Shackleton: patriotic or misfit?

Shackleton: patriotic or misfit?

Many historians think that Sir Ernest Shackleton was a hero and a great patriot of Great Britain; others think that Shakleton’s delusions and ambitions to make a fortune or to win fame brought 28 men to the South Pole in 1914; whereas the majority most likely has never heard anything about Shakleton. However, Shakleton and his attempt to cross the South Pole on foot can be rationalized in many ways.
Shackleton was a patriot.
First, Shackleton risked his life too bring the fame to his country. He decided to be the first who crossed the Antarctic on foot and that way to bring the respect and self confidence to Great Britain back. In the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century Great Britain was number one in the world by the number of attempts and by the amount of money spent to explore the South and the North Poles. In contrast, England appeared to be second best inn exploring those Poles. The North Pole was conquered by Americans, Robert Peary and Matthew Henson in 1909 and the South Pole was explored by Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1911. To stress, Great Britain was very close at reaching the South Pole th

he first; the expedition under Captain Robert Falcon Scott reached the South Pole only one month later than Amundsen. According to Alfred Lansing, who wrote about Shackletons incredible voyage in 1959, “the whole nation [Great Britain] was saddened” (10) and Shackleton “played heavily on this matter of the prestige, making it primary argument for such an expedition” (11).
Furthermore, the expedition was important for the scientific issues as well. The glaciologist and geologist were part of the team not only to attract the attention and money of the Scientific and Geographical Societies, but to help Shackleton to bring useful information to his country. As Shackleton informed, even Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill said that “every step will be an advance in geographical science” (viii). Second, Shakleton was selfless. He did not go to the Antarctic for money. He sold the rights to the book that he promised to write after the return for the South Pole. He also sold the rights to the pictures from the Antarctica and promised to give all profit form the speeches that he would have made after the return from the Antarctic to the sponsoring componies. Furthermore, all the money that was donated to Shackleton’s trip was fully used to
o offset the outcomes of the journey; any sponsor or official did not promise to award Shackleton in case he succeeded.
Finally, Shackleton was heroic.” Exhibiting or marked by courage and daring; self-sacrificing; determined effort in the face of difficulty; of a kind, that is likely only to be undertaken to safe a life”,-these are the definitions of the word heroic provided by Merriam Webster’s dictionary and which almost literally characterize Shackleton.
First, Shackleton was fearless. He had been in the Antarctic two times before the expedition with “Endurance” and both times scarcely escaped form death. Even though Schakleton knew that he was bringing his men and himself into a great danger, he did not doubt to travel. Moreover, he had courage to change the course, when ice destroyed the “Endurance” (the ship he traveled with). Even though Shackleton was responsible to the financial sponsors of his voyage, he did not doubt to make his prime goal to bring his crew home alive.
Second, Shackleton was self-sacrificing. He scarified his family goodness for the trip. He did not leave any money to his family when he left to the Antarctic. Moreover, when he was facing starvation, cold and death during th
he trip to the Elephant Island through the Weddell Sea, Shackleton never lost the sense and never stopped caring about his men lives and health. To stress, when the crew reached the Elephant Island, Shackleton and his four men traveled 600 miles across the southern ocean to South Georgia in a small rowing boat without any navigation devices. Then they had to cross the island in order to reach the civilization and so to safe their and the rest of the crew members lives. Shackleton traveled for thirty-six hours without any food, water or sleep.
Finally, Shackleton returned to Elephant Island to pick up his men. Not a single member of his party was lost.
Though on the other hand, Shackleton was a misfit.
First, Shackleton left his motherland which was fighting Germany for its survival. Despite the fact that, as Shackleton pointed out in the South, “expedition had been proceeding over a year and large sums of money had been spent” and he “offered to give the Expedition up without even consulting the donors of this money (xiv)” when the war started, Shackleton could be blamed for avoiding the war. Even though Mr. Churchill blessed his voyage, Shackleton was an ad
dmiral in the Royal Merchant Navy first and only then a wanderer. Shackletons’s primary objective should had been to defend his country from the foreign enemies.
Second, Shackleton had mischievous ambitions; it is very likely that he traveled to the South Pole inspired by the fame and money he would have gotten in case he had succeeded. Shackleton was from a middle-class family. After the expedition to the South Pole with Scott in 1901 and marriage to the daughter of a wealthy lawyer, the events that changed his life for good, Shackleton tried to strike it rich in many ways. As Alfred Lansing informs, Shackleton had “the idea to manufacture cigarettes (a sure-fire plan- with his endorsement)” (13), to purchase “a fleet of taxicabs, mining in Bulgaria, a whaling factory, even digging buried treasure. Most of his ideas never got beyond the talking stage, and those that did, were usually unsuccessful” (13). To conclude, not only Shackleton made every endeavor to get rich, but he was very unsuccessful in his business ventures. So it is very likely that Shackleton’s struggles to explore the Antarctica and then to cross it on foot was only a desperate attempt to make a lot of money. In addition, according to Lennard Bickel, “once commited he [Shackleton] had very little capability of altering his plan” (240). In other words Shackleton could not change his plans because of the financial responsibilities to his voyage sponsors.
In conclusion, Sahckleton could be evaluated in different ways. Those historians, who think that Shackleton was a loser and megalomaniac, are right; Shackleton traveled to the South Pole most likely for fame and money. Shackleton was a misfit before he sailed form Great Britain in 1914. However, despite his extraordinary, Shackleton was a hero and as Alfred Lansing noticed, even “the great leaders of historical record- the Napoleons, Nelsons, the Alexanders- have rarely fitted any conventional mold, and it is perhaps an injustice to evaluate them in ordinary terms”. When Shackleton ran into difficulty and when the lives of his were put in danger, Shackleton appeared to be a patriot.

Works cited
Bickel, Lennard. Shackleton’s forgotten men”. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2000.

Lansing, Alfred. Endurance: Shackleton’s incredible voyage. New York: Mc Graw-Hill Book Company, 1959.

Shackleton, Ernest. South. New York: Konecky and Konecky, 2003.

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