Shackleton of the South Atlantic

One of the things that Ernest Shackleton could not be accused of was “feeling the cold”. The man dedicated his life to the pursuit of exploring, and trying to reach, the South Pole. Maybe he had an overriding urge to be truly upside down or something. Nevertheless, we cannot fault his bravery and drive to tackle one of the most, and is still today, harshest environments that humans have encountered. Nor can we discount his many more successful, colleagues, such as Robert Scott and Edward Wilson. Wilson being a Gloucestershire resident could have probably suggested someone for a boiler installation Gloucester way or better still on the ship they took the Discovery. A quick trip to would have sorted them out.

Born of Irish and English stock Shackleton was a man for crises. Whilst other Antarctic explorer are praised for the method speed and skill if the chips were down then Shackleton was the man to step up and get you out of it. He was not part of Scott’s ill-fated and disappointing although successful journey to reach the Pole first and perhaps if they had the tenacious Shackleton they may have survived. He was the type of person always looking for a get rich quick scheme that never paid of for him.  Leaving school at 16 he was apparently never one for studying he began working on merchant shipping. After many years, as luck would have it, he fell in with a Cedric Longstaff whose Dad was funding a trip to the Antarctic for exploration. Shackleton blagged an interview and so impressed Longstaff senior that he basically told the recruiting officer to give Shackleton a job.

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At the end of the 19th Century with the British Empire still strong exploring new lands to exploit for “Scientific purposes”, was very much the rage. The Antarctic was one of those goals so off the Discovery went. It’s strengthened hull breaking through the ice sheet and contained correctly installed boiler units to keep the crew in tea. Shackleton had a few scientific roles to fulfil as third officer, but he exceeded by far at the role of Entertainments. He even organised a play when the Discovery got stuck for several months. This went against Scott’s leadership style which, as a military man was more strict and regimented.

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However, Scott asked him to go, along with Wilson, on an attempt at the Pole. The three men got as far south as anyone had got before but had to turn back when all their 22 huskie dogs died. It was an amazing trek back in the freezing cold wind and temperatures. All three had to pull a sledge and covered over 150 miles to get to safety. For Shackleton this was all too much, and Scott sent him back on the recovery ship as he was too ill to continue. He was subsequently not included in Scott’s main attempt years later.  Not bad considering it turns out he had a congenital heart condition.

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