Ernest Shackleton returned to Britain from Captain Scott's Discovery Expedition of 1903 determined to mount his own assault on the unclaimed South Pole.
On 3rd August 1907 Shackleton set sail aboard the Nimrod, bound for Antarctica. According to his plan, after having endured the fiercest winter on Earth in huts built on Ross Island, on 29th October 1908 Shackleton, Frank Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Boyd Adams set off due south across the Ross Ice Shelf, with four Manchurian ponies pulling sledges.
By December 1908 the party had passed Scott's farthest point and were now pioneering new ground. Their route through the Transantarctic Mountains took them up the 140 mile long Beardmore Glacier, named by Shackleton after one of his most generous backers.
This was to be the most dangerous and risky part of the route. The smooth glacier surface concealed treacherous crevasses which claimed the life of their last pony and very nearly killed Frank Wild. The return journey to Ross Island was equally demanding. The same perils of crevasses, hunger, injuries and sickness took their toll, but the four men successfully reached the rest of their party on 4th March 1909.
On the 27th December 1908, the party reached the windswept polar plateau, some ten thousand feet higher than their start point. Exhausted, low on food and pulling the sledges themselves, they continued on through bitter winds towards their goal.
But on 9th January 1909, "The Boss" as his men called him, was to make one of the greatest and boldest decisions of his life.
Barely a hundred miles short of the Pole, he took the decision to turn back, after planting the Union Jack at 88° 23'. Had he been prepared to sacrifice the lives of his team, Shackleton would have claimed the Pole.
On his return to England Ernest Shackleton was greeted at the docks by crowds and subsequently knighted in recognition of what he had achieved: the furthest South.
But not yet the Pole...
Posted by Tim Fright on October 31, 2007 6:57 PM