Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
October 27, 2008 5:59 PM   Subscribe

On Oct. 27th, 1915. Sir Ernest Shackleton gave the order to abandon ship, moving the crew and supplies off of the ice bound Endurance. The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition would never achieve it's goal of crossing the continent, instead Shackleton would become famous for somethings far greater: his masterful and amazing ability at leadership and survival for himself and his crew of 27 men under the harshest conditions imaginable.

After setting up camp on the ice floe, they would drift until April 9th, 1916, when they decided to launch their three lifeboats in an attempt to reach Elephant Island. 7 days of rowing and sailing later, all ships arrived safely. It was the first time in 497 days they had set foot on land.

Eight days later, Shackleton, Captain Frank Worsley, Tom Crean, Ship's Carpenter Harry "Chippy" McNish, Timothy McCarthy and John Vincent would set sail in the 23 foot James Caird, having been retrofitted for the 800 mile voyage over the open ocean to South Georgia, the closest active port and best chance of rescue. The ship survived the 16 days on the open ocean, and delivered all six men to the South Georgia coast.

However, it was the wrong end of the island. The Caird, having suffered damage while landing, was unfit for an attempt to travel around to the whaling station at Fortuna Bay. Instead, Shackleton, Worseley and Crean, decided to cross the uncharted glacial mountain range that separated them from the Stromness whaling station. Using a carpenters adz, screws from the Caird fastened through their boots, and a length of rope, they managed to cross the 22 miles in 36 hours. For reference, modern climbers can do the trip in three days, using maps and the latest in climbing gear (here is a clip of one such trip).

Arriving at Stromness on May 20th, it was not until August 30, after two previously failed rescue attempts, was Shackleton able to rescue the rest of his crew 24 months and 22 days after leaving South Georgia on the start of the expedition. Not a single member of his crew of 27 men were lost, and only one crew member lost a foot to frostbite (which was amputated at the Elephant Island camp while they waited for rescue).

This quote, by Sir Raymond Priestley, a member of Shackleton's earlier 1907-09 Nimrod Expedition, captures the abilities of the man:
"For scientific leadership, give me Scott, for swift and efficient travel give me Amundsen. But when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton. Incomparable in adversity, he was the miracle worker who would save your life against all the odds and long after your number was up. The greatest leader that ever came on God's earth, bar none."

If you would you like to know more:
Previous, tangentially related mefi post
Wikipedia's Page
Shack Faq
The supposed ad for crew
PBS's timeline of events
Another Timeline
The James Caird Society
Images from the Shackleton Expedition [previously]
Kodak's Shackleton Collection
Shackleton's Antartic Adventure (see in imax if you have a chance) (dvd)
Shackleton, TV movie staring Kenneth Branagh (dvd)
The Endurance - Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
South, Earnest Shackleton (book preview at google)
Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Caroline Alexander
posted by mrzarquon (59 comments total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
Shackleton is my personal bravest, strongest, noblest, smartest, bestest hero ever. He can beat up Batman.

posted by The Whelk at 6:09 PM on October 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

Love this story. There's also the 1919 film South, made of the movies and photos shot on the voyage.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:13 PM on October 27, 2008

"Shack FAQ" heh.
I saw an exhibition of Hurley's Antarctic photographs a year or two ago at the National Library of Australia. The pictures are quite amazing in full size, even when "full size" is just a contact print from a glass plate.
Great post.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2008

You will all please to note that the Priestly quote (a version anyway) was already in my profile. Thanks mrzarquon, this is an awesome post.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:24 PM on October 27, 2008

Picked up a copy of South last year. It's an amazing story.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2008

Your link about the "supposed ad for crew" is very interesting; I didn't realize it was unsubstantiated.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2008

Fan-freakin-tastic post, mrz.

I first got turned on to all thing Antarctica when I read Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica, by Sara Wheeler. It's about her own time there, as the first writer recipient of the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers program, whose purpose is " enable serious writings and works of art that exemplify the Antarctic heritage of humankind", and about previous travelers - Scott, Amundsen, etc. - and it's really a hell of a book.

I babbled about it for months to anyone who would listen. One of those people was a writer I met at a conference. We became friends, and she's now been to the Ice twice, in 1999 and again in 2003.

One of the things that amazed me most about Shackleton's...adventure is the equipment they had to work with. The clothing. No handy GPS; dead reckoning across a violent ocean to a speck of land.
posted by rtha at 6:43 PM on October 27, 2008 [4 favorites]

IMO, the Lansing book is a must read -- not only is it very well written, it contains prints of many of the pictures taken by the expedition. This is significant because this was a scientific expedition, and they brought enough photographic supplies with them to document, well, everything. Shackleton realized that even if the expedition was a failure, it would be necessary to bring back photographs to display at post-expedition lectures, so that their investors could recoup some of their investment. So his men rescued heavy crates of glass photographic plates from the sinking Endurance, then lugged them across the ice floes as they made their escape. The photos are high quality and give the story a realism that just serves to make it all the more fantastic. The photo on the front cover, for example, is an actual photo of the Endurance trapped in the ice.

The other sad irony of the story is that the incredible tale of their survival and ultimate rescue was lost in the madness that was the first World War, where many young men were fighting for survival on a daily basis in the trenches. Just as sad, several members of the crew enlisted for service immediately upon returning to England, and were kill in action within a month of their return.

All in all, a truly amazing story of survival and heroism, and one that certainly deserves commemoration.
posted by mosk at 6:46 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, seconding or thirding the Alfred Lansing book. I picked that up when I was about 12 years old after reading an adaptation of Worsley's Shackleton's Boat Journey in some Readers' Digest book of adventure stories for young people.

Shackleton is one of the few things I got into before it was cool to do so.

Thanks for the great post!
posted by marxchivist at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2008

I've always loved that the photographer, Frank Hurley, never stopped working. (Shackleton waived the weight limits he placed on other crew for Hurley so he could take along 140 existing--glass plate!!--negatives, and a portion of his gear.) His dogged efforts to hang on to his professional role in recording the expedition--still composing shots of terrible beauty instead of mere snapshots--remind me of Victor Frankl describing how he made it through some days at the camps by imagining himself back in his professional role post-war, lecturing to an academic audience about the lessons he had learned about human psychology and social behavior during his time as a prisoner.
posted by availablelight at 6:58 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

> Your link about the "supposed ad for crew" is very interesting; I didn't realize it was unsubstantiated.

I didn't either, until I went searching for the full quote and found that page!

Besides actually going to the Antarctic, the best way to get the scale and scope of just what Shackleton was dealing with are the above movies, and South, as LobsterMitten mentioned.

In either the NOVA or IMAX film, they hired a three professional, world class mountain and ice climbers to retrace Shackleton's route for the production. With modern gear (plastic boots, real crampons, multiple ropes) and being well fed, trained and experienced climbers, and knowing the route to take ahead of time (so not having to deal with the numerous back tracking that Shackleton and group had to do), it took them just over two days to accomplish it. Granted, they did not lock their legs together, sit on a spool of rope, and descend something like 1,000 foot slope in 2-3 minutes (which, in the Lansing book, either Worsley or Described is quoted something like: "for a moment I forgot where we were, and I just felt the joy of sledding as if I were a school boy again") to prevent themselves from freezing to death on a peak.

The modern day climbers said they were awed that anyone could do it in 36 hours, let alone with such limited tools at their disposal.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:02 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

> Shackleton waived the weight limits he placed on other crew for Hurley so he could take along 140 existing--glass plate!!--negatives, and a portion of his gear.

Not only that, supposedly he went back with Hurley to the partially sunken Endurance, and retrieved all of his original glass negatives. Hurley had shot over 400, and they had to agree on how many he could take (140). After that, Hurley agreed to smash the rest of the negatives so he would not be tempted to return to salvage the rest.

Hurley was a insane, brilliant, fiend of a photographer.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:07 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

What an intriguing story, and a thoroughly researched, well-written, fpp that deserves a sidebar, IMO. This is just another example of why I love Mefi: I'd never even heard of this before, and now I'm considering the Lansing book for my next Amazon purchase. Thanks, mrzarquon!
posted by misha at 7:09 PM on October 27, 2008

thank you so much for the fabulous post.
posted by dog food sugar at 7:14 PM on October 27, 2008

One of the greatest stories ever. That is all I really want to say. It is all there. post.

...and my dog is named after Frank Hurley. No lie.
posted by paddysat at 7:15 PM on October 27, 2008

posted by The Whelk at 7:25 PM on October 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Besides spare the dogs, because that is not honorable.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 PM on October 27, 2008

er not honorable to eat the loyal dogs. Words are so clumsy sometimes.
posted by The Whelk at 7:28 PM on October 27, 2008

Speaking of the dogs, here's a quote from Frank Wild, the guy who had to shoot the dogs: "This duty fell upon me & was the worst job I ever had in my life. I have known many men I would rather shoot than the worst of the dogs."

They didn't so much want to eat the dogs as they wanted to eat the dogs' food.
posted by marxchivist at 7:47 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

I wrote my undergrad pseudo-thesis on Shackleton and one of the things that struck my while doing research on Shackleton was the absolute wealth of popular history on Shackleton combined with the near total lack of scholarly work. My pet theory to explain this is that Shackleton is entirely to egalitarian, modern, and even environmentally sensitive for toothy scholarship. Scott's idiocy and Amundsen's competence fit neatly into narratives of nationalism and class and the great age of exploration. Shackleton just seems, like, you know, an all-around good guy.

The story I tell myself about Shackleton is that World War One and modernity pretty much killed him. He set off on a heroic journey in a square-rigged wooden ship and was eventually rescued in a prosaic, steam tug. He left to serve the Queen and returned to the first modern War to End All Wars.

Still though, one tough motherfucker.
posted by stet at 7:59 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I got hooked for a while on outdoor/survival/feats of adventuring books after reading Into Thin Air, and made my way from that to The West Ridge, then to Endurance, by Lansing. I recommend that book heartily, with no reservations.

Except the leopard seal. Hearty reservations about those. I was terrified just reading about them, and if I recall, one of the men just stood his ground, firing away with his rifle until the thing was dead.

Not noted in the individual weight limit for all the men must have been a generous allotment for their enormous cajones.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:01 PM on October 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, they did way better on the ice than those Miskatonic dudes.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:11 PM on October 27, 2008

Your link about the "supposed ad for crew" is very interesting; I didn't realize it was unsubstantiated.

posted by cenoxo at 8:28 PM on October 27, 2008

> Besides spare the dogs, because that is not honorable.

I realize you were making a point about the action, not the overall part, because I too cringed when I read the part about the dogs. But I've been thinking about leadership lately (since we seem to be talking a lot about it in regards to this US election), which is what inspired me in part to write about this. Also Smedleymen's comments.

I think the thing that made Shackleton such a great (and honorable) leader was the fact that he had the foresight and compassion to make the tough decisions (such as shooting the dogs), but to not loose control of those under him while doing so. If he was soft, and let them keep the dogs, they would have never made it anyway, used up their precious supplies, and possibly cost the lives of his men. And then there would obviously be fractures among the men over the dogs, why the would be kept etc. Or he could have gone and shot the dogs himself, but then made himself an enemy of his men, and seemed brutal, uncaring and that could have lead to mutiny.

While the men did not agree with him (and Chippy would continue hold a grudge for the Shackleton ordering Mrs. Chippy, the ships cat, being shot also), he still had their respect and their dedication.

You read the accounts of how he interacted with the crew, and reports of people from his other expeditions, and you see a man who truly loved and understood the men whose lives where in his hands. He had compassion for them, and knew their weaknesses and their strengths, and I think the major reason why everyone survived is he had the ability to motivate people past their own perceived breaking points and keep them moving. Which is why I still get goose bumps reading Priestly's quote, which I went and dug up when I started this whole thing because, as I said earlier, I was thinking about true leadership, and that quote summarizes the skills of a true, dedicated, leader more than anything else, in my mind.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:32 PM on October 27, 2008

Don't forget the Ross Sea Party
posted by Arbac at 8:42 PM on October 27, 2008

Don't worry, the Ross Sea Party will always be forgotten.
posted by stbalbach at 8:49 PM on October 27, 2008

> Don't forget the Ross Sea Party

I don't think the Ross Sea Party has been overlooked for their accomplishments, or their sacrifices. But one has to remember that until this point, any successful antarctic exploration had suffered the lose of at least one member of the expedition team. Shackleton managed to keep his expedition team, and the entire crew of the Endurance (remember the ship that was only supposed to drop off the 14 members of the expedition crew, 6 of which would have supplies to cross the continent, while the others would do research in the area) alive throughout the entire ordeal. I just think it puts the Weddell Party on a whole different level.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:14 PM on October 27, 2008

Shackleton's grave on South Georgia Island. In failure or success, there's a always a price.
posted by cenoxo at 9:25 PM on October 27, 2008

cenoxo- I don't know if you noticed it, but the price link is from a website of a project to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Nimrod expedition, by descendants of the original team.

And they start off on the first leg of their journey in 11 hours!
posted by mrzarquon at 9:41 PM on October 27, 2008

You can check out Hurley's cinecam and a passel of his other stuff at the South Australian Museum. Excellent documentary on him here. (For sale, but, you know ....)
posted by Wolof at 10:00 PM on October 27, 2008

I read Endurance 30 years ago, at age 16. It made a big impression on me, to the point that I was amazed that it was so seldom discussed. For a long time, the "big firsts" were what the history books talked about.
posted by Araucaria at 10:23 PM on October 27, 2008

I've loved this story since I read Lansing's book as a kid. Thanks for the post.

How cool that Shackleton's hut from the Nimrod Expedition is still largely intact (and now in good hands).
posted by Knappster at 10:31 PM on October 27, 2008

I actually have a love-hate relationship with the Shackleton in my head. I mean, yes, he was mostly awesome, but he also denied Harry McNish, certainly someone everyone on the expedition owed their lives to, the Polar Medal. Some people hypothesize Shackleton held a grudge for the mutiny on the ice (right after Mrs. Chippy was killed), some people think Worsley didn't like McNish and had Shackleton's ear for that, but the end result was the same either way.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Antarctica and the surrounding islands/territories - I can't find my photos of the Elephant Island landing (honestly, just a bust of Shackleton and penguin poop, not that interesting to look at), but here's the handful of South Georgia photos that I cleaned up and put online. Self-link, but I thought people might be interested. There's just one landscape photo, but also a reindeer (yep), carnivorous ducks (yes, really), a whaling wreck, and several portaits of the sea lion that tried to follow me home. And penguins, of course.
posted by bettafish at 11:07 PM on October 27, 2008

Fabulous post. Many thanks.
posted by maxwelton at 11:54 PM on October 27, 2008

The entire text of South is available via Gutenberg, which is where I first read it a couple of years ago. One food I never want to taste in my life is penguin.
posted by CCBC at 12:07 AM on October 28, 2008

Mark this photo well - because for me it sums up the spirit of the men who undertook this adventure.

Labelled by Hurley - and therefore most everyone else - as "The Rescue". it apparently depicts Shackleton's triumphant return to Elephant Island, 3 months after leaving on what most of the crew must have known in their hearts to be a suicide mission. With that interpretation in mind, the joy of those on the beach is palpable; the unhoped for has happened: their Boss has returned.

But that's not what the photo is of.

In the years following the rescue, Hurley rightly made quite a name for himself giving photographic letures of the Voyage of the Endurance. The photos he took, as others have said here, were jaw-dropping. Hoping to give his photographic lectures more of a "whiz-bang" ending, Hurley renamed this photo "The Rescue". It was an upbeat and appropriate photo to end on.

But when the rescue had actually taken place though, Hurley had obviously had other things on his mind than photography. 3 months on a diet of frozen seal will do that to a man. There are no photos of the rescue. None, anyway that create the sense of drama that this one apparently does.

No, what that photo actually shows is Shackleton and his ragged crew leaving Elephant Island to sail up to South Georgia; the suicide mission; the last, forlorn hope. He's not coming back. He's leaving. Forever.

And all the men are cheering. They're all cheering and waving and shouting and, with their backs to Hurley's camera, no one can see the tears streaming down their faces.
posted by Jofus at 2:49 AM on October 28, 2008 [18 favorites]

I happened to be reading South when I took my first trip to China. A few weeks before my flight the northern flight corridor had been opened to North America/Asia routes. Unable to sleep, I kept reading. As I got to the part of the book where they abandon the Endurance we reached the north pole. The captain came over the PA and said that we were passing the pole and crossing the international date line at the same time. I could not help myself, though we had been given strict orders not to open the window shades, I had to see. I donned my sunglasses and cracked the shade and looked out into that vast sheet of cracked ice as far as the eye could see. From my perch at 40000 feet I was warm and snug though the computer screen in front of me said that the outside temperature was -100. It really drove home what I was reading on the pages, the vastness of the icy wastes. I finally, in my sub-tropical, deep south raised mind, had a frame of reference with which to visualize what those next months were like for the crew.

The most striking thing for me about South is the level of humor. Even in the depths of horror, the men kept a good humor. Jokes, nicknames, performances, and music were constant companions and I think this is realy a key to why they all survived. Additionally the men kept eachother alive giving one another a purpose to go on, if I falter my brothers fall, I will not falter. Viktor Frankl talks about that enduring spirit that keeps them going in Man's Search for Meaning. Shackleton lead me to the same conclusions without even trying.

There are no photos of the rescue.

Except this one.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:14 AM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Pollomacho - I knew when I wrote that that I'd get called on it. :)
posted by Jofus at 5:21 AM on October 28, 2008

remind me of Victor Frankl describing how he made it through some days at the camps by imagining himself back in his professional role post-war, lecturing to an academic audience about the lessons he had learned about human psychology and social behavior during his time as a prisoner

Well, it's good to know that I wasn't the only one to come to this. I suppose I should have read all the comments before I posted though!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:24 AM on October 28, 2008

Pollomacho - I knew when I wrote that that I'd get called on it. :)

No worries, it was an excellent post and I knew what you were saying!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:26 AM on October 28, 2008

Just one more voice chiming in to echo all of the above. Fantastic post about one of my heroes and one of the most gripping incidents in the history of exploration. I would favorite this post 100 times if I could. I doff my fur-lined cap to you, mrzarquon.

A couple of years ago I heard a talk by a Shackleton biographer at the Explorers' Club -- the perfect place for it. In the lobby they keep one of the sleds Robert F. Scott used in his expedition to the Pole. (They publish beautiful editions of various classics of exploration, including South.) That was where I first heard about the incredible heroism of Tom Crean.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:58 AM on October 28, 2008

Truly great post about a truly great man. I've read everything I could find by and about Shackleton. Thanks.
posted by RussHy at 6:07 AM on October 28, 2008

Many thanks for the fine set of links. South is available in full via Project Gutenberg.
posted by eccnineten at 6:46 AM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Were any pioneers in the science of semen donation, by chance?

I mean, Christ, 22 frozen screwbooted miles in 36 hours? Icy fucking hot.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:58 AM on October 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Scott's idiocy and Amundsen's competence fit neatly into narratives of nationalism and class and the great age of exploration.

I find that Scott's idiocy has been greatly exaggerated. Discovery's scientific mission did more to lay the ground for future exploration than Amundsen's dash, and Antarctica is a brutal and unforgiving environment in which errors by Shackleton and Byrd came extremely close to being fatal. A more reasonable take comes from Susan Solomon's The Coldest March which makes a compelling case that the temperatures recorded by Scott and the scientific team during his return trip were unseasonably extreme, compounding his mistakes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2008

I mean, Christ, 22 frozen screwbooted miles in 36 hours? Icy fucking hot.

Not to mention all that after over a year trapped on an ice floe and a 1000 mile sea voyage in a rowboat all of which they survived on dried seal and penguin. They don't make men like that any more. At least not in the spoiled rotten post-modern "developed" world (having seen a 4 foot tall Tibetan man carry a crippled old man up a sacred glacier, I must say that those genes are still out there somewhere).
posted by Pollomacho at 8:22 AM on October 28, 2008

Your not wrong, KJS. I suppose what I think of as Scott's idiocy is the classism on his boat, his arrogant and domineering approach to the natural world, and his nationalism. Scott's style has always struck me as the very worst of British stiff-upper-lipism in failing to acknowledge and adapt to new situations in contrast to Shackleton's stiff-upper-lipism which seems to me to be more of a, "Well now, that's a jolly setback. Let's all carry on then!" kind of thing.

And I'll freely admit that my judgment is colored by the fact that I genuinely like Shackleton (as passed though the lens of history). However, The Coldest March is now on hold at my library. Thanks for the tip.
posted by stet at 8:33 AM on October 28, 2008

Thanks so much for this post! I got into polar exploration last year after meeting a real life explorer - Will Steger. I read his book about crossing Antarctica and after that, decided I had to learn more about his hero, Shackleton. So, I picked up this book, The Lost Men, on a whim. It's about the Ross Sea Party and all they went through. It reads like an adventure movie with twists and turns on every page - amazing that it was real! It's a very thoughtful and well-researched book and I highly recommend it.

I'm glad to hear that South is a good read. I just got it and have to admit that the first few pages are, ahem, dry.
posted by bristolcat at 9:03 AM on October 28, 2008

Huntford's The Last Place on Earth comes down very hard on Scott. I agree with KJS that Solomon's case is a bit more balanced. But Scott's inability to imagine that dogs and skis would be more suited for the terrain and climate than horses, and his (to us, now,) incomprehensible idea that man-hauling was....nobler? Better? is just, well, incomprehensible. Was it a cultural thing that kept him from truly seeing the usefulness of skis, and training on them? A temperament thing? Both?

The flexibility of Shackleton's thinking and planning, and his seeming inability to get "stuck" on any one plan (except SURVIVE) makes him one of the giants of history.

And what stet said.
posted by rtha at 9:29 AM on October 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic.

I actually have a love-hate relationship with the Shackleton in my head.

I do as well, as I had the misfortune to work with a man who idolized Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Which wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't also viewed Shackleton as his professional muse.

Which wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't also been the company's head of engineering.

Romanticizing oneself as the modern-day embodiment of Ernest Shackleton -- positioning your every effort as a heroic brainstormed measure, borne of your problem-solving genius, flying completely by the seat or your courageous pants, as you lead your troops to safety and untold glory -- is no way to build enterprise software, and I'll tell you that for free.
posted by pineapple at 11:08 AM on October 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

For those who want to hear Shackleton in his own words, The Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at UCSB (previously) has a 1910 recording of him speaking about his journey.
posted by JMOZ at 11:48 AM on October 28, 2008 [3 favorites]

Which wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't also viewed Shackleton as his professional muse.

Some years ago, I was wandering around a bookstore, looking for something to read. There was a book with an Antarctica-looking picture on it, and maybe the word "Shackleton", so of course I grabbed it off the shelf....

And realized that it was a management book. One of those "how to lead people and inspire your Team to Great Heights!" kinds of things. It seemed to take the whole amazing story and boil it down to management/corporatespeak, without any true understanding of just how remarkable Shackleton and his accomplishments were.

I guess. I don't really know, to be honest, since it squicked me out and I put it down quickly.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2008

My background with Shackleton started because it was the name of my now defunct and closed alternative traveling highschool.

Shackleton's legacy was meant to be that of inspiration of what leadership truly is (the school was formed around the basis of helping students become leaders, in the hippy, eco friendly, socially conscious way) and as such, was a great example. We never actually referenced the weird management or corporate think style books, instead choosing the path best reflected by Shackleton's own adventures:

Plan an expedition
Have it go horribly wrong
Manage to return at the end of the quarter without losing a student, and the group generally intact.

It was a running joke that we always managed to follow in the footsteps of our namesake a little too closely (including camping in the Copper Canyon in mexico only having to hike out with a massive fire following us, the result of a 7 year draught and the mexican army torching some pot fields in the area).
posted by mrzarquon at 12:13 PM on October 28, 2008

There's a great documentary that was out in theaters about 7 years ago- my jaw dropped open about 10 minutes in and never shut. I believe it's called "The Endurance."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:43 PM on October 28, 2008

Shackleton's expeditions were certainly eventful but if I had to choose I'd rather have gone on one of Nansen or Amudsen's. They actually accomplished their objectives and with less trauma.
posted by canoehead at 6:25 PM on October 28, 2008

rtha: But Scott's inability to imagine that dogs and skis would be more suited for the terrain and climate than horses, and his (to us, now,) incomprehensible idea that man-hauling was....nobler?

Actually, I don't find it incomprehensible because many expeditions today don't use dogs or motor equipment. They use muscle power. Now granted, we now have the advantage of super-light plastics, aircraft alloys, and goretex. But still, if I had to put the finger on the most critical mistake, it was bringing a man who was showing early signs of scurvy, and an fifth man who was relatively underexperienced on the final leg to the pole.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:43 PM on October 28, 2008

I saw that movie, too, foxy_hedgehog...I remember mumbling to my buddy over and over through it..." coconuts. Balls like coconuts."
posted by notsnot at 8:05 PM on October 28, 2008

Absolutely wonderful post on a fascinating subject, mrzarquon. Thanks!
posted by kryptondog at 5:35 AM on October 29, 2008

Here's a very nice online exhibit on Shackleton's antecedents: Ice, a Victorian Romance.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:47 AM on October 31, 2008

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