SCOTT & The South-Pole

Ernest Henry Shackleton ("Skackle")

A Portrait Of Ernest Shackleton

Skackleton was born Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland. His first experience of the polar regions was as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery Expedition, 190104, from which he was sent home early on health grounds.1 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 by coming 112 miles from the South Pole. For this achievement, Shackleton was knighted by King Edward VII on his return home.2

After Amundsen's conquest, in 1911, Shackleton made it his object to cross the Antarctic Continent from sea to sea, over the pole. It was attempted and is known as the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 191417. This expedition hardly got started, as its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice before the shore parties could be landed. Shackleton and his men made it back to England without loss of life. (The photographer, Frank Hurley, was with the expedition; his photos became famous and are readily available.)

In 1921 Shackleton went back to the Antarctic (the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition). On their way, Shackleton died of a heart attack while his ship, Quest, was moored in South Georgia, west of the Falkland Islands.

"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; he died heavily in debt."3
Shackleton, while making great strides in the Antarctic, seemed always to miss his goals by just so much, and, therefore, was considered by some to be a failure. If one were to read on how he managed to get his men back home after the disaster of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 191417, it will be realize how great a man, he indeed was.4

[1] "Although there were later tensions between Scott and Shackleton, when their polar ambitions directly clashed, in public mutual civilities were preserved; Scott joined in the official receptions that greeted Shackleton on his return in 1909 after the Nimrod Expedition, and the two were exchanging polite letters about their respective ambitions in 190910." ( In regard to these tensions between Scott and Shackleton: it is to be observed that Scott was a naval officer and Skackleton merchant-marine sailor.



[4] See Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. After the tragic death of Scott, Shackleton was asked, I think by his wife, "Why, after travelling almost 800 miles from McMurdo to the pole, and but 112 miles to go, did you turn back." He replied, "Well, the choice was to have either a live donkey return to you, or become a dead hero." Scott, apparently, chose to be a dead hero.


GO TO A List of Persons Involved with Scott at the South-Pole

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Peter Landry