Shackleton, Ernest Henry 1874-1922

views updated

SHACKLETON, Ernest Henry 1874-1922


Born February 15, 1874, in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland; died of a heart attack January 5, 1922, near South Georgia Island; son of Henry (a doctor) and Henrietta Letitia (Gavin) Shackleton; married Emily Mary Dorman, 1904; children: Raymond, Cecily, Edward. Education: Dulwich College (later part of the University of London).


Mariner, explorer, and author. In merchant service, 1890-98, master, 1898; Royal Naval Reserve, sub-lieutenant, 1901; crew member of Discovery, expedition to Antarctic, 1901-03; Royal Scottish Geographical Society, secretary, 1904-05; commanded Nimrod, expedition the Antarctic, 1907-09; commanded Endurance and Aurora, expedition across Antarctic, 1914-16; commanded Quest, expedition across Antarctic, 1921-22. Military service: British Army, North Russian expeditionary force; major, 1918-19.


Knighthood, 1909; C.V.O. (Royal Victorian Order), 1909; Order of the British Empire, 1919.


Aurora Australis, Joyce and Wild, 1908, reprinted, Bay Books (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia), 1988.

The Heart of the Antarctic; Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1909, reprinted, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.

South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-1917, Heinemann (London, England), 1919, reprinted as South: A Memoir of the Endurance Voyage, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1998.

Shackleton: His Antarctic Writings, edited by Christopher Ralling, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1986.

Shackleton, the Polar Journeys, Collins Press (Cork, Ireland), 2002.


Famed explorer of Antarctica, Ernest Henry Shackleton began as a merchant mariner for various shipping lines, and in 1900 found himself assigned to a ship transporting British soldiers to the Boer War in South Africa. On this voyage, he befriended the son of a man helping to finance the National Antarctic Expedition. With this introduction, he returned to England and in short order became part of this expedition, led by Robert Scott, which managed to get within 400 miles of the South Pole. Back in England, he tried his hand at various jobs, including journalism and a stint with the Royal Geographical Society, but it was clear that reaching the South Pole had become Shackleton's true calling.

In 1907 Shackleton organized and led another expedition in which he came within ninety-seven miles of reaching his elusive goal. In The Heart of the Antarctic: Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1907-1909 Shackleton tells the story of this harrowing voyage, from the pack ice that prevented them from reaching their intended landing site through a year and a half of surviving bitterly cold temperatures, injuries, and the threat of starvation. According to a Library Journal reviewer, "Just reading this will make your toes fall off." Also on this expedition, Shackleton managed to put together the first book printed in the Polar regions, a collection of his journal entries and contributions by expedition members titled Aurora Australis.

In 1909 Shackleton returned to a hero's welcome in England, where he received a knighthood and went on a lecture tour to pay back the voyage's creditors. Before long, he was planning another attempt on the Pole. By August 1914, he was set to go just as World War I broke out. Although he offered to turn over his ship and his men to the British Admiralty, the government declined. However, the mood had changed somewhat. Originally a glorious adventure, Shackleton had begun to sell the journey as a patriotic part of the war effort, even referring to it as "white warfare" in a cable to London. Once again, Shackleton was his own chronicler, this time in South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-1917. In this memoir, with photographs from expedition member Frank Hurleyhe, Shackleton tells the story of the rough seas, the difficult landing, and the way the ice floes trapped and ultimately crushed the Endurance, forcing the expedition to make their way across the ice to Elephant Island, the nearest ice-free land. Leaving most of his party in this remote spot, in April 1916 Shackleton set off with five companions for South Georgia Island, a journey of 800 miles across rough and treacherous seas in a twenty-two-foot boat. Amazingly, the small force made it to South Georgia, and then crossed the unexplored interior to find a Norwegian whaling station on the north coast. After three failed attempts to make it back to Elephant Island, Shackleton finally succeeded in August, rescuing his entire party and bringing them safely to South America. As an Observer reviewer wrote, "It's a terrific yarn, and the original photographs are startlingly evocative." A Washington Post reviewer concluded, "Shackleton may have been a failed polar explorer, but, unlike [Robert F.] Scott, he was not also a failed leader." In 1922, on yet another Antarctic expedition, Shackleton suffered a heart attack and was buried at a whaling station on South Georgia Island.

Interest in Shackleton has longed survived him. In 1986 Christopher Ralling pulled together some of Shackleton's letters, diaries, and other pieces, including selections from Heart of the Antarctic; Being the Story of the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909 and South: The Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-1917, and published them as Shackleton: His Antarctic Writings. "Aside from the sheer adrenal interest in man-against-nature accounts, Shackleton happily boasts sublime passages of Antarctic description that make clear indeed why these explorers were lured back by the siren beauties of the ice world," concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor.



Albert, Marvin H., The Long White Road: Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic Adventures, McKay (New York, NY), 1957.

Alexander, Caroline, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.

Armstrong, Jennifer, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance, Crown (New York, NY), 1998.

Armstrong, Jennifer, Spirit of Endurance, Crown (New York, NY), 2000.

Baughman, T. H., Shackleton of the Antarctic, Eothen Press (Tallahassee, FL), 2002.

Begbie, Harold, Shackleton, a Memory, Mills and Boon (London, England), 1922.

Bickel, Lennard, Shackleton's Forgotten Argonauts, Macmillan (South Melbourne, Australia), 1982.

Bickel, Lennard, Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Bixby, William, The Impossible Journey of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1960.

Brown, Michael, Shackleton's Epic Voyage, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1969.

Calvert, Patricia, Sir Ernest Shackleton: By Endurance We Conquer, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-1930, Oxford University Press (London, England), 1937.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.

Explorers and Discoverers of the World, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Fisher, Margery Turner, Shackleton and the Antarctic, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1958.

Great Britons, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1985.

Grosvenor, Charles, The Forgotten: Dick Richards and Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-1917: A Narrative, Otterden Press (Pasadena, CA), 2000.

Heacox, Kim, Shackleton: The Antarctic Challenge, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1999.

Hooper, Meredith, The Endurance: Shackleton's Perilous Expedition in Antarctica, Abbeville Kids (New York, NY), 2001.

Hunford, Roland, Shackleton, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.

Hurley, Frank, Shackleton's Argonauts, a Saga of the Antarctic Ice-Packs, Angus and Robertson (Sydney, Australia), 1948.

Hurley, Frank, South with Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917: The Photographs of Frank Hurley, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

Hussey, Leonard Duncan Albert, South with Shackleton, Low (London, England), 1949.

Kostyal, K. M., Trial by Ice: A Photobiography of Sir Ernest Shackleton, National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), 1999.

Kulling, Monica, Sea of Ice: The Wreck of the Endurance, Random House (New York, NY), 1999.

Lansing, Alfred, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1959.

Lansing, Alfred, Shackleton's Valiant Voyage, Whittlesy House (New York, NY), 1960.

Marr, J. W. S., Into the Frozen South, Funk and Wagnalls (New York, NY), 1923.

Mill, Hugh Robert, The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Heinemann (London, England), 1923.

Modern Irish Lives, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996. Morrell, Margot, Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.

Perkins, Dennis N. T., Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition, Amacom (New York, NY), 2000.

Shackleton, Jonathan, Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2002.

Thomson, John, Shackleton's Captain: A Biography of Frank Worsley, Hazard Press (Christchurch, New Zealand), 1998.

White, Matt, Endurance: Shipwreck and Survival on a Sea of Ice, Capstone Curriculum (Mankato, MN), 2002.

Wild, Frank, Shackleton's Last Voyage: The Story of the Quest, Cassell (London, England; New York, NY), 1923.

Worsley, Frank Arthur, Endurance: An Epic of Polar Adventure, J. Cape and H. Smith (New York, NY), 1931.


Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 1986, review of Shackleton: His Antarctic Writings, pp. 1641-42.

Library Journal, November 1, 1999, review of The Heart of Antarctica, p. 130.

Observer (London, England), September 29, 1991, review of South, p. 61.

Washington Post, September 6, 1998, review of South, 12.*