Human Impact: Polar Seafarers Still Affected by Shackleton’s Influence

Shackleton’s party on Elephant Island. (Image: Wikimedia Commons. Photographer: Frank Hurley.)

A group of ocean scientists made a 10,000 km pilgrimage to South Georgia Island in the far Antarctic Ocean to visit the grave of Ernest Shackleton, considered the greatest expeditionist of all time for the rare feat of keeping his crew alive while they were stranded for two years on the Antarctic ice after their ships were destroyed in 1914.

Shackleton’s particular brand of leadership in extremely difficult circumstances made a difference for the lives of his men and still does for people working in Antarctica today, they say. His mix of incredible survival skills and undying spirit in facing the most hostile environment on the planet still inspires expeditioners to keep trying for discovery and keep surviving the elements. Shackleton’s feat has been attempted by modern teams, and replicating his journey has proven impossible so far.

Dr. Joe MacInnis, who has spent a huge portion of his career diving beneath the Antarctic ice, made the pilgrimmage to Shackleton’s grave onboard the National Geographic Explorer with an international assortment of scientists. He created a documentary about leadership, in which he asks Antarctic biologists, oceanographers, glaciologists and naturalists about their experience with Shackleton’s story and his influence on their Antarctic endeavors.

Listen to the full one-hour episode at CBC Radio.

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