Malcolm Tranter - 'The Voyages of Ernest
Shackleton' - illustrated talk
Tue 10 Feb 2009
made a welcome return to Chorley to present an illustrated talk
on Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton was born in Ireland in 1874 but
moved to England in 1884. At the age of 16 and with a desire for
a life at sea he joined the Merchant Navy. By the age of 24 he
had certified as Master.
By 1901 it was the height of Empire and there was great interest
in attempts to reach the South Pole. Shackleton longed to be
part of this and he volunteered to be part of Scott’s expedition
to the Antarctic. This expedition did not reach the pole but
worse for Shackleton he became seriously ill midway through and
had to be invalided home.
The Endurance trapped in the ice
Marriage and a
failed political career followed but he had no income and wanted
to return to the Antarctic.
His second voyage there, 1907-09, was in a 40 year old ship,
Nimrod. After much hardship he succeeded in reaching the
magnetic pole – just 100 miles short of the South Pole.
Shackleton’s third voyage, following Amundsen’s successful South
Pole expedition in 1911-12, intended to make a trek across
Antarctica, coast to coast, through the pole.
The James Caird setting off for South Georgia.
He set sail in
the Endurance in August 1914 at the outset of World War 1. The
Endurance entered pack ice by December 1914 and became
completely trapped. Over the coming months they moved for
hundreds of miles in the ice but by October 1915 the Endurance
was crushed. Three lifeboats and supplies were saved. To escape
the ice they successfully sailed to Elephant Island, 100 miles
to the north.
Their only possible hope of survival, though, lay in reaching a
whaling station on South Georgia 800 miles to the north-west.
Only one lifeboat was thought capable of making the trip. Six
men set sail whilst 50 men remained on Elephant Island.
They reached South Georgia but the whaling station was on the
other side of the island across a mountain range. Three men set
off and successfully traversed this to find the whaling station
and raise help.
Amazingly, all 56 men survived the expedition and made it home
Shackleton, however, died of a heart attack on South Georgia on
his fourth voyage south in January 1922.
Malcolm also devoted time to the life of Frank Hurley,
photographer of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.
Malcolm’s words and Hurley’s images gave us an insight into the
world of an extraordinary man, which made for a very interesting
and entertaining evening.
Thanks to Judith for the text and John for the images.
The James Caird.