Looking back on Ernest Shackleton's epic journey of endurance
One hundred years ago, Sir Ernest Shackleton set off on a journey that would capture popular imagination for decades to come. The Anglo-Irish explorer made two attempts on reaching the South Pole, before embarking on his third Antarctic trip — one that would go down as one of history’s all-time greatest feats of survival and endurance.
The goal of Shackleton’s most famous trip was to be the first to cross Antarctica from coast to coast and through the South Pole. Less than one day away from the continent in January 1915, his ship, “Endurance,” became trapped in the advancing sea ice. It would remain stuck there for 10 months, slowly crushed by the pressure from the ice before sinking.
Forced to abandon the ship, Shackleton and his crew survived on the floating ice — in one of the harshest climates on the planet — for five months. In April 1916, he set off in search of help along with five crew members. They spent 16 days crossing more than 800 miles of ocean in a small boat. The six men made it to the island of South George, which they crossed on foot in order to reach a remote whaling station. From there, they sent help and Shackleton’s entire crew was rescued in August 1916. Remarkably, no one from the expedition died.
Shackleton recounted the experience in a book titled “Endurance,” which was published in 1919.
Born in 1874 and educated in London, Shackleton had refused to become a doctor as his father wished and, instead, joined the merchant navy at the age of 16. After gaining experience as a mariner, he was chosen by British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott in 1901 to take part in an expedition to Antarctica. The aim was to be the first men to reach the South Pole. That initial trip proved unsuccessful after Shackleton fell ill and had to turn back.
The explorer lead his own expedition the claim the South Pole six years later. He made it further south than anyone previously — about 100 miles from his goal — before having to turn back because of dwindling supplies and the failing health of his crew.
While Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911, Shackleton’s journey continues to remain one of the most legendary stories of man’s endurance.