally slipped beneath the ice.

For almost two months, Shackleton and his men camped on an ice floe hoping that it would drift towards Paulet Island approximately convert|250|mi|km|0 away. On 23 December Shackleton decided to start sledging towards the island, but because of the constantly changing sea ice the party only managed to march a few miles before Shackleton decided to set up another more permanent camp (Patience Camp) on another floe, and trust to the drift of the ice to take them in the right direction. By 17 March, their ice camp was within convert|60|mi|km|0 of Paulet Island [Fisher, p. 366] but, separated by impassable ice, they were unable to reach it as the floe continued to drift north. On 9 April the ice floe that they were camped on broke into two, and Shackleton decided that the crew should enter the lifeboats and head for the nearest land. After seven days at sea in the three small lifeboats, the men landed at Elephant Island.

The open-boat journey

Elephant Island was an inhospitable place far from any shipping routes and thus a poor location to await rescue. Consequently, Shackleton felt it essential that he set out to find help immediately upon arrival, and to him, it was obvious that he must head back to South Georgia, even though it meant traversing convert|800|mi|km|sigfig=2 of open ocean in one of the lifeboats. The lifeboat "James Caird" was chosen for the trip. To prepare for the journey, Shackleton chose his strongest sailors to accompany him, John Vincent and Timothy McCarthy, as well as experienced officer Thomas Crean. Shackleton also selected McNish, who immediately made improvements to the open lifeboat. Morrell argues that Shackleton chose McNish and Vincent to accompany him not only for their talent and toughness, but also because they were noted malcontents. He did not want the atmosphere on Elephant Island to be disrupted. Shackleton had frequently chosen to have the most rebellious crew members close to him, in order to quell discontent amongst the party. [Worsley noted that McNish made various improvements to the vessel, including raising its sides, strengthening its keel, and building a makeshift deck of wood and canvas, sealing the work with oil paints and seal blood.] The difficult task of navigating the crossing was left to Frank Worsley. Ensuring they were on the correct course was of utmost importance as missing their target would certainly have doomed the team.

The waters that Shackleton had to cross in his boat of convert|22.5|ft|m|0 are among the most treacherous in the world. [Worsley wrote in "Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure" that it was common to hear phrases among the small crew such as "eight bells" indicating winds and seas of a force-8 gale on the Beaufort scale.] Weather reports confirm that gale-force winds of convert|60|km/h|mph to convert|70|km/h|mph are present in the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica on an average of 200 days per year; they cause ocean swells of convert|20|ft|m|0, and Frank Worsley later commented on the poor weather conditions which complicated the task. Celestial navigation readings were only possible at four times during the convert|800|mi|km|sing=on journey. He also noted that waves of convert|50|ft|m|0 were not uncommon. [Worsley wrote of swells of 13 metres (43 ft) to convert|16|m|ft|0 that crest-to-crest were convert|800|m|ft|0| apart and were moving at convert|40|km/h|mph|0; these could strike at convert|80|km/h|mph|0.] Of one hair-raising moment of the journey, Shackleton wrote:

Shackleton had refused to pack supplies for more than four weeks, knowing that if they did not reach land by that time the boat would be lost. And indeed, after 14 days, the crew was within sight of Cave Cove, South Georgia. To avoid a night landing on an unfamiliar shore Shackleton ordered the boat to sit out at sea until first light, during which time a storm with hurricane-force winds blew up. After battling against the storm for nine hours they were finally able to land. [Worsley later wrote that a 500-ton steamer en route from Buenos Aires to South Georgia had foundered in the same storm with all aboard lost.] Leaving McNish, Vincent and McCarthy at the landing point on South Georgia, Shackleton travelled with Worsley and Crean over mountainous terrain for 36 hours to Stromness. No man had previously been able to venture more than convert|1|km|mi|1 inland on the island; Shackleton's party were the first people to cross South Georgia. The next successful attempt was not until 1955.Lansing, page 268] Staggering into Stromness, Shackleton and his team were welcomed into the whaling manager's house.Worsley (1998), "Shackleton's Boat Journey"]


Shackleton's first three attempts to rescue his men on Elephant Island failed. Desperate, he finally appealed to the Chilean government, which offered the help of "Yelcho", a small seagoing tug from its navy. "Yelcho" reached Elephant Island on 30 August, and Shackleton quickly evacuated all 22 men, who had been stranded for 105 days. Although every member of the Shackleton's Weddell Sea Party survived, [Perce Blackborow's frostbitten toes were amputated while on Elephant Island.] , the Ross Sea Party remained stranded at Cape Evans on Ross Island because "Aurora" had been stuck in ice for 10 months and could not reach them. Shackleton met "Aurora" in New Zealand and returned to rescue the Ross Sea Party. Three members of the Ross Sea Party lost their lives. [Huntford, pp. 638–41]

World War I

Shackleton returned to England in May 1917, while Europe was in the midst of the First World War. He suffered from a heart condition, most likely made worse by the fatigue of his arduous journeys. He was too old to be conscripted, but nevertheless he volunteered for the army, repeatedly requesting to be sent to the front in France as a transport captain. Instead he was sent to Buenos Aires to boost British propaganda in South America. Unqualified as a diplomat, he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Argentina and Chile to enter the war on the side of the Allies. He returned home in 1918.

Shackleton was then asked to lead a mission to Spitsbergen, an island above the Arctic Circle and north of Norway, in order to establish a British presence there in the guise of a mining operation. However, in Tromsø, Shackleton suffered a heart attack and had to return. Despite this, he joined a military expedition to Murmansk, Russia, in the autumn of 1918. The Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918, two weeks after he landed in Russia, and Shackleton returned home to publish "South", his own account of the "Endurance" expedition.Rainey, p. 137]

hackleton-Rowett Expedition 1921–22

Despite the events of the "Endurance" expedition, Shackleton set out again for the Antarctic aboard "Quest" intending to circumnavigate Antarctica by sea. Although some of his former crew members had not received all of their pay from the "Endurance" expedition, many of them signed on with their former "Boss". However, when the party arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Shackleton fell ill after a heart attack. Even so, he refused to return the ship to England or seek treatment, and "Quest" continued south.


On 4 January 1922, the ship arrived off the coast of South Georgia. In the early morning hours, the expedition's physician, Alexander Macklin, was called to Shackleton's cabin and noticed that he was ill. Macklin suggested to Shackleton that he "take things easier in the future", to which the reply was: "You are always wanting me to give up something, what do you want me to give up now?" [Mickleburgh, p. 95] These were Sir Ernest Shackleton's last words. A few moments later, at 2:50 a.m. on 5 January 1922, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 47.

Macklin, who conducted the autopsy, concluded that the cause of death was atheroma of the coronary arteries exacerbated by "overstrain during a period of debility". [Huntford, p. 691] Leonard Hussey, a veteran of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition, offered to return his body to Britain; however, while he was in Montevideo en route to England, a message was received from Shackleton's wife asking that her husband be buried in South Georgia. Hussey returned with the body, and on 5 March 1922, Ernest Shackleton was buried at Grytviken.Wheeler, p. 11] Although Shackleton had been generous to the family of crew by providing for them in the case of accidental death, he did not sufficiently protect his own family: his wife was required to live on her own resources following his death.


Although Shackleton was not immediately recognised for his achievements after the "Endurance" expedition, in later years his exploits have been the focus of many books, television shows, charities, and memorials. Among these are the James Caird Society, organised in 1994, which was set up to preserve the memory of Shackleton and his achievements. The society is named after Shackleton's benefactor, who was also honoured by the naming of the whaleboat used to travel between Elephant Island and South Georgia. Its first life president was Shackleton's younger son, Edward Shackleton, and his granddaughter, Alexandra Shackleton, has been life president since 1995. The "James Caird" itself is at Dulwich College in London. [cite web |url= |publisher=Dulwich College |title=Sir Ernest Shackelton |accessdate=2008-01-30]

Additionally, Sir Ernest Shackleton is the subject of "Shackleton", a two-part Channel 4 drama directed by Charles Sturridge and starring Kenneth Branagh as the explorer. The same story is related in greater detail in the book ', by Alfred Lansing and Shackleton is also the subject of a documentary, ', produced and directed in 2000 by George Butler and narrated by Liam Neeson. [cite web |url= |title=Shackleton (2002)(TV)|accessdate=2007-12-27 |work=Internet Movie Database] PBS made a documentary entitled "Shackleton: Voyage of Endurance" narrated by David Ogden Stiers. Shackleton is also a minor character in a 1958 Soviet fiction novel 'Iz Tupika' (From the Deadlock) by Valentine Pickul, who addressed Shackleton's participation in the British intervention in Northern Russia of 1918-1919. In this novel, Shackleton is depicted as a British imperialist dreaming of making Russian North another colony of the British Empire. [cite web |url= |title=Iz Tupika by Valentine Pickul |accessdate=2008-05-15]

Shackleton's grave, near the former whaling station at Grytviken on South Georgia, is frequently visited by tourists from passing cruise ships. The British Antarctic Survey's logistics vessel RRS "Ernest Shackleton" (the replacement for RRS "Bransfield") is named in his honour. [cite web |url= |title=RRS Ernest Shackleton, Research Ship |accessdate=2007-12-27 |work=British Antarctic Survey] In May 1998 the Shackleton Memorial Library opened at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge. [cite web |url= |title=RRS Ernest Shackleton, Research Ship |accessdate=2007-12-27 |work=Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge] He is commemorated with a statue outside the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, London, designed by the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger. [cite web |url= |title=Victoria & Albert |accessdate=2008-01-30|work=Architecture Trails, Kensington] In recent years interest in Shackleton has revived, and he has become an icon of successful leadership for some modern business writers.

Shackleton's death marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, a period of discovery characterized by journeys of geographical and scientific exploration in a largely unknown continent, without any of the benefits of modern travel methods or radio communication. [Hince, p. 227.] Shackleton has been cited as an exemplar of this age; in the preface to his book "The Worst Journey in the World" Apsley Cherry-Garrard, one of Scott's team on the Terra Nova Expedition, wrote: "For a joint scientifiic and geographical piece of organization, give me Scott; for a Winter Journey, Wilson; for a dash to the Pole and nothing else, Amundsen: and if I am in the devil of a hole and want to get out of it, give me Shackleton every time". [Quoted by Sara Wheeler in "Cherry: A life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard" pp. 187–88 (Jonathan Cape, London 2001, ISBN 0 224 05004 4]



*cite book|title=Endurance|first=Caroline|last=Alexander|publisher=Bloomsbury|date=1998|location=London|id=ISBN 074754123X
*cite book |author=Capparell, Stephanie; Morrell, Margot |title=Shackleton's way: leadership lessons from the great Antarctic explorer |publisher=Viking |location=New York, N.Y |year=2001|isbn=0-670-89196-7
*cite book| author= Crane, David |title = Scott of the Antarctic|publisher = Harper Collins|year = 2005|location = London|id = ISBN 978 0 00 715068 7
*cite book |author=Fisher, Marjorie and James |title = Shackleton |year = 1957 | publisher = James Barrie Books Ltd
*cite book |author=Hince, Bernadette|url= |title=The Antarctic dictionary: a complete guide to Antarctic English |publisher=CSIRO Publishing |location=Collingwood, VIC, Australia |year=2000 |pages= |isbn=0-9577471-1-X |oclc= |doi=
*cite book|last=Huntford|first=Roland|authorlink = Roland Huntford|title = Shackleton| publisher = Carroll & Graf|date = 2004|isbn = 747575347
*cite book|last=Hurley|first=Frank|authorlink = Frank Hurley|title = South with Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917, the photographs of Frank Hurley| publisher = Bloomsbury|date = 1998| url =|isbn = 0786705442
*cite book|last=Kimmell|first=Elizabeth Cody|title = Ice Story: Shackleton's Lost Expedition| publisher = Clarion Books|date = 1999| url =,M1|isbn = 0395915244
*cite book | last = Lansing | first = Alfred | authorlink = Alfred Lansing | coauthors = | title = | publisher = Weidenfeld & Nicolson | date = 2001 | location = | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 978-0297829195
*cite book |author=Mickleburgh, Edwin |title=Beyond the frozen sea: visions of Antarctica |publisher=Bodley Head |location=London |year=1987 |pages=p. 95 |isbn=0-370-31027-6 |oclc= |doi=
*cite book|last=Mill|first=Hugh Robert|title = The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton| publisher = Kessinger Publishing|date = 2006| url =,M1|isbn = 1428655271
*cite book|last= Mills|first= Leif|title= "Frank Wild"|publisher= Caedmon of Whitby|location= Whitby|year= 1999| isbn=0-905355-48-2
*Morrell, Margot and Capparell, Stephanie (2003). "Shackleton's Way". Nicholas Brealey. ISBN 1-85788-318-7.
*cite book|last=Preston|first=Diana|title = A First Rate Tragedy: Robert Falcon Scott and the Race to the South Pole| publisher = Houghton Mifflin Books|date = 1998| url =,M1|isbn = 0618002014
*cite book |author=Rainey, Lawrence S. |title=Modernism: an anthology |publisher=Blackwell |location=Oxford |year=2005 |pages= |isbn=0-631-20448-2 |url=
*cite book|url=|author=Shackleton, Ernest|coauthors=Hugh Robert Mill, Tannatt William Edgeworth David |publisher=J.B. Lippincott Company |title=The Heart of the Antarctic: Being the Story of the British Antarctic ...
*cite book|last=Shackleton|first=Ernest|title="South: The story of Shackleton's 1914–17 expedition"|date=1919|publisher=Project Gutenberg|url=
* Worsley, Frank A. (1999) [ "Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure"] . W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393319946.
*citebook|title=Shackleton's Boat Journey|last=Worsley|first=Frank A.|date=1998|publisher=W.W. Norton & Company|isbn=0393318648|url=

Further reading

*cite book| last =Davis | first =John King| title = High Latitude| publisher =Melbourne University Press| date = 1962| location = Melbourne | url =
*Turley, Charles (1915). [,M1"Voyages of Captain Scott"] . Retold from Robert Falcon Scott's "The Voyage of the Discovery" and "Scott's Last Expedition". New York: Dodd, Mead and Company.

External links

* [ Site dedicated to Ernest Shackleton] . Managed by the Shackleton family.
* [ Detailed biography]
* [ Shackleton page at Dulwich College]
* [ Shackleton and Crean Antarctic Commemorative Coins Issued by Ireland]
* [ The James Caird Society]
* [ The Shackleton Centenary Expedition] . Includes details about the Shackleton Foundation.
* [ Speech] in 2001 by former Boeing executive Harry Stonecipher. Asserts that Shackleton's grace under pressure teaches how to make right decisions in hard times.
* [ PBS:Nova - Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance]
* [ National Public Radio documentary, "Walking Out of History"] . John Rabe hosts, with voices of survivors, diaries and memoirs, and modern explorers Ann Bancroft and Will Steger.
* [ e-text of Shackleton's book "South"] Recounts the expedition of 1914–16.
* [ Did Shackleton ever place the famous ad?]
* [ Ernest Shackleton's cylinder recording] , from the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara library.
* (mini-series starring Kenneth Branagh)
* (A 1919 documentary film about Shackleton's 1914-16 Antarctic expedition)
* [ Story and video of the crossing of South Georgia by Jake Norton.]

NAME = Shackleton, Ernest Henry, Sir
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Antarctic Explorer
DATE OF BIRTH = February 15, 1874
PLACE OF BIRTH = County Kildare, Ireland
DATE OF DEATH = January 5, 1922
PLACE OF DEATH = South Georgia

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