SIR ERNEST HENRY SHACKLETON’S BIOGRAPHYSir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO1, OBE2 (15 February 1874 – 5 January1922) was an Irish-born British explorer who was one of the main figures ofthe period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. His firstexperience of the Polar Regions was as third officer on Captain RobertScott’s Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, from which he was sent home earlyon health grounds.Determined to make amends for this perceived personal failure, he returnedto Antarctica in 1907 as leader of the Nimrod Expedition. In January 1909he and three companions made a southern march which established arecord Farthest South latitude at 88°23S, 97 geographical miles from theSouth Pole, by far the closest convergence in exploration history up to thattime. For this achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII onhis return home.After the race to the South Pole ended in 1912 with Roald Amundsensconquest, Shackleton turned his attention to what he said was the oneremaining great object of Antarctic journeying – the crossing of thecontinent from sea to sea, via the pole.To this end, he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship,Endurance, was trapped in pack ice and slowly crushed, before the shoreparties could be landed. There followed a sequence of exploits3, and anultimate escape with no lives lost, that would eventually assureShackletons heroic status, although this was not immediately evident.In 1921 he went back to the Antarctic with the Shackleton-RowettExpedition, intending to carry out a programme of scientific and surveyactivities. Before the expedition could begin this work, Shackleton died of aheart attack while his ship, Quest, was moored in South Georgia. At hiswifes request, he was buried there.Away from his expeditions, Shackletons life was generally restless andunfulfilled. In his search for rapid pathways to wealth and security helaunched many business ventures and other money-making schemes, noneof which prospered. His financial affairs were generally muddled; when hedied he was heavily in debt. On his death he was lauded in the press, butwas thereafter largely forgotten, while the heroic reputation of his rivalScott was sustained for many decades. At the end of the 20th centuryShackleton was "rediscovered", and rapidly became a cult figure, a rolemodel for leadership as one who, in extreme circumstances, kept his teamtogether to accomplish a survival story which polar historian StephanieBarczewski describes as "incredible".1 Commander of the Royal Victorian Order2 Order of the British Empire3 Exploit: something unusual, brave or funny that someone has done. She was telling me about herexploits while travelling around Africa.
Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17PreparationsShackleton published details of his new expedition, grandly titled the"Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition", early in 1914. Two ships would beemployed; Endurance would carry the main party into the Weddell Sea,aiming for Vahsel Bay from where a team of six, led by Shackleton, wouldbegin the crossing of the continent. Meanwhile a second ship, the Aurora,would take a supporting party led by Captain Aeneas Mackintosh toMcMurdo Sound on the opposite side of the continent. This party would thenlay supply depots across the Great Ice Barrier, which would hold the foodand fuel that would enable Shackletons party to complete their journey of1,800 miles (2,900 km) across the continent.Shackleton used his considerable fund-raising skills, and the expedition wasfinanced largely by private donations, although the British government gave£10,000. Scottish jute magnate Sir James Caird gave £24,000, Midlandsindustrialist Frank Dudley Docker gave £10,000 and tobacco heiress JanetStancomb-Wills gave an undisclosed but reportedly "generous" sum.Public interest in the expedition was considerable; Shackleton receivedmore than 5,000 applications to join it. His interviewing and selectionmethods sometimes seemed eccentric; believing that character andtemperament were as important as technical ability, he would askunconventional questions. Thus physicist Reginald James was asked if hecould sing; others were accepted on sight because Shackleton liked the lookof them, or after the briefest of interrogations. Shackleton also loosenedsome traditional hierarchies, expecting all men, including the scientists, totake their share of ships chores. He ultimately selected a crew of 56.Despite the outbreak of the First World War on 3 August 1914, Endurancewas directed by Winston Churchill, to "proceed", and left British waters on 8August. Shackleton delayed his own departure, meeting the ship in BuenosAires.
Loss of EnduranceEndurance departed from South Georgia for the Weddell Sea on 5December, heading for Vahsel Bay. As the ship moved southward, early icewas encountered, which slowed progress. Deep in the Weddell Seaconditions gradually grew worse until, on 19 January 1915, Endurancebecame frozen fast in an ice floe. In February, realizing that she4 would betrapped until the following spring Shackleton ordered the abandonment ofships routine and her conversion to a winter station. She drifted slowlynorthward with the ice through the following months. When spring arrivedin September the breaking of the ice and its later movements put extremepressures on the ships hull.Shackleton after the loss of EnduranceUntil this point Shackleton had hoped that the ship could work her way backtowards Vahsel Bay when she was released from the ice. On 24 October,however, water began pouring in. After a few days, Shackleton gave theorder to abandon ship, saying, "Shes going down!"; and men, provisionsand equipment were transferred to camps on the ice. On 21 November1915, the wreck finally slipped beneath the surface.For almost two months Shackleton and his party camped on a large, flatfloe5, hoping that it would drift towards Paulet Island, approximately250 miles away, where it was known that stores were kept. After failedattempts to march across the ice to this island, Shackleton decided to setup another more permanent camp (Patience Camp) on another floe, andtrust the ice to take them towards a safe landing. By 17 March their icecamp was within 60 miles of Paulet Island but, separated by impassable ice,they were unable to reach it.On 9 April their ice floe broke into two, and Shackleton ordered the crewinto the lifeboats, to head for the nearest land. After five terrible days atsea, the exhausted men landed their three lifeboats at Elephant Island. Thiswas the first time they had stood on solid ground for 497 days.Shackletons concern for his men was such that he gave his mittens tophotographer Frank Hurley, who had lost his during the boat journey.Shackleton suffered frostbitten fingers as a result.4 she – used as a substitute pronoun for ships5 floe: a large area of ice floating in the sea
The open-boat journeyLaunching the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island, 24 April 1916.Elephant Island was an inhospitable place, far from any shipping routes.Consequently, Shackleton decided to risk an open-boat journey to thedistant South Georgia whaling stations, where he knew help was available.The strongest of the lifeboats, christened James Caird after the expeditionschief sponsor, was chosen for the trip. Ships carpenter Harry McNish madevarious improvements, including raising the sides, strengthening the keel6,building a deck of wood and canvas, and sealing the work with oil paint andseal blood.Shackleton chose five companions for the journey: Frank Worsley,Endurances captain, who would be responsible for navigation; Tom Crean,who had "begged to go"; two strong sailors, John Vincent and TimothyMcCarthy, and finally the carpenter McNish. Shackleton had clashed withMcNish during the time when the party was stranded on the ice but, whilehe would not forgive the carpenters earlier insubordination, he stillrecognized his value for this particular job.Shackleton refused to pack supplies for more than four weeks, knowing thatif they did not reach South Georgia within that time, the boat and its crewwould be lost. The James Caird was launched on 24 April 1916; during thenext fifteen days it sailed through the waters of the southern ocean, at themercy of the stormy seas, in constant peril of capsizing. On 8 May, thanksto Worsleys navigational skills, the cliffs of South Georgia came into sightbut hurricane-force winds prevented the possibility of landing. The partywere forced to ride out the storm offshore, in constant danger of beingthrown against the rocks.They would later learn that the same hurricane had sunk a 500-ton steamerbound for South Georgia from Buenos Aires. On the following day they wereable, finally, to land on the unoccupied southern shore. After a period ofrest and recuperation, rather than risk putting to sea again to reach thewhaling stations on the northern coast, Shackleton decided to attempt aland crossing of the island.Although it is likely that Norwegian whalers had previously crossed at otherpoints on ski, no one had attempted this particular route before. LeavingMcNish, Vincent and McCarthy at the landing point on South Georgia,6 keel: the long piece of wood or steel along the bottom of a boat that forms part of its structure andhelps to keep the boat balanced in the water
Shackleton travelled with Worsley and Crean over mountainous terrain for36 hours to reach the whaling station at Stromness.Rescue"All Safe, All Well", allegedly depicting Shackletons return to Elephant Island, August 1916.However, a photograph of the departure of the James Caird in April was doctored byphotographer Frank Hurley to create this imageShackleton immediately sent a boat to pick up the three men from the otherside of South Georgia while he set to work to organize the rescue of theElephant Island men. His first three attempts were foiled by sea ice, whichblocked the approaches to the island. He appealed to the Chileangovernment, which offered the use of Yelcho, a small seagoing tug from itsnavy. Yelcho reached Elephant Island on 30 August, and Shackleton quicklyevacuated all 22 men.There remained the men of the Ross Sea Party, who were stranded at CapeEvans in McMurdo Sound, after Aurora had been blown from its anchorageand driven out to sea, unable to return. The ship, after a drift of manymonths, had returned to New Zealand. Shackleton travelled there to joinAurora, and sailed with her to the rescue of the Ross Sea party. This group,despite many hardships, had carried out its mission to the full, but threelives had been lost, including that of its commander, Aeneas Mackintosh.Adapted from www.wikipedia.org