You are here: History > Explorers > Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton

Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922), Anglo-Irish polar explorer A British expedition to cross Antarctica from coast to coast set sail in Endurance from South Georgia, on 5th December 1914. The crew of 27 men was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, an experienced polar explorer. Endurance was to sail across the iceberg-infested Weddell Sea to Antarctica, but she never made her destination. The sea froze and the ship became trapped in the pack ice. After drifting northwards, she eventually broke up. Shackleton and his crew crossed to Elephant Island in lifeboats. Then, leaving behind most of his crew on the island, Shackleton and five companions set off for South Georgia to seek help. Nearly five months later, the rest of the crew on Elephant Island were picked up. Not a single life was lost on the expedition.

The Endurance sails across the Weddell Sea before the disaster.
The Endurance is stuck in sea ice.

Trapped in ice

Endurance was only about 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the coastline of the Antarctic continent when, on 18th January 1915, ice floes packed around the ship. She was stuck fast: “frozen like an almond in a piece of toffee”, as one crew member wrote. The crew tried to free her, but to no avail. Shackleton knew she would be trapped until the spring, which, as they were in the southern hemisphere, would arrive in September.

Shackleton was not deterred from Antarctic exploration by the disaster of his 1914–1917 expedition. He returned in 1921, but before the expedition could begin, he died of a heart attack in South Georgia.


Find the answer