Ernest Shackleton

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Ernest Shackleton (15 February 1874 – 5 January 1922) was an Anglo-Irish explorer.

Early life[change | change source]

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born at Kilkea, County Kildare, Ireland. The Shackletons were originally from Yorkshire. The first member of this family was Abraham Shackleton, a Quaker, who moved to Ireland early in the 18th century and started a school at Ballitore, near Dublin. His father, Henry, wanted to enter the army but his poor health prevented him.

Ernest's mother, born Henrietta Letitia Sophia Ganan, married his father in 1872, bringing some Irish blood into the Anglo-Irish family. When he was 33 years old, Henry Shackleton left his farm to go to Trinity College in Dublin to start a new career in medicine.

Antarctica[change | change source]

Shackleton first went to the Antarctic on Captain Robert Scott's 1901-1904 expedition but he was sent home as he was ill. In 1907, he went back to the Antarctic and in January 1909 was part of a group who walked further south than anyone had ever been before, travelling to within 190 kilometres of the South Pole. In 1912 the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the leader of the first group to reach the South Pole. Shackleton decided on a new target, he wanted to walk across Antarctica from one side to the other crossing the South Pole in the middle.

Disaster struck when his ship, called Endurance, was trapped in the ice. They spent 281 days on board waiting for the ice to break again, but the boat was slowly crushed to pieces. Shackleton and his men dragged their lifeboats over many miles of snow and ice to reach sea. They set sail in the lifeboats and eventually reached Elephant Island. In April 1916, Shackleton and four others sailed hundreds of miles to South Georgia to get help at the whaling station there. This was a journey of 1300 kilometres and took 16 days. Unfortunately the boat he was in landed on the wrong side of the island and they had to climb over the mountainous middle section to reach the whaling station. A rescue party saved everyone from Elephant Island in August 1916.

In 1921, Shackleton returned to the Antarctic, intending to carry out a programme of scientific activities. Before the expedition could begin this work, Shackleton died of a heart attack on 5 January 1922 while his ship, Quest, was moored in South Georgia. At his wife's request, he was buried there.