Adventure, shipwreck, storms and survival

Going down: The Endurance is squeezed onto its side by ice in late 1915.

What can we learn from Ernest Shackleton? Over 100 years ago his ship, The Endurance, sank in the frozen waters of Antarctica. This week, a modern team of explorers is hoping to find it.

The crew of the Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 has been lucky so far. Its researchers have completed their scientific mission in Antarctica. Now they are beginning a new quest: to find Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship, The Endurance.

But who was Shackleton?

In August 1914, Shackleton was a well-known explorer. He hoped to lead the first expedition across Antarctica. He and his crew sailed south just days after the First World War was declared.

But in January 1915, The Endurance became trapped in the ice of the Weddell Sea. They were stuck.

The crew spent months living on the ship, hunting penguins for food and playing football on the ice. In October the ship was crushed “beyond all hope of ever being righted,” wrote Shackleton. They were forced to abandon it and live on the ice.

It finally sank in November. Five months later, the men finally reached a small island.

But civilisation was still over 900 miles away, at an island called South Georgia. No one knew where Shackleton and his men were. So he and five others set out across the dangerous open sea in search of rescue.

When they arrived at South Georgia in May 1916, the journey was still not over. They had to trek for 36 hours straight over the mountains until they found other people.

In August, two years after leaving England, Shackleton rescued the rest of his crew. Not a single life had been lost.

Breaking the ice

What lessons can we learn for this tale? Shackleton’s epic survival story has been retold countless times. He is seen as an amazing leader who saved his men’s lives while keeping their spirits up along the way.

But should we really admire him? It was his ego that put them in danger in the first place. Would we view him differently if the crew had been killed? Or would he still be admired for his ambition, like Scott before him?

You Decide

  1. What makes someone a good leader?


  1. Without looking it up in a dictionary, write a definition of the word “endurance”. Then check it against an official definition.

Some People Say...

“Difficulties are just things to overcome.”

Ernest Shackleton

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The scientists searching for The Endurance this week have a good idea of its location, which was meticulously recorded by the mission’s expert navigator, Frank Worsley.
What do we not know?
Whether they will find the ship; it all depends on whether the team’s own ship can get close enough. We also do not know what condition The Endurance will be in if it is found.

Word Watch

Scientific mission
The team has been investigating Antarctica’s fourth largest ice shelf (known as Larsen C) and its largest iceberg (known as A68).
Ernest Shackleton
A polar explorer who led three missions to the Antarctic. This was his second and most famous. He died during the third.
Weddell Sea
Found to the northwest of Antarctica. It is part of the Southern Ocean.
South Georgia
A small island north of Antarctica.
Robert Falcon Scott, who led the second successful mission to the South Pole. He and his team died on the return trip.

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