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Discovering Antarctica blog

The enduring legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton

The enduring legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton

100 years ago in November 1915 the polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship the Endurance was crushed and sunk in the sea ice of the Weddell Sea.

Shackleton had the aim of completing the first trans-Antarctic crossing of the Antarctic continent. Now his crew, who had no contact with the outside world, were now stranded on the ice with no prospect of rescue. What followed is one of the most enduring stories of human endurance and fortitude. Using three small boats the crew reached the relative safety of Elephant Island, an inhospitable rocky outcrop.

Then Shackleton sailed in the James Caird 800 miles through the treacherous Southern Ocean and crossed South Georgia’s uncharted glaciers before help could be provided and his crew safely rescued.

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Blissett and Plumley with bags of penguin eggs 1901, National Antarctic Expedition 1901 – 1904, C. Royds

The scientific work now undertaken in Antarctica owes much to the expeditions undertaken by explorers such as Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen in the early 20th Century who opened up this frozen continent to exploration, scientific enquiry and to the public.

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By Steve Brace

Steve leads the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)’s educational work to support and improve the teaching and learning of geography in the classroom and beyond.

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