the ice and snow to hear about
the intrepid Shackleton expedition to Antartica
By Charles Cassady
Published Jan 19, 2005
"Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey. Small Wages, Bitter Cold. Long
Months of Complete Darkness. Constant Danger. Safe Return Doubtful.
Honour and Recognition in Case of Success."
you have answered that famous classified ad? Even in this economy?
No, it's not from the back pages of West Life, but from the personals
of London newspapers in 1914, when British adventurer Ernest Shackleton
was putting together what would turn out to be one of the most illustrious
expeditions of the age.
On Friday evening,
John Gardner of Painesville will bring his presentation "In the
Footsteps of Shackleton -- A Voyage to Antarctica" to the Rocky
River Nature Center in North Olmsted. Why should Ohioans trek through
a bitter January night to hear about human sufferings at even lower
"It sort of
fits with the Antarctic theme," said Gardner. "Getting out in the
cold night would certainly give you an appreciation for what the
Shackleton expedition endured."
In fact, "Endurance"
was the name of Shackleton's ship, and it became an apt slogan for
the voyage. "They were suppposed to be the first ones to completely
cross the Antarctic continent." The original plan was for Shackleton
to sail the Endurance to the south Atlantic coast of Antarctica,
then traverse the South Pole to the Pacific side, where supply depots
had already been left for him.
never reached them, because even though he timed his visit for the
Antarctic summer, January 1915, the Endurance unexpectedly became
lodged hopelessly in ice. Instead of a quick return home, the 27-man
crew, sled dogs and a pet cat named Chippy dug in for more than
a year amidst the ice floes, killer whales and subzero winds. The
mission became sheer survival instead -- and just a few years after
an Antarctic expedition by Shackleton's associate Robert Falcon
Scott ended with the participants freezing to death in a blizzard.
was able to bring all his men home alive (not necessarily the dogs
or Chippy the cat) thanks to sheer fortitude and some good luck
made his expedition the topic of numerous books (Gardner will have
a display of them at his presentation). It helped that the expedition
had the luxury of a hardworking photographer and movie cameraman
Frank Hurley, along on the trip as well; striking still images and
motion-picture footage formed the basis for three major Shackleton
documentaries -- the first in 1919; the most recent in IMAX/OMNIMAX
film format, which is still showing at the Great Lakes Science Center.
illustrate his talk with slide photos -- not Frank Hurley's, but
his own. For this retired director of the Painesville Public Library
visited Antarctica himself in 1999, following Shackleton's routes
on Elephant Island and South Georgia and seeing the supply-huts
of Shackleton and Scott still standing. Gardner said he has made
a hobby of traveling to the remote and legendary places he could
formerly only tour in books, such as Antarctica, Easter Island and
coming across Shackleton's rescue ship on display, still preserved,
at the explorer's school at Dulwich College in England. "After 30
years of enthusiasm for Shackleton...I just got goosebumps."
"This might have been the last time an expedition was cut off and
without communication. That's what strikes me about the age of polar
exploration -- that these men would go off and not be heard from
for years." Radio transmissions would not become routine until after
World War I, and the American naval flier Admiral Robert Byrd would
not make his famous airborne scoutings of Antarctica until the 1930s.
In short order,
technology would make the world much smaller. Gardner compared the
Shackleton expedition of 1915 to his final voyage of 1922, when
the explorer succumbed to a heart attack at 48 on South Georgia
Island. "They wired back to England about his death, and his wife
wired back instructions that he be buried there."
been to Shackleton's final resting place down near the bottom of
the world. "It's a tradition that one always have a drink of brandy
or whiskey and pour the rest out on the grave -- because he liked
his brandy or whiskey."