A Brief Biography of Ernest Shackleton

By Tim Lambert

Ernest Shackleton was a great polar explorer. Ernest was born on 15 February 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland. His father, Henry was a farmer. His mother was called Henrietta. Ernest was the second of ten children. Ernest’s father gave up farming and trained to be a doctor. He moved with his family to London. Henry attended Dulwich College. He left in 1890 when he was 16 and he joined the merchant navy. In 1894 he qualified as a second mate. In 1898 Ernest qualified as a master mariner.

In 1901 Shackleton joined the National Antarctic Expedition, led by Robert Falcon Scott. The expedition sailed on a ship called the Discovery. Scott chose Shackleton to accompany him sledding towards the South Pole. (It was not an attempt to actually reach the South Pole but to go further south than anyone had previously traveled. They did.

Unfortunately on the journey back, Shackleton fell ill and when they arrived back at their ship Scott decided to send him home. He returned to Britain in a relief ship called Morning, which had arrived shortly before. On his return, Shackleton wrote an account of his adventure for a magazine.

In 1904 Ernest was appointed secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. The same year he married Emily Dorman. In 907 Shackleton led another expedition to the South Pole, in a ship called the Nimrod. They climbed Mount Erebus on Ross Island. Shackleton also came within 100 miles of the South Pole. When he returned to Britain Ernest was knighted.

In 1911 Amundsen reached the South Pole but in 1914 Shackleton led another expedition. This time he planned to sled across Antarctica via the South Pole. The expedition sailed in a ship called the Endurance. Unfortunately, in January 1915 the ship got trapped in ice and 10 months later it sank.

By then Shackleton and his men had abandoned the ship and were living on the floating ice. Fortunately, they had three boats and they managed to reach Elephant Island in April 1916. Shackelton and five other men set off in a boat to get help. They managed to reach South Georgia Island, about 800 miles away. It took them 16 days. They then had to cross the island to get to a whaling station. Shackleton managed to rescue the men on Elephant Island in August 1916.

Shackleton set off on his last expedition in 1920 in a ship called the Quest. He reached South Georgia on 4 January 1922. Sadly Ernest Shackleton died of a heart attack the next day, 5 January 1922. He was buried in South Georgia.