Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero. A contemporary - and adversary - of Scott, he sailed on the 'Discovery' expedition of 1900, and went on to mount three expeditions of his own. Like Scott, he was a social adventurer; snow and ice held no particular attraction, but the pursuit of wealth, fame and power did. Yet Shackleton, ...
Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero. A contemporary - and adversary - of Scott, he sailed on the 'Discovery' expedition of 1900, and went on to mount three expeditions of his own. Like Scott, he was a social adventurer; snow and ice held no particular attraction, but the pursuit of wealth, fame and power did. Yet Shackleton, and Anglo-Irishman who left school at 16, needed status to raise money for his own expeditions. At various times he was involved in journalism, politics, manufacturing and City fortune-hunting - none of them very effectively. A frustrated poet, he was never to be successful with money, but he did succeed in marrying it. At his height he was feted as a national hero, knighted by Edward VII, and granted GBP20,000 by the government for achievements which were, and remain, the very stuff of legend. But the world to which he returned in 1917 after the sensational 'Endurance' expedition did not seem to welcome surviving heroes. Poverty-stricken by the end of the war, he had to pay off his debts through writing and endless lecturing. He finally obtained funds for another expedition, but dies of a heart attack, aged only 47, at it reached South Georgia.
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Publishers Weekly, 1985-12-13 He is a biographer's dream: Ernest Shackleton was ruthless and ambitious, an unabashed adventurer, an inspired leader, a glorious failure. Also, for much of his life, he was beset by financial and romantic entanglements. Huntford, author of Scott and Amundsen (basis of the recent PBS series The Last Place on Earth), has written a superb account of heroic adventure, of ineptitude and disappointment. Shackleton left a career in the merchant marine to join Robert Scott's expedition on the Discovery (1900); sent home for reasons of health after the first season, he determined to try for the South Pole on his own. The bitter rivalry with Scott had begun. Shackleton's charm and powers of persuasion enabled him to raise money for his 19071909 expedition that came within 100 miles of the Pole. Back home, he was a national hero with financial troubles (he always sought instant fortune). Again, he found backers and planned the ``last great journey'' across the Antarctic continent. This produced epic adventure: the loss of Endurance in the ice and the long, open-boat journey to safety and rescue. It is one of the greatest survival stories of all time, and Huntford gives it full treatment. Readers interested in polar exploration will find this book hard to put down. Photos. January 14
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