Dogs and ponies, Into the Wild

Sir Ernest Shackelton

ShackeltonToday we celebrate the birthday of Ernest Shackelton, who was one of the heroic polar explorers. His expeditions may not have reached their ultimate goals, but he deserves our respect and admiration for unfaltering endurance and fine leadership under the most extreme conditions on Earth.

A friend of mine told me the story of Shackelton’s Nimrod expedition to the South Pole. It was the year of 1907, when Shackelton sailed from England to New Zealand and the Ross Sea. The plan was to drop 3 crews on Hut Point Peninsula. The ship would then sail back to New Zealand, to avoid getting trapped in the ice, and return one year later to pick up the explorers. All three groups had different missions and modes of transportation. Shackelton’s team was planning on using Siberian ponies to reach the geographic South Pole. Under the most adverse conditions they reached a point where they had to turn back, because of exhaustion, starvation, and frost bite. They came within 97 miles of the pole. They lost all of the ponies on their way, becoming life saving food sources.

Even with the occasional pony carcass on the way back the four men in Shackelton’s party lived for more than 14 days off tea, cocoa and a little pony maize. The agreed upon pick-up day was February 26.

“On February 27 Shackleton decided to leave Marshall and Adams behind while he and Wild took off for Hut Point.

When they arrived, they found a letter telling them that the Nimrod had picked up the magnetic pole party and would shelter near the glacier tongue until February 26. It was now February 28. After a bad night, they burned the magnetic hut and shortly thereafter the┬áNimrod appeared. By 11 am they were on board and three hours later Shackleton led a rescue party for Marshall and Adams. At 1 am on March 4, all were safe on board the Nimrod; they had walked 1700 miles.” []

Imagine, they burned the hut, the only shelter they had, in a last ditch effort to send a smoke signal to the ship that was possibly already several days away!

This is just a glimpse in the courage and will of Sir Ernest Shackelton. He documented his adventures (in an understated British tone) in several books most notably “South: The Endurance Expedition to Antarctica”.

Let me finish with a Shackelton quote:

” We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man.”

You are a hero.