Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of Britain's most famous and widely respected explorers.
The aim of the Nimrod Expedition was to be the first to make a successful journey to the South Pole. With nineteenth-century technology, and the Antarctic still almost completely unknown territory, his was an undertaking equivalent to a modern-day moon-landing.
Shackleton failed. Yet the expedition successfully achieved the first ascent of Mount Erebus, which was the first ascent of any peak in the Antarctic. They were the first team to reach the Magnetic South Pole, and the first team to reach the plateau above the Transantarctic Mountains.
Shackleton, Adams, Wild and Marshall got to within 97 miles of the Pole on January 9th, 1909 before "The Boss" made the pragmatic decision to turn back to base.
By declining what would have been a suicidal race to glory, and choosing instead to preserve the lives of his men, Shackleton not only survived to carry out future exploits but proved himself a leader that the same men would gladly follow through any adversity.
This was the farthest mankind had reached in achieving the South Pole.
More on the web:
Wikipedia has a solid if brief entry.
south-pole.com has a longer, detailed and well-written article online.
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