Shackleton Centenary Expedition

Family Legacy July 02 2007


Our house is filled with worn-out Shackleton memorabilia and paraphernalia: rich in sentimental value, much less so in actual economic value. Above the stairs hangs a four feet by four feet sepia-toned picture of Frank Wild attending to a couple of his dogs. A carved box taken from The Discovery containing a variety of medals and a small walrus tusk sits next to the computer monitor. I could go on here and talk about the wealth of Antarctic literature taking up our living room, or the well-worn wooden skis hanging in our garage.

It seems that having an ancestor that traversed the Antarctic leaves you a rich legacy of knick-knacks and jew-jaws. There is another more important legacy however, and that is the lessons that you can take from the experiences that members of your own family have undergone.

Frank Wild was my great great Uncle: the Uncle of my Gran. Growing up learning what members of your own family have tried to achieve, and where they have succeeded and failed gives you a greater sense of history and purpose. This is magnified when you look at the scale of what Shackleton and his men tried to achieve, bearing in mind the technology at their disposal at the time.

To be the first to reach the South Pole, to have a dream and to go about trying to achieve that dream is inspiring. What is more inspiring is not being afraid of failure. It is this point which strikes me as the most important legacy of Shackleton and the brave men that accompanied him on his missions. To have the strength of character to turn back from the geographic Pole 97 miles away from a place in the history books, after all the cajoling, organisation, money-raising and effort that had gone into getting there in the first place shows a recurrent theme in Shackleton's thinking: that of the welfare of his men above all else.

His man-management is something that countless people have talked about, written books about, and delivered lectures on. In my own humble opinion, it seems that by taking his ego out of the equation, Shackleton was able to both lead and be one of the men, thus ensuring a greater sense of community within his group. This sense of community was crucial to the setbacks that both he and his men endured, and made them stronger as a unit.

The legacy of Shackleton is something that should be both studied and celebrated. It should be both studied and celebrated as it offers the valuable lesson that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. This is the lesson that I have personally taken from the achievements of Shackleton and his men. This has helped to drive me onto bigger and better things, as I realise that even if I fail, I end up further than if I had not tried at all: something which is not encouraged enough today.

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