Shackleton, Sir Ernest Henry

Shackleton, Sir Ernest Henry, 1874–1922, British antarctic explorer, b. Ireland. The first of his voyages to Antarctica was made as a member of the expedition (1901–4) of Robert F. Scott. Shackleton was invalided home in 1903, but the experience gained on the Scott expedition aided him greatly as commander of a south polar expedition (1907–9). In the course of this expedition Mt. Erebus was ascended, the south magnetic pole was located, and the polar plateau was crossed to a point less than 100 mi (160 km) from the South Pole. The scientific results of the expedition were of vast importance. Knighted in 1909, Shackleton published that year an account of his expedition, The Heart of the Antarctic.

As commander of a transantarctic expedition, he set out in 1914, planning to enter the Weddell Sea and cross on foot over the south polar region to the Ross Sea, a distance of c.2,000 mi (3,200 km). When his ship Endurance was crushed in the ice in Oct., 1915, he led his party some 180 mi (290 km) to safety at Elephant Island; from there Shackleton with five companions in a lifeboat made a voyage of c.800 mi (1,290 km) through wild seas, then crossed rugged, glaciated South Georgia Island to reach (May, 1916) a whaling station on its north coast. Shackleton rescued his Elephant Island party and later returned to the Weddell Sea to pick up others left there earlier in the expedition. His South (1919) is an account of the whole expedition. In 1921 Shackleton sailed on the Quest to study Enderby Land but died on ship and was buried on South Georgia Island.

See biography by R. Huntford (1985); C. Alexander, The Endurance (1998); E. J. Larson, An Empire of Ice (2011).

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