Sir Ernest Shackleton

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Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was one of the most well-known polar explorers of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He entered the merchant navy at the age of 16 and rose through the ranks to become a master mariner. He traveled much, but he was particularly interested in exploring the poles. He was a member of three Antarctic missions, the first of which was commanded by British naval commander Robert Falcon Scott on board the ship Discovery,’ and the other two by him aboard the ships ‘Nimrod’ and’Endurance,’ respectively. His ship, the ‘Endurance,’ became stranded in the ice during his third trip to the Antarctic and sank 10 months later. His crew had already left the ship to live on the floating ice and had arrived at Elephant Island. Shackleton set off in a tiny boat with five crew members in search of assistance, traveling 1,300 kilometers of ocean in 16 days to reach South Georgia, where he hiked across the island to a whaling station. The ‘Endurance”s surviving men were rescued. As Time magazine phrased it, his incredible story of surviving for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic waters “defined heroism.” The activities of this once-forgotten explorer have elevated him to a remarkable role model for leadership and a well-known figure in crisis management.

Childhood and Adolescence

Ernest Shackleton was the second of ten children born to Henry Shackleton and Henrietta Letitia Sophia Gavan on February 15, 1874, in Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland.

Henry Shackleton opted to study medicine at Trinity College, Dublin when Ernest was six years old and moved his family to the city. They moved to Sydenham, a London suburb, four years later.

He was educated by a governess until the age of eleven, after which he attended Fir Lodge Preparatory School in Dulwich, London. He enrolled in Dulwich College at the age of thirteen.

The career of Sir Ernest Shackleton

He wanted to go to the sea because he was bored with his studies. His father was able to gain him a berth aboard the square-rigged sailing ship Hoghton Tower with the North-Western Shipping Company.
He became a Master Mariner in 1898, allowing him to command a British ship anywhere in the globe, and joined the Union-Castle Line, where he was transferred to the Tintagel Castle due to the Boer War.

He met Llewellyn W. Longstaff, the principal financial backer of the National Antarctic Expedition, which was being organized in London at the time, in 1900. Sir Clements Markham, the expedition’s overlord, was nominated by Longstaff.

In 1901, he was assigned the third officer to the expedition’s ship Discovery and commissioned into the Royal Marine as a sublieutenant in the Reserves, ending his merchant navy career.
Robert Falcon Scott conducted the Discovery Expedition, which was the brainchild of Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society. The Discovery set sail from London on July 31, 1901, and arrived on the Antarctic shore on January 8, 1902.

He traveled with Scott and Wilson on the expedition’s quest for the highest possible latitude in the direction of the South Pole, and they set a record of 82° 17′ for the Farthest South latitude.

The march back to the ship was extremely difficult, and he was unable to fulfill his duties. In February 1903, the party arrived to the ship, and Scott sent him home on the relief ship.

After failing to acquire a regular appointment in the Royal Navy upon his return to England, he became a journalist, working for the Royal Magazine, but he found it uninteresting.
Between 1904 and 1907, he held the position of secretary of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, became a stakeholder in a corporation, and ran for the General Election as a liberal candidate.

He submitted his plans for a British Antarctic expedition to the Royal Geographic Society in February 1907. The objective was to conquer both the geographical and magnetic South Poles.

He put in long hours and persuaded some wealthy friends to contribute to the Nimrod expedition. On January 1, 1908, Nimrod set sail for the Antarctic from Lyttelton Harbor, New Zealand. On January 29, 1908, Nimrod arrived at McMurdo Sound. His base was finally created at Cape Royds after many delays due to inclement weather.
Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian adventurer, was the first person to set foot on the South Pole in 1911. Shackleton had established a new goal for himself: reaching Antarctica through the South Pole.

In 1914, he set off for the South Pole in the ship Endurance. Shackleton was forced to abandon the ship (which later sank) and set up camp on the floating ice after the Endurance became caught in the ice.
They believed the ice would drift towards Paulet Island, where they might gain access to stockpiled supplies. But that didn’t happen, so they boarded their lifeboats and headed towards Elephant Island.

The crew landed their three lifeboats at Elephant Island, 346 miles from where the Endurance perished, after five traumatic days at sea. It was the first time they had stood on solid ground in 497 days.
He returned to Elephant Island on August 25, 1916, to rescue the remaining members of his crew. During the nearly two years they were stuck, none of his 28-man squad died.

Achievements & Awards

Shackleton was awarded the Polar Medal with clasps, knighted in 1909, and appointed Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Foreign countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Russia, Italy, Prussia, and Chile honored him with silver and gold medals, and he earned at least 25 silver and gold medals from cities and geographical societies all over the world.

The expedition was led by Shackleton Wild, Eric Marshall, and Jameson Adams “From their base, they embarked on the “Great Southern Journey,” and on January 9, 1909, they got closer to the pole, arriving within 97 miles of it.
Shackleton sailed with a group of five others from Elephant Island to South Georgia in a 22-foot lifeboat. The crew arrived on the island sixteen days later, allowing him to arrange a rescue mission.

Personal History and Legacy

In 1904, at Christ Church, Westminster, he married Emily Mary Dorman. Raymond, Cecily, and Edward were their three children. He was a womanizer and a bad parent and spouse to his children.
Onboard the Quest, he died of Coronary Thrombosis on his fourth journey to Antarctica on January 5, 1922. After a brief funeral at the Lutheran church, he was buried in the Grytviken cemetery in South Georgia.

Ernest Shackleton’s Net Worth

Ernest is one of the wealthiest explorers and one of the most well-known. Ernest Shackleton’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


This renowned explorer is commemorated in one of the halls of residence for Merchant Navy Officer Cadets at Warsash Maritime Academy, one of Britain’s Merchant Navy Training Colleges.

The 137th anniversary of this Irish explorer’s birth was commemorated with a Google Doodle on the company’s homepage, as well as a Christie’s auction of a cookie he handed “a hungry fellow explorer”