JANUARY 5, 2013
54° 16.9′ SOUTH AND 36° 30.5′ WEST
GRYTVIKEN, SOUTH GEORGIA
Ninety-one years ago, to the day, Sir Ernest Shackleton died aboard a boat anchored in Grytviken Harbour, South Georgia. Suffering a massive heart attack at the age of 47, Shackleton’s death marked the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.
On this auspicious and rainy day, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Shackleton’s gravesite in Grytviken. We raised a wee dram to his polar achievements. As is customary, each of us saved a modicum of the single malt whisky for Shackleton, reverently pouring it on his gravesite.
During the 1907-1909 Nimrod Expedition, Shackleton’s team discovered the magnetic South Pole and came to within 100 miles of the geographic South Pole; his difficult decision to abort the race for the pole – due to dwindling food supplies and the deteriorating condition of his men – ensured that everyone made it home alive. When Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice during the 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, his leadership ensured that all the men under his direct command survived the two-year ordeal.
But Shackleton’s gripping story didn’t end with his death: in a convoluted series of recent events, Frank Wild’s ashes were discovered after languishing, since 1939, in a South African crematorium.