Sir Ernest Shackleton
This Anglo-Irish explorer achieved immortality not for (twice) getting closer to the South Pole than anyone before him in 1901 and 1907, but for how he handled his particularly ill-fated third attempt in 1914. Having been beaten to the pole a few years earlier by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, Shackleton, at the age of 40, was actually trying to become the first to instead cross the entire continent. When his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice, he and his men were stranded, drifting on the desolate floe for months. Eventually, Shackleton and a handful of his crew boarded worryingly small lifeboats and sailed 800 miles for nearly three weeks to a remote whaling station in South Georgia, where, after trekking 22 miles, he was able to organize a rescue operation. All 28 of his men survived.
• In 1914, Shackleton began a Trans-Antarctic Expedition on the ship Endurance. He planned an 1,800-mile trip, across the Weddell Sea, past unexplored Antarctic shoreline, and then over the Ross Sea.
• When the ship became stuck in ice, crew members were stranded for nearly two years, living on floating ice. Shackleton and five others set out on a 22-foot lifeboat, surviving a 17-day, 800-mile journey to get to a South Georgia Island, where they found a whaling station.
• In 1916, Shackleton came back and rescued all 28 men.
The Last Word
The Endurance survival tale has become a textbook for teaching leadership and perseverance, in arenas as varied as business and politics. It is perhaps entirely because of Ernest Shackleton that contemporary explorers recognize that strength and ambition aren’t worth much if they’re not accompanied by a cool head and selfless leadership.