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The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition


Sir Ernest Shackleton was one of several notable explorers of the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration. Not satisfied with his achievements on Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery and his own Nimrod Expeditions, he organized the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Because the South Pole had already been reached by the time he organized the expedition, Shackleton's goal was to traverse the continent on foot. Unfortunately he never achieved his goal. The ship became locked in the freezing Weddell Sea before the group reached their first landing on Antarctic soil. The crew sat helplessly as their ship, the Endurance, travelled through the icy waters, pushed along by ice floes. Eventually, with ice crushing the Endurance, they were forced to abandon the ship, which sunk on November 21, 1915.


Shackleton's new goal was to save the life of his men. He determined that the crew would cross the ice on foot, but abandoned the idea after two attempts due to the difficulty of travelling on rough, cracked ice. The party camped on the ice for months until the ice floe they had inhabited cracked, leaving a dangerously small area for their camp. photoThey loaded their supplies into three life boats and traveled to the closest land, the uninhabited Elephant Island. Shackleton then took five men and set sail in a barely seaworthy lifeboat to the nearest inhabited land, the island of South Georgia. Miraculously, Shackleton survived the journey and eventually rescued his entire crew, without a single human life lost. Ernest Shackleton is remembered as a hero of the Polar Exploration Age and an exceptional leader of men.

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Video by Dale Fitzgerald

Video by Thom Bertelson