Ernest Shackleton - Teaching Ideas

A guide to the resources on this website for use in planning lessons about Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Discovery, Nimrod, Endurance and Quest expeditions and the crews involved. geography, history, English

Sir Ernest Shackleton went to Antarctica no less than four times between 1901 and 1922 on voyages of adventure and exploration. The most famous of these was what was officially called the "Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition" of 1914-1917, better known by the name of the ship involved, this was the Endurance expedition.

The Endurance Expedition - resources

PowerPoint Presentation - Endurance - Ernest Shackleton and the voyage of the Endurance - click to download
10.5Mb - 27 slides - Suitable for ages from 11 upwards

Pictures only: as a Word file  |  as a pdf

Ernest Shackleton, Endurance, PowerPoint

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Endurance time line

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Ernest Shackleton, Endurance, PowerPoint

A time line of the Endurance expedition from August 1st 1914 when the ship set sail from London to September the 3rd 1916 when the rescue ship Yelcho reached Punta Arenas, Chile with all of the crew recovered from Elephant Island.

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PowerPoint Presentation - Biography Ernest Shackleton Biography - click to download

944kb - 5 slides - Suitable for ages from 11 upwards

Ernest Shackleton Biography, PowerPoint

Ernest Shackleton time line

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Ernest Shackleton

A biographical time line of the life of Ernest Shackleton from birth on the 15th of February 1874 to the 5th of January 1922 when he died aboard the ship Quest at South Georgia..

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The Story of the Endurance over 4 Illustrated Pages

Page 1 - departure

Antarctica and the Southern Ocean

Tom Crean, with a litter of sledge dog puppies on the Endurance.

Page 2 - trapped and crushed

Endurance slips beneath the ice
Endurance crushed by ice in the Weddell Sea, the ship sinks watched by a dog team.

Page 3 - journey to South Georgia

The James Caird at sea
Voyage of the James Caird. Mountainous seas in the southern ocean made this one of the most incredible small boat journeys of all time.

Page 4 - rescue

Rescue by the Yelcho.

Tweets From the Endurance

I originally sent these on Twitter as a series of Tweets exactly 100 years after the actual events took place from the 1st of December 1914 (2014) when the Endurance left South Georgia to enter the Weddell Sea to the 3rd of September 1916 (2016) when the rescued crew arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile.

The messages are sent from an unspecified "anyman" observer amongst the crew and follow events as they happen being more frequent when more when more is happening. The diaries of some of the crew members were used as source material. e.g.

    21 Nov 1915
    She has gone. Lying in our tents, the Boss called "She's going!" 1.5 miles away we saw the bows down, stern in the air..

    21 Nov 1915 quick dive and ice closed over the Endurance for ever. She was a link with the outer world our isolation is complete "She's gone boys".

6 pages:

Notable dates:

This is the entire story in condensed form, it is still quite a lot of reading but makes it easier to find specific events. A proportional time line could be constructed to show how much time the "events" took, compared to how much time was spent mainly waiting around with little happening.

The Crew of the Endurance Expedition

The links below lead to biography pages with pictures of each of the members of the Endurance crew. Some could be chosen and presented to a class as options so that individual students follow the links to identify with the men (there were no women) while on the expedition and then later in life. They could use what they find as the basis for a piece of writing, a condensed biography, a letter home (the only communication, though the letter wouldn't be received until after the men were rescued) a poem, thoughts about what they were missing, FaceBook page updates, Tweets etc.

Some biographies have more information than others, those with a # are suggested as being more suitable.

Bakewell, William - Able Seaman
Blackborow, Percy # - Steward - the youngest on board and a stowaway
Cheetham, Alfred - Third Officer
Clark, Robert S. - Biologist
Crean, Thomas # - Second Officer - 3 Antarctic expeditions, one of 3 men who reached the whaling station
Green, Charles J. - Cook
Greenstreet, Lionel - First Officer
Holness, Ernest - Fireman/stoker
How, Walter E. - Able Seaman
Hudson, Hubert T. - Navigator
Hurley, James Francis (Frank) # - Official Photographer - Australian, had just returned from Mawson's expedition
Hussey, Leonard D. A. # - Meteorologist - banjo player, "vital mental medicine"
James, Reginald W. - Physicist
Kerr, A. J. - Second Engineer

Macklin, Dr. Alexander H. - Surgeon
Marston, George E. # - Official Artist - his 2nd Antarctic trip
McCarthy, Timothy - Able Seaman
McIlroy, Dr. James A. - Surgeon
McLeod, Thomas - Able Seaman
McNish, Henry # - Carpenter - owner of Mrs. Chippy the ships cat
Orde-Lees, Thomas  - Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Rickinson, Lewis - First Engineer
Shackleton, Ernest H. - Expedition Leader
Stephenson, William - Fireman/stoker
Vincent, John - Able Seaman
Wild, Frank # - Second in Command - 5 Antarctic expeditions, a "giant" of Antarctic exploration
Wordie, James M. - Geologist
Worsley, Frank # - Captain - New Zealander, one of 3 men who reached the whaling station

Shackleton's Other Expeditions

Discovery - with Robert Scott - 1901-1904

Shackleton First went to Antarctica on the prestigious and establishment backed "British Antarctic Expedition" on the ship Discovery, it had ambitious exploratory and scientific plans. He was "Third lieutenant in charge of holds, stores, provisions and deep sea water analysis.". He took part in an attempt to reach the South Pole with Scott and Edward Wilson, who along with Scott succeeded in reaching the South Pole as a party of five in 1912, though they would all perish on the return journey. In 1902 the party of three reached a point 480 miles from the South Pole before turning back while they still could.

Shackleton was suffering from scurvy and had a very difficult return journey, on return to the expedition hut on Ross Island, he was sent back home on the next available ship to recover.

The Discovery Expedition


Nimrod - Shackleton - 1907-1909

Upon returning to England, Shackleton began to plan for his next voyage south which he would lead himself, this would be the "British Imperial Antarctic Expedition" on the ship Nimrod. Another attempt was made on the South Pole, this time there were four men in the party led by Shackleton, they came to within 97 miles of the South Pole but again had to turn back while they were still able, Shackleton was never to actually make it to the South Pole.

The NImrod Expedition


Quest - Led by Shackleton - 1921-1922

The Shackleton - Rowett Expedition 1921 - 1922 was to be Shackleton's last trip to Antarctica, named for himself as the leader and the main financial sponsor. Initially it was intended to go to the Arctic, but his original sponsors pulled out. The Quest was a small and really quite unsuitable ship for the purpose, though following the fame of the Endurance expedition, Shackleton was overwhelmed by volunteers to accompany him, the eventual crew included eight old Endurance shipmates.

After a difficult journey south from England and some time-consuming unscheduled repairs in Rio de Janeiro, the original plans had to be changed due to shortness of time and so the Quest arrived at South Georgia on the 4th of January 1922. Tragically and following declining health that he had tried to conceal, Shackleton had a fatal heart attack on board the ship at harbour on the 5th of January 1922, so ending the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.

The Quest Expedition