Shackelton’s and the South Pole

PUBLISHED: 16:57 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:35 20 February 2013



Exactly 100 years after Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated trip to the South Pole, an intrepid group of explorers including some of his relatives are retracing the journey. Follow their journey here

Shackelton and centenary trip to the South Pole

"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."
Sir Ernest Shackleton

WE WILL never know how the renowned explorer expected to entice anyone with this advert, but he did. Word of Sir Ernest Shackleton's attempt at reaching the South Pole had inspired a generation and no less than 5,000 volunteered to board Endurance as part of his second voyage to cross the Antarctic.

The first expedition in 1908 saw Shackleton, Frank Wild, Eric Marshall and Jameson Boyd Adams board a 40-year-old three-mast sealer ship called Nimrod and become the first to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. The ship had set off on October 29, 1908 to go further than anyone had gone before with the help and hindrance of four sledge-pulling ponies. However the bold endeavour was plagued with calamity.

At Beardmore Glacier, named after one of Shackleton's patrons, a concealed crevasse claimed the life of their last pony and very nearly killed Wild. At one point Shackleton gave his one biscuit allotted for the day to the ailing Frank Wild who wrote: "All the money that was ever minted would not have bought that biscuit and the remembrance of that sacrifice will never leave me."

Without ponies, the men were forced to haul sledges with their bare hands battling blizzards and icy winds. Exhausted, hungry and agonisingly close to glory, Shackleton decided to turn back. The lives of his team depended on it. Their hands and feet were near frostbite and provisions ran dangerously low. The pioneering band of men mere forced to abandon the expedition just 97 miles from the South Pole where they planted the Union Jack and trudged back. They had walked 1700 miles.

A hundred years on, the descendants of Shackleton's crew are reuniting to finish what their forefathers began. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Worsley MBE, a relative of Shackleton's skipper Frank Worsley, the team are attempting to recreate the doomed Nimrod expedition in an historic journey to the Pole.

Will Gow, a relation of Shackleton's by marriage, and Henry Adams, the great grandson of Jameson Boyd Adams, will trek the full 900-miles with Lt Col Worsley while other descendants will join the party for the last 97 miles.

Lt Col Worsley says: "It is important for us to complete unfinished family business and leave a legacy in his name to find future Shackletons. We want to support individuals and keep his pioneering spirit alive through the Shackleton Foundation.

"To keep ourselves alive we will have to live very efficiently for 80 days. Beardore Glacier is the place we are most likely to die or get into serious difficulty but what I am most afraid of is failing. Travelling unguided on skis, we will cross the Ross Ice Shelf, individually hauling our expedition supplies in sledges. We will then ascend the seldom-crossed Beardmore Glacier, en route collecting blue ice samples for scientific analysis back in the UK. Then it's on to the Polar plateau, 400 miles towards the Pole itself. "

The Colonel has been given special dispensation from the Army to complete the trek and will reach his lifelong goal with Sussex-raised Tim Fright, the great, great nephew of Frank Wild. Lt Col Worsley has every faith in the 25-year-old.

He says: "Tim is young but he has done a lot of training. Age is not an issue. He has to get on with people and he does. Besides, he is Wild's descendant. What greater way to drive you on than to have him standing by you?" Worsley and his two Antarctic adventurers left Shackleton's hut on October 29 exactly a hundred years to the day since the Nimrod team set out. Tim will join them on January 9 for the final leg.

"I've never been able to explain why I am doing this," says Tim. "I'm young and reasonably fit in the most understated way possible. I won't be doing the whole thing as I'm not nearly fit enough and haven't the training. I will be completing the last 97 miles and therefore receive a sixth of the glory at a tenth of the effort!

The budding explorer's involvement came about purely by chance after Will Gow had spoken to his dad.

He says: "The expedition sounded very exciting and I tried to get in on the act. The legacy of Shackleton offers the valuable lesson that anything is possible. This is the lesson that I have personally taken. This has helped to drive me onto bigger and better things, as I realise that even if I fail, I end up further than if I had not tried at all.

"Our house is filled with worn-out Shackleton memorabilia and paraphernalia: rich in sentimental value, much less so in actual economic value. Above the stairs hangs a four feet by four feet sepia-toned picture of Frank Wild attending to a couple of his dogs. A carved box taken from The Discovery containing a variety of medals and a small walrus tusk sits next to the computer monitor. I could go on and talk about the wealth of Antarctic literature taking up our living room, or the well-worn wooden skis hanging in our garage. It seems that having an ancestor that traversed the Antarctic leaves you a rich legacy of knick-knacks."

"Growing up learning what members of your own family have tried to achieve, and where they have succeeded and failed gives you a great sense of history and purpose."

The complete Ice Team includes Shackleton's great grandson Patrick Bergel, the great grandson of Jameson Boyd Adams: David Cornell and a member of the public chosen from more than 3,000 applicants Andy Ledger. Each of the men is permitted a single luxury item weighing no more than a pound...


To keep up with the team, who are leaving regular voicemails online, visit

To keep up with the team, who are leaving regular voicemails online, visit

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