Antarctica is still renowned for being the most inhospitable and brutal environment on the planet. The wildlife that calls this wild and deadly place home is few and far between. Few animals have adapted to be able to live here, and the only creatures that brave Antarctica during the long, dark summer months are the hardy and groups of Emperor Penguins. The South Pole has inspired explorers all over the world, and despite the modern technology that we have today, and access to things that the original polar explorers never had, such as an online outdoor survival store, and mobile phones, Antarctica is still as much of a deadly and dangerous challenge as it always has been.
Ernest Shackleton was born in 1874 in Ireland. When he was 16, fuelled by his thirst for adventure, he joined the merchant navy. He gained valuable experience at sea, but his ultimate dream was to explore the poles. His dream was about to come true, when in 1901, he joined polar exploration legend, Robert Falcon Scott on his ship ‘Discovery’ to go on an Antarctic expedition. The group trekked towards the South Pole and came closer to it than any human being had ever done before. Although Shackleton did become very ill on the trip, he was more determined than ever to return to further explore Antarctica.
In 1908, Shackleton set sail for Antarctica once again, this time as leader of the leader of the expedition Nimrod. Shackleton led his party to within 180km of the South Pole and claimed an area of the land for the British Crown. When he returned to where the ship was stationed, he found that it had set ail two days earlier. Not to be deterred, Shackleton and his team set about building fires to attract the attention of the Nimrod – which came back and collected them a few days later. He returned to Britain a hero and was knighted for his efforts.
Shackleton was far from finished with his determination to explore the South Pole. In August 1914, he led a crew of men aboard the Endurance on a journey that was to become one of the most famous voyages ever. Shackleton’s plan was to cross the whole of Antarctica from the Weddell Sea base to McMurdo Sound. But he ran into problems early on when Endurance was trapped in ice and drifted for months before eventually being crushed by pack ice. The crew drifted on ice floes before making their way to Elephant Island where they survived on seal meat and penguins. Shackleton then led five other crew members 1300km to South Georgia in a whale boat across one of the most dangerous parts of the ocean in the world. From there, he was able to get help, and returned with a rescue party to collect the others from Elephant Island. Not a single one of them died there.