Ernest Henry Shackleton

Third Lieutenant

Third lieutenant

In charge of holds, stores, provisions and deep sea water analysis – Discovery 1901-04

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on February 15th 1874 in County Kildare Ireland, to where the family who were 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, he 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 on the ARA Uruguay that went to the relief of the Swedish Antarctic Expedition.

He married Emily Mary Dorman 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 manufacturers.

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 Antarctica.

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 in legend.

Return to England was once again an anti-climax and Shackleton spent a long time on a lecture tour circuit. He put together another 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 1928.

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