In 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and twenty-seven men set forth on a south polar expedition, only to become trapped in pack ice and stranded for nearly two years in one of the most inhospitable regions of Earth. Shackleton's miraculous escape with his entire crew from certain death in the arctic unfolds in unprecedented detail on Shackleton's Voyage of Endurance, a two-hour documentary on NOVA, airing Tuesday, March 26, 2002, from 8 to 10 PM ET on PBS.
Sir Ernest could do far worse than have as his only granddaughter the
Honorable Alexandra Shackleton. Life-president of the James Caird Society,
which was founded to honor Shackleton and provide information about his
expeditions, Ms. Shackleton looks after her grandfather´s legacy about as
well as the great man himself looked after his men.
Based in London, she has been instrumental in furthering Shackleton
historical research, has contributed forewords to books on Antarctic
exploration, and is currently consulting for the forthcoming Channel
Four/First Sight Films television drama Shackleton, starring Kenneth Branagh.
She has even had the honor to christen three ships: the Royal Navy´s Ice
Patrol ship, HMS Endurance; the trawler Lord Shackleton; and, most recently,
the British Antarctic Survey ship, RRS Ernest Shackleton.
In this intimate interview, hear insights about Sir Ernest´s motivations and
beliefs, strengths and imperfections, crushing disappointments and
unparalleled achievements, as only a devoted granddaughter can have them.
NOVA: What was really pushing your grandfather to do this expedition to cross
Shackleton: Well, the Pole had been attained, so he had to abandon that
dream. I think he considered it the last great Antarctic adventure-to
cross the Antarctic from the Weddell Sea to the Ross Sea, a distance of about
1,800 miles. Of course, in those days it was felt that it should be done by
somebody British. All of the nationalities felt that. The Germans felt that.
The Americans felt that. The French felt that. And he considered he was
pretty well fitted to do it, having built up a reputation as a successful
leader of the Nimrod Expedition (1907 attempt to reach the South Pole, of
which he got within 100 miles before having to turn back).
NOVA: It was a pretty ambitious plan, given the stage of Antarctic
exploration at that time. Was the monumental challenge part of the attraction?
Shackleton: It was ambitious, but I think he thought it was possible. He was
a very practical person, and he would have never attempted anything that he
thought could not be done. The main reason was that, above all, he had the
lives of his men to consider.
NOVA: When your grandfather left England on the Endurance, the First World
War was about to start. What effect did that have on him?