Third lieutenant in charge of holds, stores,
provisions and deep sea water analysis -
leader Quest 1920-21
Shackleton is one of the giants of Antarctic exploration, many
consider him to be the pre-eminent Antarctic explorer. It
may come as some surprise therefore to learn that he was not
actually part of any major successful exploration or discoveries in
Antarctica. On the Discovery expedition, he was invalided
home early, on the Nimrod expedition, he was one of a party
that failed by just 97 miles to be the first men to reach the South
Pole and on the most famous expedition on the Endurance, the
original goal was never even remotely achieved.
However the whole is certainly greater than the
sum of the parts and despite a lack of obvious and glorious "firsts"
what Shackleton achieved in his trips to Antarctica has never been
equalled and stands in the annals of exploration as some of the most
incredible and courageous adventures ever recorded. His legacy is of
bravery in the face of adversity, of never letting down those who
you have personally promised they can depend on you for a mutual
goal even when the goal is lost, of personal responsibility,
sacrifice and example that continues long after many would have
forgiven him for giving up.
Yet Shackleton was forgotten for much of the 20th
century until around the mid 1980's when once again his achievements
were recognised, currently (2005) he is perhaps lionised to a degree
beyond what is fair, especially as there are other Antarctic
"heroes" whose actual material achievements were much greater and
have been forgotten. Part of the reason is perhaps that he is seen
as a guiding light for management consultants and trainers who think
that by studying and following his example, they can sell more blue
widgets in the suburbs - personally, I abhor this perspective, I
feel it is demeaning to Shackleton and to all explorers and
adventurers and smacks of a desperate attempt by those involved to
imbue their chosen, ultimately trivial, pursuit with a nobility it
does not deserve.
Shackleton is certainly a giant in the Antarctic
roll call of heroes, like all real heroes he was flawed in parts of
his life, but like all heroes, in that part part of his life that
called for heroism, he was not wanting.
Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on February 15th
1874 in County Kildare Ireland,
where the family originally from Yorkshire had moved. His father hoped for Ernest to enter the field of medicine,
though Ernest had other ideas, at the age of 16 he joined his first ship sailing
out of Liverpool in the merchant service. He took naturally to a life at sea and progressed through the
ranks, by the time he was 24 he was qualified to command a British ship anywhere
she may be.
In 1901 he joined the British
National Antarctic Expedition on board the Discovery under
Captain Scott but was invalided back to New Zealand a year
before the end of the expedition. He busied himself however in
fitting out the Discovery relief expeditions under the
Admiralty Committee, and also helped in fitting out the Argentine
expedition that went to the relief of the Swedish Antarctic
He married Emily in 1904 on his
return from the Antarctic and the Discovery Expedition and so
followed a time pursuing a career back home as befitted a gentleman.
He became secretary and treasurer of the Royal Scottish Geographical
Society, a post he resigned to contest the Dundee seat at the 1906
election as a Unionist candidate. In this he was unsuccessful and
found a position as personal assistant to William Beardmore head of
a Glasgow firm of battleship builders and armour plate
Such normality did not suit
Shackleton and he took an expedition to Antarctica in 1907 on
the Nimrod. On this expedition, Shackleton established a
"furthest south" record for the time just 97 miles from the South
Pole while another party form the expedition were the first to reach
the magnetic South Pole - they also took the very first motor car to
After Amundsen and Scott had reached
the South Pole in 1912, Shackleton thought that the next great
conquest was to traverse the Antarctic continent from coast to coast
via the pole and with this end, so set forth the Endurance
expedition of 1914-17. Although this expedition was possibly the
least successful Antarctic Expedition at the time in terms of
achieving the goal - through no fault of planning or foresight - it
became one of the greatest adventure stories of all time and
enshrined Shackleton's reputation almost in legend.
Return to England was once again an
anti-climax and Shackleton spent a long time on a lecture tour
circuit, eventually to put together an expedition to Antarctica
aboard the Quest in 1921 in an attempt
to map 2000 miles (3200 km) of coastline and conduct meteorological
and geological research.. By this
time he was in poor health though was disguising it well from those
around him, blaming muscular pains or the like. He
died of a suspected heart attack on board the Quest
as she was at anchor in King Edward Cove, South Georgia at the age of 47 in 1922.
Shackleton was buried on South Georgia and his death brought to a close
the "Heroic Age" of Antarctic
exploration. The grave was marked by a headstone of Scottish granite in
In the words of his shipmates, what the crew of
the Endurance said about Shackleton:
"There radiated from him something strong and
powerful and purposeful so that even to meet him was an experience.
It was something that I have never come across in anyone else. He
valued loyalty above everything, no one ever questioned his
"We seem to be a wonderfully
happy family, but I think Sir Ernest is the real secret of our
unanimity. Considering our divergent aims and difference of station
it is surprising how few differences of opinion occur"
Landmarks named after Ernest Shackleton
Description: That portion of the coast along the W side of
the Ross Ice Shelf between Cape Selborne and Airdrop Peak at the E
side of Beardmore Glacier. Named by NZ-APC in 1961 after Sir Ernest
Shackleton. Shackleton discovered the area beyond Shackleton Inlet
to the Beardmore Glacier, and was the first to find a practicable
route to the South Pole.
Shackleton Fracture Zone
Description: An undersea fracture zone name found on the
Pacific-Antarctic sheet of the Circum-Pacific Project charts. Name
approved 6/87 (ACUF 225).
Variant Name(s) - Shackleton Ridge
Description: An ice-covered pass rising to c. 300 m between
King Haakon Bay and Possession Bay, South Georgia. The name
Shackletons Pass, after Sir Ernest Shackleton, was used on a map in
his book the route across South Georgia used by the Shackleton party
in 1916. The form approved was recommended by the UK-APC in 1957.
Variant Name(s) - Shackleton Glacier, Shackletons Pass
Description: A major glacier, over 60 mi long and from 5 to
10 mi wide, descending from the polar plateau from the vicinity of
Roberts Massif and flowing N through the Queen Maud Mountains to
enter the Ross Ice Shelf between Mount Speed and Waldron Spurs.
Discovered by the USAS (1939-41) and named by US-SCAN for Sir Ernest
Variant Name(s) - Wade Glacier
Shackleton Ice Shelf
Description: An extensive ice shelf fronting the coast of
Antarctica for about 240 mi (95E to l05E), projecting seaward about
90 mi in the W portion and 40 mi in the east. The existence of this
ice shelf was first made known by the USEE under Wilkes who mapped a
portion of it from the Vincennes in February 1840. It was
explored by the AAE under Mawson (1911-14) who named it for Sir
Ernest Shackleton. The extent of the ice shelf was mapped in greater
detail in 1955, using aerial photography obtained by USN OpHjp,
1946-47. Further mapping by the Soviet Expedition of 1956 showed the
portion eastward of Scott Glacier to be a part of this ice shelf.
Variant Name(s) - Shackleton Barrieren, Shackleton Shelf, Shackleton
Shelf Ice, Termination Barriere Eis,
Description: Extensive icefalls of the upper Beardmore
Glacier, southward of Mount Darwin and Mount Mills. Named by the
British Antarctic Expedition (1910-13) for Sir Ernest Shackleton who
first penetrated this region as leader of the BrAE (1907-09).
Description: A reentrant, about 10 mi wide, between Cape
Wilson and Cape Lyttelton. It is occupied by the terminus of Nimrod
Glacier descending at a low gradient from the bordering highlands to
the Ross Ice Shelf Discovered by Capt. Robert F. Scott, RN, in
December 1902, while on his attempted trip to the South Pole. He was
accompanied on this trip by Dr. Edward A. Wilson and Lt. (later Sir)
Ernest H. Shackleton, RNR, for whom this inlet was named.
Description: Range of mountains rising to 1,875 m, extending
in an E-W direction for c. 100 mi between Slessor and Recovery
Glaciers. Seen from the air by the CTAE, 1956, which surveyed the W
part of the range from the ground in 1957. The range was
photographed from the air by the U.S. Navy in 1967 and further
surveyed from the ground by BAS from Halley station, with support
from USN C-130 Hercules aircraft, 1968-69 and 1969-70.
Description: A broad valley running WNW from Stromness Harbor,
Stromness Bay, in South Georgia. Named by the UK-APC after Ernest
Shackleton, whose epic traverse of South Georgia with two of his
men, in May 1916, following their boat journey from Elephant Island,
ended in this valley.
Description: Mountain, 1,465 m, with perpendicular cliffs
facing W, standing 2.5 mi E of Chaigneau Peak between Leay and
Wiggins Glaciers, on the W side of Graham Land. Discovered by the
FrAE, 1908-10, under Charcot.
Variant Name(s) - Shackleton Peak
Type: Lunar crater
Description: A crater at the south pole of the moon, 21km in
diameter and 4.2km deep. The peaks surrounding the crater are in
almost continual sunlight while the interior is in perpetual shadow
and is thought to be a repository for frozen water from impacts on
the lunar surface.
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.