SHACKLETON, Sir Ernest Henry 1874-1922. Explorer. He was born in Ireland, the son of a doctor who moved to Sydenham in 1885. The family lived in Aberdeen House, now 12 Westwood Hill. At the age of 12 he was enrolled in Dulwich College, where he did ‘very little work’ according to a contemporary, ‘and if there was a scrap he was usually in it’. In a conversation years later with PG Wodehouse (qv) he recalled with fondness the ‘jam-puffs’ from the College Buttery, and dreamt about them on one occasion when in the Antarctic. His father reluctantly agreed to allow him to leave school early, when he was 16, to join the mercantile marine.
Shackleton took part in four major Antarctic expeditions. He served under Scott on the Discovery in 1901-3 but was invalided home after developing scurvy. He commanded the British Antarctic Expedition on the Nimrod, which covered 1,260 miles in 126 days without loss of life and was knighted after returning home in 1909. However, it was the extraordinary courage and heroic qualities of leadership shown on the Endurance expedition of 1914-16 for which Shackleton is best remembered. His epic 800-mile journey in appalling conditions in the small whale-boat, James Caird, used as a lifeboat after the destruction of the Endurance has been the subject of many books, exhibitions and films. The boat was given to Dulwich College in 1922, where it is on display.
In 1922 Shackleton died suddenly of angina in South Georgia at the start of another expedition. His name is perpetuated in Mounts Shackleton in Canada and Greenland, Shackleton Inlet and Shackleton Ice Shelf in the Antarctic. A memorial statue stands in the premises of the Royal Geographical Society.