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Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero. A contemporary - and adversary - of Scott, he sailed on the 'Discovery' expedition of 1900, and went on to mount three expeditions of his own. Like Scott, he was a social adventurer; snow and ice held no particular attraction, but the pursuit of wealth, fame and power did. Yet Shackleton, and Anglo-Irishman who left school at 16, needed status to raise money for his own expeditions. At various times he was involved in journalism, politics, manufacturing and City fortune-hunting - none of them very effectively. A frustrated poet, he was never to be successful with money, but he did succeed in marrying it. At his height he was feted as a national hero, knighted by Edward VII, and granted GBP20,000 by the government for achievements which were, and remain, the very stuff of legend. But the world to which he returned in 1917 after the sensational 'Endurance' expedition did not seem to welcome surviving heroes. Poverty-stricken by the end of the war, he had to pay off his debts through writing and endless lecturing. He finally obtained funds for another expedition, but dies of a heart attack, aged only 47, at it reached South Georgia.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349107448
ISBN-10: 0349107440
Format: Paperback
(195mm x 126mm x 38mm)
Pages: 800
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 21-Sep-1989
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » The author of Scott and Amundsen now turns his attention to Robert Scott's junior officer Ernest Shackleton. After being invalided out of Scott's first polar expedition, Shackleton went on to become his former superior's chief rival in British Antarctic exploration. His story is filled with seething jealousies, unimaginable ineptitude, chicanery and, as Huntford notes, a kind of "witless valour." With its larger-than-life protagonist, globe-straddling action and colorful cast of subsidiary' characters, this reads like a splendid Victorian novel. Shackleton himself was a curious blend of bravery, bellicosity and bunkum. If he was a rogue, as Scott insisted, Shackelton's expedition of 1907-09 turned him into a national hero. (He and three companions came within 97 miles of the South Pole, closer than anyone had come before.) He was knighted by Edward VII, adored by the British public. When Amundsen finally achieved the Pole in 1912, however, it seemed that Shackleton's days as an Antarctic explorer were over; the ultimate goal had been reached. But graceful retirement and obscurity held no charm for the man. At 40, he set off on an abortive attempt to cross Antarctica by sledge. Self-promotion? Probably. Whatever its purpose, the project ended in tragedy and Shackleton was never taken quite so seriously again. There followed a diplomatic mission to Buenos Aires during which "Shack" contrived to offend everyone in sight. Then, a bit of wheeling and dealing in Murmansk during the Bolshevik Revolution - another fiasco; Lenin and Trotsky had other plans, it seems. Back in England, a book of reminiscences, lecture dates, a failing marriage, too many drinks and too-often-told anecdotes filled his days. In 1921, in one last lunge for glory, Shackleton announced plans "to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent." He died en route - of heart failure. He was 47 years old. One of the book's pervasive themes is the arrogance and insularity of British thought during the Edwardian era. If these qualifies were responsible, as Huntford contends, for Scott's death and the debacle of the Titanic, they also lend an ironic air of sadness to Shackleton's exploits. On nearly every page of this spellbinding narrative, the reader is aware of the great shadows gathering in the twilight of an empire. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Roland Huntford

Roland Huntford is the author of SCOTT AND AMUNDSEN, which was televised as THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH and republished under that name. For many years he was the OBSERVER's correspondent in Scandinavia, a job that he doubled with being their winter sports correspondent both in Scandinavia and the Alps. He lives in Cambridge.

Books By Author Roland Huntford

Race for the South Pole by Roland Huntford

Race for the South Pole

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Two Planks and a Passion by Roland Huntford

Two Planks and a Passion

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Scott and Amundsen by Roland Huntford

Scott and Amundsen

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