SHACKLETON NEWS ARCHIVE
Welcome to Virtual Shackleton! This exciting new section of the Scott-Polar Research Institute's website responds to the tremendous popular interest in the life and expeditions of Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Virtual Shackleton allows you to view a selection of the SPRI's unique archive and museum treasures and aims to provide a scholarly resource as well as an introduction to the Institute's wealth of historical documents and artefacts.
One of many fascinating and intriguing items is a pair of snow goggles, used by Sir Ernest Shackleton during the Endurance expedition. As the accompanying article records, 'After the successful crossing of South Georgia to reach the safety of the whaling station at Stromness, Shackleton gave these goggles to a Norwegian whaler from Sandefjord called Harald Nilsen. The whalers knew Shackleton well and were enormously helpful both before the expedition left for the Antarctic and also when he returned in May 1916, to set about rescuing his men.' Another is a chronometer (a very accurate watch used for navigation). This was used by Worsley during the open boat journey, aboard James Caird, from Elephant Island to South Georgia in 1916, which remains one of the greatest boat journeys ever accomplished. 'Worsley's skill in navigating is remarkable. Using only a sextant and chronometer they reached the safety of King Haakon Bay in South Georgia on 10 May 1916 and saved the lives of the men stranded on Elephant island.'
There are items relating to five expeditions of which Shackleton took part or which he led. They are: Discovery (Scott's 1901-4 Antarctic expedition), on which Shackleton served; Nimrod; Endurance: Aurora (the support party to the Endurance expedition); and Quest (Shackleton's uncompleted last expedition of 1921-2). Virtual Shackleton, the SPRI explains, is an ongoing project and more articles will be added in the future.
A prize possession is Sir Ernest Shackleton's Endurance diary, along with his diaries from the Nimrod and the Quest. There are also the deck logs from the Nimrod and Quest, and two other valuable Shackleton diaries: one being the diary he kept on Captain Scott's Discovery expedition, together with the scientific notes he made on that, his first expedition; the other being his first Antarctic sledging diary The many other treasured items include a sheet of instructions from Shackleton on what each of the men should do if the ice brokeup around 'Ocean Camp', one of the Endurance party's temporary (though nonetheless trusty and enduring) resting places on the ice; a telegram from Queen Alexandra to Emily Shackleton upon the news of Shackleton's safe arrival in the Falklands; a letter from Shackleton to his wife; a letter from Sir James Caird, sponsor of the Endurance expedition; a letter from the Liptons tea company about supplies for the Aurora; the chart used by Shackleton's ten men stranded in the Ross Sea at the same time as the Endurance expedition (and currently on loan to the French maritime exhibition); a list of provisions and letter from Capt. Aeneas Mackintosh, commander of the Aurora; and sections of the diary of Dr. Alexander Macklin charting the crew's arrival at Elephant Island.
There is a testimonial letter introducing Shackleton from Sir Clements Markham, RGS President; a humorous article by Captain Scott published in the South Polar Times; a spirited letter of request from three young ladies, Peggy Pegrine, Valerie Davey and Betty Webster, to join Shackleton's Endurance expedition.
The letter from the three daring young ladies begins: 'We "three sporty girls" have decided to write and beg of you to take us with you on your expedition to the South Pole. We are three strong, healthy girls and also gay and bright, and willing to undergo any hardships that you yourselves undergo. If our feminine garb is inconvenient, we should just love to don masculine attire.....We do not see why men should have all the glory, and women none, especially when there are women just as brave and capable as there are men.'
Of particular interest are a map drawn from memory by Frank Worsley of the route he, Shackleton and Crean took across the mountains of South Georgia; the deck log from the Quest, including Worsley's poignant, to-the-point entry in the early morning of 5 January 1922: "3am. Sir Ernest Shackleton died suddenly of heart failure. Drs. Macklin and MacIlroy in attendance.' Shackleton died in his cabin aboard the Quest.
The SPRIs Virtual Shackleton was proposed by former JCS member and much-missed leading light of the Scott-Polar, the late William Mills (see obituary below) and implemented by Caroline Gunn with the assistance of the SPRI's Webmaster. The project is funded by The Gladys Kreible Delmas Foundation and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.