This year marks the 100th anniversary of an event celebrated by historians, explorers and Antarctic enthusiasts around the world. In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 brave souls set out aboard The Endurance in hopes of becoming the first explorers to traverse the Antarctic continent. Their aptly named ship became frozen in ice before reaching shore, and although Shackleton and his crew never had the chance to fulfill their mission, the events that followed would come to be regarded as one of the most extraordinary examples of leadership and exploration in history.
Endurance: A Triumph of the Human Spirit
Locked in the grips of the Antarctic’s unyielding elements, with minimal supplies and no hope of rescue, Shackleton and his crew persevered through insurmountable obstacles. The Endurance was eventually crushed by the Antarctic’s melting ice pack, and the crew was forced to set up camp on ice floes. Eventually they managed – exhausted, frostbitten and starving – to navigate their lifeboats to the unpopulated Elephant Island. Realizing no help would come to them, Shackleton and a handful of crew
members set off in a single lifeboat, dubbed the James Caird, across 800 miles of treacherous waters in hurricane conditions.
Against all odds, the James Caird landed on South Georgia Island, only to be faced with a 20 mile march across impassable mountains and glaciers to reach the whaling station on the other side. Shackleton and two other crew members made the march in 36 hours with nothing but 50 feet of rope and a carpenter’s adze. They reached the whaling station and Shackleton lost no time in rescuing his crew. All 27 men were rescued and returned to civilization alive.
Then and Now: 100 Years of Antarctic Exploration
Modern Antarctic explorers routinely recount the crew’s inspiring story and toast to “the Boss” – Shackleton, the informal patron saint of Antarctic expeditions. Inspired by the harrowing story of Shackleton and his heroic crew, modern day researchers, scientists, photographers and citizen explorers
follow in Endurance’s path each early spring and late fall to experience the raw natural beauty found only here, at the southernmost edge of the world.
Thankfully, since Shackleton’s expedition, exploration to the Antarctic has become less dangerous and more accessible. Modern inventions such as synthetic moisture wicking and waterproof materials are an enormous improvement over the natural fiber trousers and wool sweaters worn by Shackleton and his crew.
Ice boots, crampons, waterproof clothing and hand-held digital cameras protect modern-day adventurers from the frostbite and hypothermia Shackleton’s crew endured. Carefully engineered ice class seagoing vessels and strict seasonal Antarctic voyage schedules ensure today’s explorers won’t suffer the same fate as The Endurance by becoming imprisoned and broken by the ice.
Shackleton’s Legacy Lives on in Jonathan Shackleton, Antarctic Explorer
Today, expeditions to the Antarctic are spearheaded by experts like author, historian, guide and cousin to Sir Ernest Shackleton, Jonathan Shackleton. Not only is Jonathon a direct relative of the Irish Kildare-born Antarctic explorer; he is a notable expert and explorer in his own right. Jonathan has accompanied more than 30 groups on trips to the Antarctic. Most notably, he has guided tours to Elephant Island, to
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave on South Georgia Island and to Snow Hill, where he and Quark Expeditions’ tour group were the first to visit this vast penguin colony.
Antarctic Exploration Today: Adventure Tourism’s Last Frontier
Condemned by early explorer James Cook as a place from which “the world will derive no benefit,” the Antarctic continues to call explorers to her icy floes and shores. One hundred years after Shackleton and his crew set out for Antarctica aboard The Endurance, adventurers like those on Quark’s Antarctic voyages continue to flock south. Undeterred by the danger and cold, modern Antarctic explorers are eager to retrace the crew’s footsteps and to experience the raw beauty and test of the human spirit which can only be found here, at the edge of the world.