Ernest Shackleton Collection

Ernest Shackleton’s Expedition

British National Antarctic Expedition 1901–04

Known as the Discovery Expedition, the expedition was organised jointly by the Royal Society and Royal Geographical Society. The emphasis was placed on geographical discovery and it was this expedition which launched the Antarctic careers of Robert Falcon Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Edward Wilson and Frank Wild.

British Antarctic Expedition 1907-1909

Widely known as the Nimrod Expedition, it was the first expedition to be led by Ernest Shackleton. He failed to reach the South Pole in 1908 but did manage to reach a latitude of 88° 23' S. Further south than anyone previously. The expedition, however, reached the South Magnetic Pole and made the first ascent of Mount Erebus.

Shackleton-Rowett Expedition 1921-1922

Also known as the Quest Expedition, it was to be Ernest Shackleton’s last. The vessel, Quest, was smaller than any vessel used before and soon proved inadequate for its purpose. Shackleton died aboard ship at South Georgia where he was later buried.

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1916

Commonly known as the Endurance Expedition, in 1914 Ernest Shackleton set out to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent. He purchased the ships, Endurance (after which the expedition is also known) and Aurora. He recruited a crew of 56 which included Frank Wild and Frank Hurley.

The Endurance sailed from Plymouth on 8th August 1914 but after a six day gale became trapped in an ice-drift in the Weddell sea in January 1915, finally sinking on 21st November 1915. Shackleton battled to keep his crew alive throughout this period finally leading his men to Elephant Island, from where Shackleton and a five man team rowed for South Georgia in the James Caird. After reaching Stormness, Shackleton then made three attempts to rescue his remaining crew from Elephant Island before they were finally rescued on the 30th August by the Chilean naval tug the Yelcho.

Frank Hurley, the official expedition photographer, took a series of stunning photographs of the crews daily battle with adversity. These photographs can be viewed here and are now conserved in the Society’s temperature and humidity contract collections archive.