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News and Commentary

28 March 2011

Shackleton's Nimrod Expedition

Alex Kurtagic

Available from our online shop today is Beau Riffenburgh's Nimrod, which tells the story of Ernest Shackleton's British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909.

Shackleton had been a young member of Robert Falcon Scott's Discovery Expedition in 1901-1903, and was in the three-man team led by Scott in his first attempt to reach the South Pole. The attempt was unsuccessful, with the polar party suffering from extreme cold, snow blindness, frostbites, starvation, and scurvy, having not gone farther than 82º17' S, all the same a new Farthest South at the time. Shackleton's physical collapse led him to being invalided home upon the party's return to their base on Ross Island.

Not soon after the indomitable Shackleton set out to organise his own expedition, mentioned above, and the gripping story of which is told in Riffenburgh's book.

Shackleton's own bid for the South Pole also failed, conditions proving so extreme that a pressing on would have meant certain death. Shackleton was forced to turn his party around only 97 miles away from his target, as there would not have been enough food to sustain them on the return journey, even on starvation rations. All the same, Shackleton achieved a new Farthest South of 88º23'S, discovered the Beardmore Glacier, and was the first person, along with the members of his party, to see and travel on the Antarctic plateau, the coldest and most inhospitable environment on Earth. His expedition also conquered Mount Erebus on Ross Island, which contains an active volcano linked to the continent by the huge Ross Ice Shelf, and a flag was planted on the magnetic South Pole. These achievements earned Sir Ernest Shackleton his knighthood, and gained him renown across the British Empire.

Shackleton's own account can be found on his subsequent book, The Heart of the Antarctic (we will be preparing a new edition this year). Polar expert Beau Riffenburgh offers a modern account, which benefits from the research that has been made, and the knowledge that has been acquired, since.

You can get the book about these extraordinary men and their awesome deeds here.

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