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8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Antarctica Shackleton Expedition

Regarded as one of the most remarkable stories of adventure of all time, the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica (or Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition as it’s officially known) has since inspired generations of explorers.

But despite being a well-known story of survival against the odds, there are some parts of the expedition that you may not have heard about before.

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  1. Over 5000 applied to join the crew of the expedition

Of this number, only 26 were chosen. They survived a slightly strange interview process. Not only were candidates asked about their skills as sailors, they were questioned about stranger topics such as their capacity to sing.

  1. This Shackleton expedition marked the end of the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”

As well as representing the extreme capacity of man to survive against the elements, the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica also marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. This was a time period that saw explorers venturing to the furthest edges of the globe and succeeding despite not having the modern resources and technology upon which explorers nowadays depend so heavily.

  1. A wealth of photographs have survived from the expedition

shackleton expeditionThe expedition’s photographer, Frank Hurley, made the most of the time that the crew spent stationary due to the Endurance being trapped in ice by taking photographs of the dramatic scenery.

When the ship finally sunk in October 1915, ten months after it was initially beset by the ice pack, Hurley managed to get his glass plate negatives off deck, choosing to save the 120 best and smashing the rest to save space.

  1. The crew of the Endurance wasn’t just human

In fact, there were 69 dogs on board, whose names ranged from Shakespeare to Satan and who were cared for by individual members of the crew.

  1. Shackleton and five other men faced a grueling journey across the ocean

shackleton expeditionAfter finding themselves stranded following the sinking of the Endurance and having sailed for five days in lifeboats to Elephant Island, Ernest Shackleton and his crew were faced with an even more terrifying prospect.

The only way of finding help, was if Shackleton and five of his sailors crossed an 800-miles (1,300 km) stretch of ocean to arrive at South Georgia, where human settlements – and the prospect of being saved – were located.

This section of the journey took a grueling 14-days – although it would be another three months before the crew was rescued.

  1. The Chilean government played a crucial part in saving the sailors

After four attempts to return to Elephant Island to save his crew, many of which were thwarted by a barrier of pack ice that had formed 70-miles (110km) off the coast of the island, Shackleton persuaded the Chilean Government to offer assistance.

This took the form of a steamer tug, the Yelcho, which set sail from Punta Arenas in the south of Chile under the captaincy of Chilean Luis Pardo, who finally brought the crew of the Endurance back to safety in August 1916.

  1. Not a single member of the crew died during the ordeal

This incredible story of bravery and endurance is made even more unbelievable by the fact that not a single member of the crew died during the expedition.

  1. It wasn’t Shackleton’s final expedition to Antarctica

In 1921, Shackleton embarked on what would be his final adventure, the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, seeking to further explore the oceans around Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands.

However, on 5 January 1922 in South Georgia, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack on board the ship. As per his widow’s requests, his body was buried on the island.

Featured image: “Launch of the James Caird from the shore of Elephant Island“. 24 April 1916 by 24 April 1916.

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