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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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Seeing that his men were on the precipice of disaster, Shackleton led a team of five others out on the water again. They boarded a 22-foot lifeboat and navigated their way toward South Georgia. Sixteen days after setting out, the crew reached the island, where Shackleton trekked to a whaling station to organize an rescue effort.
On August 25, 1916, Shackleton returned to Elephant Island to rescue the remaining members of his crew. Astonishingly,
not a single member of his 28-men team died during the nearly two years they were stranded.
In 1919 Shackleton published South, his detailed account of the journey and its miraculous ending. Shackleton, however, was not through with expeditions. In late 1921 he set off on a fourth mission to the South Pole. His goal was to circumnavigate the Antarctic. But on January 5, 1922, Shackleton suffered a heart attack on his ship and died. He was buried in South Georgia.
Reverence for Shackleton's heroism and leadership didn't immediately follow. But over the last half-century, as his story became the subject of more historical research, the account of the Endurance and how Shackleton averted total disaster has elevated his standing and made him a principal figure of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.
Proof of this came in September 2011, when a biscuit Shackleton had given to a starving traveler on one of his early expeditions sold at auction for nearly $2,000.
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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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