ERNEST SHACKLETON Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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Ernest Shackleton was the quintessential Edwardian hero. A contemporary - and     
adversity - 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 for him, but the pursuit of wealth,     
fame and power did. Yet Shackleton, an 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 20,000 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 died of a heart attack, aged only 47, as it reached South Georgia.             
Ernest Shackleton was the second child and elder son of a family that eventually     
numbered two brothers and eight sisters.                                             
Up to the age of 10, he grew up in Kilkea, Ireland, thirty miles from Dublin.         
His father, Henry Shackleton, was a farmer. This was the time of the disasterous     
periodic failures of the potato crop and, consequently, agricultural depression       
and hard times for farmers. Thus Henry left the land and at the age of 33, he         
began to read medicine at Trinity College, Dublin and start a new career.             
In 1884, immediately after qualifying Dr Shackleton crossed the water to settle       
in England for good. His first practice, at South Croydon, was a failure, so         
after six months he moved to Sydenham. There he held his own, and there he           
stayed. It was in Suburban London, therefore, that Ernest Shackleton passed the       
remainder of his boyhood. From 1887, he attended Dulwich College.