“I always feel as long as I am doing the work and getting through the fight that all is well.”

— letter to Emily Shackleton


[Upon Shackleton’s return to England and the Great War, reception was markedly… subdued. Even, and perhaps especially after, the war’s end, his speaking engagements were sparsely attended. Survival was not a popular theme after the devastation of WWI; death took narrative precedence for decades. The story of the Endurance held interest for only a relative few until the very end of the 20th century, when audiences began to return in droves, hungry for more books, films, websites… even reenactments (including, of course, @EShackleton).

Were he alive today, the Boss would be pleased, no doubt. Speaking engagements would not be difficult to find, nor, one suspects, would money. But even more than enjoying his fame, he would be itching to dart away from civilization, back to the inhospitable and the unknown, to venture onward. To boldly go where no man has gone before.]


A crossing of South Georgia Island was not attempted again until 1954, when the South Georgia Survey was completed.

The first crossing of Antarctica occurred in 1957-58:
The 1955–58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition (CTAE) was a Commonwealth-sponsored expedition that successfully completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica, via the South Pole. It was [also] the first expedition to reach the South Pole overland for 46 years, preceded only by Amundsen’s and Scott’s respective parties in 1911 and 1912. […] The second crossing of the continent did not happen until 1981.
— wikipedia


Books, films, websites:
There’s no shortage of Shackleton! See the Resources tab on this website for what I recommend.

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Shackleton’s grave, Grytviken, South Georgia

“In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover
Gem-like above the bay.”
— Ernest Shackleton, last words in diary

Grave of Ernest Shackleton

“I think this is as “the Boss” would have had it himself, standing lonely in an island far from civilisation, surrounded by stormy tempestuous seas, & in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits.”

— Alexander Macklin

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A wonderful evening

“At last we came to anchor in Grytviken. How familiar the coast seemed as we passed down: we saw with full interest the places we struggled over after the boat journey… The old familiar smell of dead whale permeates everything. It is a strange and curious place… A wonderful evening.”

— Ernest Shackleton, 4 January 1922

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All aboard the Quest

Shackleton and Worsley aboard the Quest, 1921

Shackleton and Worsley aboard the Quest, 1921

The Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, 1921-22.

Crew of the Quest.

Crew of the Quest.

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The fate of the crew

The Endurance:


McCarthy, the best and most efficient of the sailors, always cheerful under the most trying circumstances, and who for these very reasons I chose to accompany me on the boat journey to South Georgia, was killed at his gun in the Channel.”

Cheetham, the veteran of the Antarctic, who had been more often south of the Antarctic Circle than any man, was drowned when the vessel he was serving in was torpedoed, a few weeks before the Armistice.”

“The two surgeons, Macklin and McIlroy, served in France and Italy, McIlroy being badly wounded at Ypres.”

Frank Wild, in view of his unique experience of ice and ice conditions, was at once sent to the North Russian front, where his zeal and ability won him the highest praise.”

Macklin served first with the Yorks and later transferred as medical officer to the Tanks, where he did much good work. Going to the Italian front with his battalion, he won the Military Cross for bravery in tending wounded under fire.”

James joined the Royal Engineers, Sound-Ranging Section, and after much front-line work was given charge of a Sound-Ranging School to teach other officers this latest and most scientific addition to the art of war.”

Wordie went to France with the Royal Field Artillery and was badly wounded at Armentières.”

Hussey was in France for eighteen months with the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving in every big battle from Dixmude to Saint-Quentin.”

Worsley, known to his intimates as Depth-Charge Bill, owing to his success with that particular method of destroying German submarines, has the Distinguished Service Order and three submarines to his credit.”

Clark served on a minesweeper.”

Greenstreet was employed with the barges on the Tigris.”

Rickenson was commisioned as Engineer-Lieutenant.”

R.N. Kerr returned to the Merchant Service as an engineer.”

“Most of the crew of the Endurance served on minesweepers.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South

Blackboro: On return from the Antarctic, Blackborow spent three months in a hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile, recovering from the frostbite damage sustained to his left foot. He volunteered for war service in the Royal Navy, but was turned down due to the amputation of the toes of his left foot. He was accepted by the Merchant Navy where he served until 1919.

Crean: Once again on his return to England, Crean resumed his naval career at Chatham. For the rest of the First World War, Crean served in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Colleen. In 1927 Tom opened a pub in Annascaul, “The South Pole Inn” (still in business today).

Orde-Lees: On return to England after the expedition, he served in the Balloon Service and saw action on the Western front. With Shackleton’s help, he joined the Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.) and was a pioneering figure in parachute jumping. On one occasion, he jumped off the top of Tower Bridge into the River Thames, only about 160 or so feet below to convince the British Military of the usefulness of the parachute. Although this was just a stunt, it seemed to do the trick and the R.F.C. formed a parachute division with Orde-Lees in command.

McNeish: After the expedition McNish returned to the Merchant Navy and worked on various ships. He often complained that the extreme cold and soaking conditions he had experienced in the boat journey on the James Caird had left him so that his bones permanently ached. Other people who knew him say that he would often refuse to shake hands because of the pain.

Hurley: After the Expedition, Hurley became a noted army photographer in the First World War, then became the go-to photographer for expeditions to the tropic regions. He returned to the Antarctic in 1929.
Hurley’s photos of WWI

Marston: On return from the expedition Marston taught at Bedales school in Petersfield from 1918 to 1922. In 1925, he joined the Rural Industries Bureau (RIB) as Handicrafts Adviser, having always been a lover rural life and countryside matters, he was appointed Assistant Director in 1931 and Director in 1934.

The Aurora:


Stenhouse, who commanded the Aurora after Mackintosh landed, was with Worsley as his second in command when one of the German submarines was rammed and sunk, and received the D.S.C. for his share in the fight. He was afterwards given command of a Mystery Ship, and fought several actions with enemy submarines.”

Ernest Wild, Frank Wild’s brother, was killed while mine-sweeping in the Mediterranean.”

Mauger, the carpenter on the Aurora, was badly wounded while serving with the New Zealand infantry, so that he is unable to follow his trade again. He is now employed by the New Zealand government.”

Hooke, the wireless operator, now navigates an airship.”

“Of the Ross Sea Party, Mackintosh, Hayward, and Spencer-Smith died for their country as surely as any who gave up their lives on the fields of France and Flanders.”

“Nearly all of the crew of the Aurora joined the New Zealand Field Forces and saw active service in one or other of the many theaters of war.”

— Ernest Shackleton, South


Read more:
Brief biographies of the crew of the Endurance at

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The Ross Sea Party

Ross Sea party members: Back row from left: Joyce, Hayward, Cope, Spencer-Smith. Centre: Mackintosh third from left, Stenhouse fourth from left.

Ross Sea party members: Back row from left: Joyce, Hayward, Cope, Spencer-Smith. Centre: Mackintosh third from left, Stenhouse fourth from left. Photo by Frank Hurley. (Wikipedia)

A close reporting of the fate of the Ross Sea Party has been outside the scope of this narration, as Shackleton had no way of receiving news from them until some of his party had reached South Georgia, the telegraph office, and news, in 1916. The Aurora was the second ship of the Expedition, meant to sail to the Ross Sea on the other side of the continent, and to cache depots of supplies at calculated intervals between the Pole and the sea on that side. Thus (in the original plan) when the Endurance landed at Vahsel Bay and Shackleton’s shore party hiked to the Pole and past, they would only need to sledge supplies for half the voyage, and would retrieve the depots in sequence as they completed the full crossing.

The trans-Antarctic crossing did not happen, but the Aurora fulfilled her directive, and the sledging party laid depots as instructed well inland. But on their return to the shore, they found that the Aurora had been blown out to sea with most of the men, and stranded those remaining on the far side of the continent. The ship was solidly encased in a sturdy floe, which had detached from the pack and been blown far out to sea by a blizzard, and there drifted helplessly for almost 10 months. Finally it broke free of the floe and managed to limp back to New Zealand. The shore party believed the Aurora lost at sea, and, after a second depot-laying journey, were themselves split between Hut Point and Cape Evans. Of that second foray, Shackleton wrote in his memoir South, “No more remarkable story of human endeavour has been revealed than the tale of that long march.” The survivors occupied themselves with their scientific studies, and settled in to wait for rescue from land or sea.

Mackintosh and Spencer-Smith on the sledge; "Image was "drawn and painted, probably by George Marshall, from material supplied to the artist by surviving members of the Ross Sea Party." (Wikipedia)

Mackintosh and Spencer-Smith on the sledge; “Image was ‘drawn and painted, probably by George Marshall, from material supplied to the artist by surviving members of the Ross Sea Party.'” (Wikipedia)

So after Shackleton’s return from Elephant Island on the Yelcho, and having arranged passage for the crew back to England and the war, he made his way with Worsley to San Francisco and from there straight to New Zealand, that he might join the Aurora before she left on the rescue mission; aboard the Aurora they reached McMurdo Sound and Cape Evans on 10 January 1917. There they found seven of their comrades in an even more fraught state than those on Elephant Island—although they did have a hut and supplies, they had not seen or heard anything from the outside world since December 1914. Three of the party had perished during that time: Arnold Spencer-Smith of scurvy after the second depot-laying journey, and Aeneas Mackintosh and Victor Hayward while attempting to cross from Hut Point to Cape Evans over thin ice. When Shackleton and Worsley arrived they searched for another week for some trace of Mackintosh and Hayward, but found nothing. Spencer-Smith was interred in the ice.

Finally they headed back to New Zealand with the ten survivors—seven men and three dogs, whom the men credited with their survival. Only when this was accomplished did Shackleton make his way, via Australia, back to England and the ongoing world war. It was 1917.

The Aurora; photographer "unknown, probably one of Aurora's crew; Shackleton never mentioned who took this photo in any of his books or records." (Wikipedia)

The Aurora; photographer “unknown, probably one of Aurora’s crew; Shackleton never mentioned who took this photo in any of his books or records.” (Wikipedia)


Additional information about the Ross Sea Party:
Wikipedia: Ross Sea Party
Wikipedia: Aeneas Mackintosh
NOVA: Shackleton: The Lost Men
The Scott Polar Research Institute
The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party by Kelly Tyler-Lewis
And in chapters of South, Shackleton (Huntford), and other books and materials listed on the Resources page.

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Prospice, by Robert Browning


FEAR death?—to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attain’d,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle’s to fight ere the guerdon be gain’d,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life’s arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,
The black minute’s at end,
And the elements’ rage, the fiend-voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain.
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

— Robert Browning, 1861; publ. 1864

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Not a life lost and we have been through Hell.

“3rd Sept 1916

My darling,

I have done it. Damn the Admiralty. I wonder who is responsible for their attitude to me.

Not a life lost and we have been through Hell. Soon will I be home and then I will rest. This is just a line as I have only arrived today and the Steamer sails at once.

Give my love and kisses to the children

Your tired Micky”

Scan of original letter at Scott Polar Research Institute website: [view]

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Photo taken by Mr. Vega, Punta Arenas' leading photographer; 1916

Photo taken by Mr. Vega, Punta Arenas’ leading photographer; 1916

“Shortly after 7 a.m. Sir E. rowed ashore & telephoned our arrival on to Punta Arenas, so that the populace might roll up and greet us after church, we being due to arrive at 12 noon. The Yelcho was bedecked with flags… On nearing the jetty we were deafened by the tooting of whistles & cheering motor craft, which was taken up by the cast gathering on the piers & water-fronts. All introduced to the governor. On landing from the motor launch, we were welcomed by an immense crowd frantically cheering and by the togs, followed by the band, through packed streets bedecked with flags…I shall ever remember this kindness and goodwill. Immediately on taking up residence at the Royal Hotel, had a glorious scrub and bath, the first for ten months!”

— Frank Hurley

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In praise of Wild


“Every man is prone to make errors of judgment at times…but if ever a man worked hard and conscientiously to keep up the spirits and maintain the general peace & welfare of a community containing one or two “difficile” members that man was Frank Wild who…by his buoyant optimism, dogged determination…and calm demeanour had pulled us through these trying months of waiting.”
— Thomas Orde-Lees

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