Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Feb 2009

Malcolm Tranter - 'The Voyages of Ernest Shackleton' - illustrated talk
Tue 10 Feb 2009

Malcom Tranter made a welcome return to Chorley to present an illustrated talk on Ernest Shackleton. Shackleton was born in Ireland in 1874 but moved to England in 1884. At the age of 16 and with a desire for a life at sea he joined the Merchant Navy. By the age of 24 he had certified as Master.
By 1901 it was the height of Empire and there was great interest in attempts to reach the South Pole. Shackleton longed to be part of this and he volunteered to be part of Scott’s expedition to the Antarctic. This expedition did not reach the pole but worse for Shackleton he became seriously ill midway through and had to be invalided home.

The Endurance trapped in the ice

Marriage and a failed political career followed but he had no income and wanted to return to the Antarctic.
His second voyage there, 1907-09, was in a 40 year old ship, Nimrod. After much hardship he succeeded in reaching the magnetic pole – just 100 miles short of the South Pole.
Shackleton’s third voyage, following Amundsen’s successful South Pole expedition in 1911-12, intended to make a trek across Antarctica, coast to coast, through the pole.

The James Caird setting off for South Georgia.

He set sail in the Endurance in August 1914 at the outset of World War 1. The Endurance entered pack ice by December 1914 and became completely trapped. Over the coming months they moved for hundreds of miles in the ice but by October 1915 the Endurance was crushed. Three lifeboats and supplies were saved. To escape the ice they successfully sailed to Elephant Island, 100 miles to the north.
Their only possible hope of survival, though, lay in reaching a whaling station on South Georgia 800 miles to the north-west. Only one lifeboat was thought capable of making the trip. Six men set sail whilst 50 men remained on Elephant Island.
They reached South Georgia but the whaling station was on the other side of the island across a mountain range. Three men set off and successfully traversed this to find the whaling station and raise help.

Amazingly, all 56 men survived the expedition and made it home in 1917.
Shackleton, however, died of a heart attack on South Georgia on his fourth voyage south in January 1922.
Malcolm also devoted time to the life of Frank Hurley, photographer of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.
Malcolm’s words and Hurley’s images gave us an insight into the world of an extraordinary man, which made for a very interesting and entertaining evening.

Thanks to Judith for the text and John for the images.

The James Caird.


Local History Day - Friends Meeting House, Euston Rd., London
6 June 2009 10:30 - 16:30 Tickets £15
Click here for an application form.