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Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was an Irish-born British explorer who was a principal figure of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
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Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton was a British explorer who in 1901 joined an expedition to the Antarctic. He was sent home early due to bad health. Devoted to creating a legacy, he led the Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Disaster struck when his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice. He and his crew drifted on sheets of ice for months until they reached Elephant Island. Shackleton eventually rescued his crew,
"Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all."
all of whom survived the ordeal. He later died while setting out on another Antarctic expedition.
Explorer. Ernest Henry Shackleton was born February 15, 1874, in County Kildare, Ireland. The second of 10 children and oldest son, he was raised in London, where his family moved when Shackleton was a young boy.
Despite the urging of his father, a doctor, that he follow in his footsteps and go to medical school, the 16-year-old Shackleton joined the merchant navy, achieving the rank of first mate by the age of 18, and becoming a certified master mariner six years later.
Those early years in the merchant navy saw Shackleton travel extensively. In 1901 he joined noted British naval officer and explorer Robert Falcon Scott on a difficult trek to the South Pole that placed the two men, plus one other, closer to the Arctic than anyone else previously. The trip, however, ended poorly for Shackleton, who fell seriously ill and had to return home.
His return to England led Shackleton to pursue a career in journalism; later he was tapped to be secretary to the Scottish Geographical Society. He also made an unsuccessful attempt at becoming a member of Parliament.
Shackleton's South Pole expedition with Scott sparked within the young explorer an obsession to reach the Antarctic. In 1907 he made another attempt at achieving his goal, but again he fell short, coming within 97 miles of the pole before brutal conditions forced him to turn back.
In 1911, Shackleton's dream of becoming the first person to set foot on the South Pole was shattered, when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the earth's most southerly point. The achievement forced Shackleton to set his sights on a new mark: crossing Antarctica via the South Pole.
On August 1, 1914, the same day Germany declared war on Russia, Shackleton departed London on the ship Endurance for his third trip to the South Pole. By late fall the crew had reached South Georgia in the southern Atlantic. On December 5, the team departed the island, the last time Shackleton and his men would touch land for an astonishing 497 days.
In January 1915, the Endurance became trapped in ice, ultimately forcing Shackleton to lead his men to vacate the ship and set up camp on the floating ice. After the boat sank later that year, Shackleton embarked on an escape in April 1916, in which he and his men crowded into three small boats and made their way to Elephant Island.
Seven hard days on the water culminated in the team reaching their destination, but there was still little hope in getting rescued on the uninhabited island, which, because of its location, sat far outside normal shipping lanes.
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Throughout the centuries, brave explorers have fearlessly traveled the globe and beyond to discover new lands, people, animal species, riches and glory. Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal proved the world is round with his mission to sail around the world. His fellow countryman Vasco da Gama commanded the first European ship around the southern tip of Africa to reach India by sea. Norseman Leif Eriksson is regarded as the first European to reach North America, nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering the “New World” of the Americas. Juan Ponce de León scoured Puerto Rico and Florida in his quest for the fountain of youth. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark blazed new trails during their Corps of Discovery Expedition across the western half of the United States. Traveling to new heights of discovery were mountain climber Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest, and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon. These intrepid explorers and more have made an indelible mark on human history. See all Explorers.
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