Irish relive polar hero's finest hour

As Britain continues to bleat about freezing temperatures and appears shocked at the prospect of frozen rivers, a group of five Irish adventurers will this weekend deliberately head for polar waters to re- create one of history's most remarkable rescues from the cold.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Born in Kilkee, County Clare, in 1874, Shackleton's name, like Captain Robert Scott, has become synonymous with Antarctic exploration. But unlike other explorers of his age, the record books show that he, perhaps uniquely, got all the men back home alive.

Shackleton, an army lieutenant, was a member of Scott's 1901-1904 expedition when he sledged partway across the Ross Ice Shelf. In January 1908 he returned to the Antarctic as leader of the British expedition sailing in the Nimrod. The following summer Shackleton was back in the area and heading for the South Pole via the Beardsmore Glacier. By January 1909, 97 miles short of the Pole and with dwindling supplies, his adventure ended and he headed back to the Nimrod. Two years later Scott found himself in a similar position, did not turn back, and died.

But it is the astonishing and heroic journeys that Shackleton and his men made during their 1914-16 voyage that the five Irishmen - Dubliner Frank Nugent, Paddy Barry and Mike Barry from Tralee, and Jamie Young and Jarlath Cunnane from Co Mayo - plan to re-create.

At the beginning of 1914 Shackleton planned to cross the Antarctic continent from the Wedell Sea to McMurdo Sound via the South Pole. However, their expedition ship, Endurance, was trapped in pack ice before reaching the continent edge. In the shifting flows of the spring thaw, the Endurance was crushed and destroyed. For six months the men dragged the ship's lifeboats on the open ice, until the thaw allowed them to sail to Elephant Island, part of the South Shetland islands at the north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

From there, Shackleton and a crew of five sailed 800 miles to South Georgia, where they braved hurricane winds and towering seas in a 23ft open whale boat, the James Caird. On South Georgia they also successfully scaled uncharted mountains to reach help. Shackleton then led four relief expeditions before succeeding in rescuing all his men from Elephant Island.

The anniversary expedition, costing pounds 100,000, will involve crossing the same treacherous 800 miles of the Southern Ocean covered by Shackleton in a small replica lifeboat. One of the Irish crew, Frank Nugent, who came within 250 metres of the summit of Everest in 1993, said: "All the odds were against them surviving, but they did."

As well as the Irish voyage, the anniversary is being marked with new book on the rescue called Shackleton's Boat. The James Caird Society, named after the small craft now displayed at Dulwich College, London, was recently formed to celebrate the life of the explorer. Roderic Dunnett of the society said: "Shackleton was distinctive as a rare leader himself. Perhaps above all because he unfailingly got all his men home safe and alive."

On 5 January 1922, Shackleton died of a heart attack while in South Georgia on board the Quest on his fourth expedition to the Antarctic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works