SHACKLETON LECTURES, Parts I & II
My Title this evening is: Ernest Shackleton. British Antarctic Explorer
In the early 1900's Ernest Shackleton ..set a goal for himself.
He wanted to be the first man ..to reach the South Pole
Shackleton was Anglo Irish. .He was Born in Ireland in 1874
his family were Quakers .. originally from England
As he grew up his restless character became apparent
He went to sea as a merchant sailor .at an young age,
Later on he was introduced to. Captain Robert Scott of the British Navy
And this led to S's interest in Antarctic exploration
Shackleton was a dreamer .he had a huge imagination.
He loved poetry he had memorized a lot of poetry in school
He frequently entertained his men with poetry while at sea
He was also a dreamer financially
When he was not exploring he participated in many schemes
intended .to make a fortune for his family
Howeverthese invariably failed
But.. He never seemed discouraged by this
It was an example of his eternal optimism..
Perhaps this was an Irish trait.
It was this optimism .
which saw him through the many dangers of Polar travel
Shackleton's first voyage to the Antarctic
Was led by Captain Robert Scott in1901
They sailed from New Zealand to the Ross Sea in Antarctica,
Where. they set up a shore camp..and from there
Scott and Shackleton and a third member of the party
set off ..on foot.. for the South Pole
They did this despite the fact that they were very poorly prepared.
they had no experience whatsoever .in Polar exploration
But.They did not see this as a problem
To them, It was simply a matter of attitude.
After all They were British,
They thought that walking to the South Pole
Which was a distance of some hundreds of miles. should pose no difficulty..
Now to make things easier in Polar travel..the Norwegians
Had already.developed. three important innovations
These were the use of skis.. and sled dogs and warm clothing
But the British.. refused to adopt these methods
Their method was simply to .manhaul their heavy sleds behind them,
without suitable clothing and without the use of skis or pack animals
The consequence of this was .that Scott's first expedition was a miserable failure
He did not get anywhere near the Pole..
And the trip .Ended very badly for Shackleton
He collapsed on the return journey ..
He had to be transported to the base camp on a sled
Which wasDragged along by his two colleagues
From there he was packed off .back to England on another ship
He was suffering from scurvy and heart trouble
And by now he and Scott were virtual enemies
Shackleton's future as a polar explorer. did not look promising
However as always..he was not discouraged
In 1910 he led his own expedition to the South Pole
And This proved to be .a Tremendous adventure indeed
On this occasion he did bring along . a number of ponies to haul the sleds
But unfortunately. these ponies all quickly died en route
So the expedition had to fall back on the old method of manhauling their loaded sleds
At that time.The Antarctic was unmapped and unknown
The greatest barrier between the explorers and the Pole
was the Transantarctic Mountain range
Somehow Shackleton had to find his way across these mountains.
Here he got lucky.he stumbled on a glacier.which he named the Beardmore glacier
Which was located in a pass in the mountain range
He was able to climb up this glacier.onto the Polar plateau
And miraculously he and his men got to within 100 miles of the Pole.
But the cost was very high
There were in desperate shape..they were almost out of provisions
They were continuously hypothermic ..
which is to say they were half frozen,.all of the time
And The weather, which had been unusually goodwas now threatening
So Shackleton had to decide whether to continue on, risking all, .or to turn back
But, as always.. His foremost concern was for the welfare of his men
So now. having got so very close to the Pole.
he decided to turn back
It must have been an agonizing decision
But. it proved to be the right one
And as it was the party only just survived the return journey.
Not long after, in 1911a Norwegian, Raold Amundsen
Using skis, sled dogs and warm clothing
became the first to reach the South Pole,
and soon after that. Captain Robert Scott..also reached the Pole
But tragically Scott and his men froze to death.on the return journey.
So For his 2nd Polar expedition, despite its failings
Ernest Shackleton was considered a hero by the British public
In1914 Shackleton led a 3rd expedition .
His goal this timewas to cross the Antarctic continent from one side to the other
This expedition also failed.. and again in a dramatic way
I will tell you more about that expedition..some other time
Finally 7 years later. in 1921 a 4th expedition was mounted
The mission this time .was to sail around the Antartic
but by now Shackleton .was a mere shell of his former self
He died in 1922 at age 48. as the 4th expedition was leaving South Georgia Island
which is just at the northern limits of the Antarctic Ocean
He was buried in a Norwegian cemetery
at the whaling station ..in Grytviken on South Georgia
This was of course was somewhat ironic
As he had spent much of his life resisting Norwegian ideas
So after a life of incredible adventureShackleton was finally at rest.
Second Shackleton Lecture: Ernest Shackleton, Success or Failure ?
Tonight I would like to return once again
To the subject of British Antarctic explorer .Ernest Shackleton
You may recall .that a few months ago
I discussed E's. 2nd expedition. to the Antarctic
But This evening ..I want to come right to the point .about E and his "so called" career:
The question is. Was ES a success. or was he a failure?
My view is.. that ..although as an explorer
he failed to reach his goals,
As a man.. he had certain personal qualities.including
courage. optimismand leadership .
and as such his life was a great success
Let me present some evidence.. to support this view.
First of all. what were his failures?
Well, In the 1st expedition .. led by Robert Scott in 1901
they never got anywhere near the South Pole.
On his 2nd expedition in 1910Ernest got much closer to the Pole
But ..he never did actually get there. Either then or ever
In his 3rd expedition..intending to cross the Antarctic continent
E was not even able. to make a landing ..on the continent,
Ant on his 4th expedition of 1921
in which he planned to sail around Antarctica
E died on South Georgia Island, while preparing for the journey
So with all of these apparent failures..what were E's successes?
Well, as I mentioned his success came through his personal qualities of .
optimism & courage & leadership
and there are many examples..from his 20 year career as an explorer...
For instance, In his 2nd expedition . As we heard last time
His party travelled.over 900 miles of frozen uncharted Antarctic desert
to within 97 miles of his goal. the South Pole
at which point.he decided to turn back and why was this?
Well, As a leader, his first consideration ..was not.achieving his goal
it was always.for the safety of his men..which was severely compromised
But let's move on tonight .to the even more incredible
3rd expedition .of 1914 -1916
This was a privately sponsored expedition which E himself organized
Primarily through his own personal powers of persuasion .and fund raising
He secured a 300 ton wooden ship, called Endurance
Along with the services of . 27 British scientists and sailors
But unfortunately. this trip was one long series of problems
from beginning to end..
starting. on the very day that they were to sail from England.
Aug 1, 1914was the day that Germany declared war on Russia
which meant that ..the British Navy would not be available
To support Ernest's expedition in the event of trouble..
of which, as it turned out.. there was plenty
Nonetheless Endurance sailed from England first to the island of South Georgia
Then in Dec 1914.on towards Antarctica
Unfortunately . ice conditions were terrible
The ship became entrapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea. in Jan 1915
And over the next 10 months ..the men and the ship .drifted with the ice flow
hundreds of miles to the north west. Away from their destination
Until the ship eventually sank in Nov 1915
the crew was left on the ice flow
to subsist.on seals and sled dogs and penguins
They finally reached Elephant Island
Which was a desolate island in the Antarctic archipelago
But they were now stranded there was no hope of rescue from the outside world
So in a desperate attempt.. to save his men
E announced that he and 5 other volunteers would sail one of the lifeboats
800 miles across the Southern Ocean. back to South Georgia ..
Now the Southern O..is said to be the stormiest sea on earth..
The gales are continuous The skies are constantly cloudy
The waves are HUGE..a mile apart and hundreds of miles wide
? Who knows how high
And it was into the freezing cold ..of this boiling ocean
That these six men sailed in their tiny 22 foot sailboat
Without even the benefit of.waterproof clothing
Their chances of survival seem vanishingly small
However . E did not betray to his men..any of his concern about their prospects
His antidote to the terror of the Southern Ocean
was hot milk and hot food ..served as often as possible to his men
Navigation is a big problem.their instruments are very primitive
They only get 4 sightings of the sun.. during the whole 16 day voyage
Half way through the voyagethere is a display of E 'incredible 6th sense as a sailor
purely on instinct He decides to alter the navigator's calculated course by a few points
and after two weeks at sealow and behold,.they approach South Georgia Island
without the course alteration .they would have overshot the island
and out into the South Atlantic..
But.. their problems continue
They run out of drinking water .and they run into a Hurricane
And when they finally do land.. it's on the wrong side of the island
There is a mountain range Between them
and the safety of the whaling stations .on the other side
Ernest sets off again this time on foot with 2 of his men,
they walk for two nights and a day .. over the mountains of south Georgia
and they finally arrive.
at the west coast whaling station .that they had left 18 mos before
The station manager.a good friend of E'
Does even recognize him at firstso poor is their condition
Shackleton's daring escape from E Island .has proved successful
And eventually he is able to rescue. all of the men left behind
In conclusion then.. as you have heard
The totality of the Shackleton expeditions ..is rather overwhelming
He consistently failed to reach the defined goals of his journeys
But the British public of the time correctly regarded him as a national hero
He was obviously a man of incredible courage and leadership.
As such I believe ..that his life was a great success.