13. Ernest Shackleton: The Antarctic Explorer who braved icebergs and scaled glaciers to save his men.
From the age of 22, Ernest Shackleton was obsessed with the idea of exploring the Antarctic. In 1914, he got his wish, when Shackleton embarked upon an expedition to tackle what he regarded as the “one great main object of Antarctic journeyings: the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea.” On August 8, 1914, Shackleton and 23 men left England on their great adventure on the ship Endurance. Their first stop was for Buenos Aires. Then, it was on to South Georgia, and from there, the coast of the Antarctic itself.
In December 1914, the Endurance entered the Weddell Sea on the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. However, winter had come early, and it was unseasonably cold. Progress became increasingly slow until, by January 1915, the Endurance could go no further as it became firmly wedged amongst the ice floes. Shackleton and his men were marooned in a sea of ice. At first, the team made the best of things, passing the time playing hockey and holding dog sled races. Then, in October 1915, Endeavor’s hull caved in.
Shackleton and his men had no choice but to abandon ship. Dragging the Endeavors’ lifeboats behind them, they moved from ice floe to ice floe until finally, they could row in open sea. By April 1916, they had managed to reach Elephant Island. The men built shelters and hunted penguin and seal. However, Shackleton realized that they could not wait there and hope for rescue. So, while most of the crew stayed behind to wait, he and five others set off again in the lifeboat for the Whaling stations in South Georgia.
Shackleton and his small rescue party made landfall at the deserted King Haakon Bay. They then made their way to the whaling station at Stromness, scaling the glaciers that marked the desolate landscape. Finally, they reached their destination, and the Norwegian occupants of the station organized a steamer to rescue the men on Elephant Island. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the whole adventure was that not one of Shackleton’s men died In fact, the biggest collective losses amongst the team were ten frostbitten toes.