Shackleton – The Greatest Ever Explorer?

By Expeditions / 06 June 2016

Shackleton – The Greatest Ever Explorer?

The Anglo-Irish explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the leading men of what’s known as the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration' and is a worthy contender for being the greatest ever explorer.

The Anglo-Irish explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of the leading men of what’s known as the ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’, and is a worthy contender for being the greatest ever explorer. Here’s why:

1. Number of expeditions

Shackleton was a principal figure of the ‘heroic age of Antarctic exploration – having been involved in a total of four polar expeditions and leading 3 of them.

His first experience of the great white continent was in 1901 to 1903 as a 3rd officer aboard Captain Scott’s RRS Discovery where he took part in one of the first marches to the south pole.

Shackleton was back in the area again with his 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition reaching the farthest southern latitude, 112 miles from the pole, discovering the Beardmore Glacier and climbing Mount Erebus en-route. He was welcomed back home as a hero.

The best-known Shackleton expedition was the Trans-Antarctic 1914-17 trip. It was during this attempt to cross Antarctica that his ship, ‘Endurance’ became fast in the ice and sank.  He and his team were forced to camp on the ice for 2 months. Shackleton and a smaller group then sailed a small boat in the open seas for 15 days, surviving hurricane force winds, climbing unforgiving landscapes of South Georgia for 36 hours to reach help. It’s this story that made him legendary.

In 1922, during his final expedition – the circumnavigation of the Antarctic continent –  Shackleton’s Antarctic adventures came to an end. He suffered a fatal heart attack before the start of his attempt and was buried on South Georgia island.

2. A great leader as well as a great explorer

Perhaps what set Shackleton apart from the other great explorers of the age are his leadership skills. He was able to communicate with his teams and keep them focused and loyal during long and challenging expeditions. He stayed calm under serious pressure and terrible conditions, often making order out of chaos and then finally pulling out all the stops to save his crew. Recently, his story is being used to teach corporate executives in today’s business world about the values of true leadership.

3. Recognition amongst his peers

Shackleton’s full contribution to exploration was not fully appreciated until thirty years after his death, but he always had the respect of his loyal crews and his peers. One of his contemporaries aboard Scott’s Terra Nova expedition noted: “For a joint scientific and geographical piece of organisation – give me Scott. For a winter journey, Wilson. For a dash to the pole and nothing else, Amundsen but if I am the devil of a hole and need to get out, give me Shackleton every time!”


How to follow in the wake of Shackleton:

Antarctica is still a remote and harsh environment, however, with modern expedition ships, it’s possible for anyone to follow in Shackleton’s trails of adventure and discovery. Expeditions Online are specialists in expedition and nature cruises – and feature a number of different expeditions travelling to South Georgia or the Ross Sea that allow you to do just this.

Antarctic voyages including South Georgia such as: Classic South GeorgiaPenguin SafariSouth Georgia SpringShackleton Centenary VoyageIn Shackleton's Footsteps, and Falklands, South Georgia, Antarctica will have you re-plotting many of his journeys. Once you are there, you’ll be able to stand on Antarctica yourself. In South Georgia, you’ll also be able to raise a toast to Shackleton at his final resting place in South Georgia, as well as view extraordinary wildlife, walk amongst King Penguin colonies and see amazing harems of elephant seals. Or join an epic adventure far South to Antarctica’s remote Ross Sea coastline. On an expedition such as Wake of Scott & Shackleton you sail from Hobart, Australia to Antarctica's seldom-seen and spectacular Ross Sea, with its mountains, ice-shelves, abundant wildlife and fascinating history, including the intact expedition huts of Scott and Shackleton’s South Pole expeditions. It’s like a step back in time more than 100 years!

For more information on expedition cruises to some of the most wonderful travel destinations on the planet, visit the Expeditions Online website.


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