Childhood & Early Life
Ernest Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874 in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland, to Henry Shackleton, and Henrietta Letitia Sophia Gavan and was the second of ten children.
In 1880, when Ernest was six, Henry Shackleton decided to study medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, and moved his family into the city. Four years later, they shifted to Sydenham in suburban London.
A voracious reader, he was schooled by a governess until the age of eleven and then at Fir Lodge Preparatory School in Dulwich, London. At the age of thirteen, he entered Dulwich College.
Restless and bored of studies, he decided to go to sea. His father was able to secure him a berth with the North Western Shipping Company, aboard the square-rigged sailing ship, Hoghton Tower.
In 1898, he was certified Master Mariner, qualifying him to command a British ship anywhere in the world, and joined the Union-Castle Line and transferred to the Tintagel Castle because of the Boer War.
In 1900, he was introduced to Llewellyn W. Longstaff the main financial backer of the National Antarctic Expedition then being organized in London. Longstaff recommended him to Sir Clements Markham, the expedition's overlord.
He was appointed third officer to the expedition's ship Discovery in 1901 and commissioned into the Royal Navy, with the rank of sub-lieutenant in the Reserves and thus his merchant navy services ended.
The Discovery Expedition, the brainchild of Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, was led by Robert Falcon Scott. Discovery departed London on 31st July 1901 and arrived at the Antarctic coast on 8th January 1902.
He accompanied Scott and Wilson on the expedition's journey to achieve the highest possible latitude in the direction of the South Pole and they set a record of Farthest South latitude of 82° 17′.
The march back to the ship was very difficult and he could not carry out his responsibilities. The party reached the ship in February 1903 and Scott sent him home on the relief ship.
On his return to England, his attempt to secure regular commission in the Royal Navy failed and he became a journalist, working for the Royal Magazine, but he did not find it interesting.
Between 1904 and 1907, he accepted the secretaryship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, became a shareholder in a company and stood as liberal candidate in the General Election.
In February 1907, he presented to the Royal Geographic Society his plans for a British Antarctic expedition. The aim was the conquest of both the geographical South Pole and the South Magnetic Pole.
He worked hard and persuaded some wealth friends to contribute towards the expedition named Nimrod expedition. Nimrod sailed for the Antarctic from Lyttelton Harbor, New Zealand on January 01, 1908. Nimrod arrived at McMurdo Sound on 29 January 1908. After considerable delays due to bad weather, his base was eventually established at Cape Royds.
In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to set foot on the South Pole. Shackleton now set his sights on a new mark: crossing Antarctica via the South Pole.
In 1914, he departed on the ship Endurance to the South Pole. Endurance got trapped in ice, forcing Shackleton to abandon the ship (that eventually sank), and set up camp on the floating ice.
They hoped that the ice would drift towards Paulet Island where they could access cached provisions. But it did not happen and they decided to head for the Elephant Island on their lifeboats.
After five harrowing days at sea, the men landed their three lifeboats at Elephant Island, 346 miles from where the Endurance sank, the first time they had stood on solid ground in 497 days.
On August 25, 1916, he returned to Elephant Island to rescue the remaining members of his crew. Amazingly, none of his 28-men team died during the nearly two years they were stranded.
Shackleton received the Polar Medal with clasps, was honored with a knighthood in 1909, made the Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and the Officer of the Order of the British Empire
He was decorated by foreign countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Russia, Italy, Prussia and Chile and received at least 25 silver and gold medals from Cities and Geographical Societies around the world.
Shackleton Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Adams, undertook the "Great Southern Journey” from their base, and on 9 January 1909 reached closer to the Farthest South latitude, coming within 97 miles of the pole.
Shackleton led a team of five others from the inhospitable Elephant Island aboard a 22-foot lifeboat toward South Georgia. Sixteen days later the crew reached the island, enabling him to organize a rescue effort.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Emily Mary Dorman at Christ Church, Westminster in 1904. They had three children, Raymond, Cecily and Edward. He was a womanizer and not a good husband or father to his children.
On his fourth trip to Antarctica, he died from Coronary Thrombosis on 5 January 1922 on board the Quest. He was buried in the Grytviken cemetery, South Georgia, after a short service in the Lutheran church.