Sir Ernest Shackleton’s HMS Endurance set sail for the Antarctic 100 years ago today

August 8, 2014

On the 8th August 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition ship HMS Endurance set sail from Plymouth, England, to Buenos Aires en route to the Antarctic Peninsula.

This was the beginning of his fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17 during which his ship sank having been crushed by sea ice. He and his crew battled across sea ice and eventually reached Point Wild on Elephant Island, where he left 22 sailors while he and four colleagues set sail in a small open boat to the south coast of South Georgia. He left two men there and with the remaining two somehow, miraculously, scaled the glacier-strewn mountains to reach the Stromness whaling station to raise the alarm and rescue the two men he had left on the south coast of the island. He then led the rescue mission to Elephant Island and brought all the remaining crew back alive. This epic journey has become a source of inspiration as a physical feat of endurance; Sir Ernest Shackleton has subsequently become an iconic model of successful leadership not only in exploration but also in business.

One of the reasons for highlighting this centennial commemoration is that Sir Ernest Shackleton has been a role model for RIL’s Prof. John Reynolds who undertook glacio-geophysical field work in the Antarctic Peninsula during 1978-80 whilst working for the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. In a subsequent visit to the Antarctic he was able to retrace Sir Ernest’s journey from where HMS Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea and was able to go ashore at Point Wild on Elephant Island before sailing on to South Georgia where he had previously spent a month based near the former Norwegian whaling station at Grytviken where Sir Ernest lies buried in the graveyard.