1922-01-05 South Georgia / Letters of Fire / Feuerbriefe / Cartas de Fogo / Cartas de Fuego

Macklin told him he had been overdoing things and should try to ‘lead a more regular life’, to which Shackleton answered ‘You are always wanting me to give up things, what is it I ought to give up?’ ‘Chiefly alcohol, Boss,’ replied Macklin.

A few moments later, at 2:50 a.m. on 5 January 1922, Shackleton suffered a fatal heart attack and died.

Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s name will for evermore be engraved with letters of fire in the history of Antarctic Exploration. Courage and willpower can make miracles. I know of no better example that what that man has accomplished.

Roald Amundsen, The South Pole

Shackleton is best remembered now for his Endurance Expedition of 1914 to 1916. His ship the Endurance, became locked in the ice before even reaching the coast. It was trapped and eventually crushed by shifting pack ice.

Seeing the end in-site for the ship he ordered it abandoned and over various trips to the ship salvaged whatever would be useful for the expeditions survival.

He quickly set up camp on the pack ice and set his men to work preparing to survive for an extended stay. Shackleton and his 27 men lived on the limited provisions taken from the ships stores and a diet of mostly penguins and seals for over a year.

When the ice pack finally began to break up, they set sail in their three lifeboats. After a dangerous voyage in the South Atlantic they made land fall at Elephant Island and set up a make shift camp.

Shackleton next took five men and set out once again by boat. This time in a small but sea worth partially open boat. They then sailed 800-mile trip across open ocean to the shore of South Georgia.

This feat of seamanship, leadership, and ocean navigation was absolutely extraordinary. From there he set out with two companions and made an incredible 36 hour crossing of mountainous South Georgia with only 50 feet or rope.

Shackleton gained his men’s confidence and they followed him through very tough circumstances. He was a leader who valued his men’s lives far above the victory of planting a flag or gaining fame. He took the time to learn about his men and discover how to best motivate them.

He broke down class barriers within his very British class structured crew. He was also willing to work hard to motivate individuals that many leaders would have discarded as useless or trouble makers.

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