Shackleton

9 May

Shackleton was an inspiring leader in adversity, he gave hope. In my talk on Shackleton I go over the three expeditions ‘Discovery’, ‘Nimrod’ and ‘Endurance’, each one follows inexorably after the other.

He is said to have advertised his Trans-Antarctic expedition: ‘Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success’.

He had thousands of applicants including a wonderful letter from ‘three sporty girls’, who were ‘strong and healthy, gay and bright’. Then, excellently, ‘If our feminine part is inconvenient we should be happy to don male attire’. They had been reading up on the Polar Regions and couldn’t see, ‘why men should have the glory and women none’ especially as there were women who were as capable and brave as men. They were not accepted!

Interestingly, they were not the only females who were interested in Antarctic exploration. Marie Stopes, of birth control fame, was an eminent botanist and biologist. She was particularly interested in glossopteris (seed ferns), which flourish in warm climates and she wanted to investigate their presence in Antarctica, which  would prove that the Antarctic had once been a warm climate. She discussed this with Scott before his ‘Terra Nova’ venture and he promised to bring back samples. These were found in the tent with the dead bodies of Scott and his companions in 1912, and did indeed confirm the theory.

There is no suggestion that Stopes wanted to go with Shackleton. She was 44, getting divorced, and no doubt her thoughts had moved on from pure research

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2 Responses to “Shackleton”

  1. Jane Lyon May 18, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Their courage, bravery and commitment would be almost unimaginable today, can you believe anyone would answer an advert that spoke of – constant danger, hazardous journey and safe return doubtful? It is easy for us mere mortals to underestimate the challenge and to consider only that ‘they failed’ in their quest without truly realising the scale of many of their scientific discoveries.

  2. isobelpwilliams May 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Shackleton was a charismatic and inspiring leader. His name is known throughout the world. But he never led a group of more than 27 and it could be said that he failed in the goals that he set himself. What do others think?

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