Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton CVO OBE FRGS FRSGS 1874 – 1922 was an Irish Antarctic Explorer. He was probably best known for his Endurance Expedition in 1914-1916. He was born in County Kildare, Ireland but his family moved to London while he was a child and he was educated at Dulwich College. Although his father wanted him to follow his profession to become a Doctor, he instead decided to join the Merchant Navy at the age of 16. He qualified as a Master Mariner at the age of 24. In 1901 he was chosen to join Robert Falcon Scott on a voyage to Antarctica. He was unfortunately sent home early on health grounds but only after he had trekked nearer to the South Pole than anyone had before. In 1908 he voyaged again to Antarctica on his own expedition in the ship Nimbus. He managed to climb Mount Erebus and again trekked nearer to the South Pole than anyone had before. He was knighted on his return.
In 1911 the Norwegian Explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, followed by Scott who died on the way back. The great goal of the heroic age of exploration had been achieved.
The only grand adventure left was to try to cross Antarctica. Shackleton secured the ship Endurance for the expedition in 1914. Against advice he sailed it into heavy ice where it became beset for ten months before sinking. He and the crew then took three small lifeboats and managed to reach the relative safety of Elephant Island. Shackleton chose five crew to set off for rescue in one of the small boats heading for South Georgia. This was one of history’s greatest small boat adventures across the stormy Southern Ocean. Luckily he had chosen the brilliant navigator Frank Worsley as one of the crew. His skill with the sextant enabled them to find the speck of the small island. They then trekked across the mountains to reach help. Eventually all the crew from Elephant Island were rescued, although sadly three men from the almost forgotten Mount Hope Party lost their lives whilst laying essential food depots for the expedition.
Shackleton’s last expedition was the Shackleton Rowett Expedition in 1922. The objective was to circumnavigate Antarctica in the ship renamed Quest. Sadly, Shackleton died of a heart attack in South Georgia where he is buried.
Arthur Beale supplied equipment for Shackleton’s adventures. The receipt signed by Ernest Shackleton is in our archive. We delivered the equipment to the ship Quest. The ship's photo below is from our archive when Gino Watkins used the ship for his successful Arctic Air Route Expedition (see previous blog). We still deliver equipment to adventurous yachts leaving from St Katharine Docks.
The Ice axe we supplied to Shackleton is in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich but I am afraid the picture rights are too expensive to post. Sadly the axe isn't normally on display but is is stamped Beale, Shaftesbury Avenue.
Remarkably we still have a few of the belay pulleys in stock. Arthur Beale was the sole manufacturer of the highly advanced Neo Belay Pulley. They were designed by William Schermuly, the inventor of the rocket fired breeches buoy.