Sir Ernest Shackleton is considered one of the great polar explorers. His expeditions, especially the Nimrod and the Endurance expeditions, have become legendary and an example of hardship and battling against all odds as well as supreme leadership. However, Shackleton also had an artistic side and deemed poetry his other great love. The British polar expert Jim Mayer has ventured deep into the life of Shackleton to illuminate the importance of poetry in Shackleton’s life and his expeditions.

The British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874 – 1922) has become a legend among polar explorers due to the failed Endurance expedition and the following return journey from the Weddell Sea to South Georgia.
The British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874 – 1922) has become a legend among polar explorers due to the failed Endurance expedition and the following return journey from the Weddell Sea to South Georgia.

Polar expeditions have been always considered a very hard and strenuous affair where only the toughest, best prepared and luckiest men will survive the hardship of an unforgiving wilderness. Especially the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-17, also known as the “Endurance”-expedition, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, has become a synonym for battling and surviving almost unbelievable situations and showed the exceptional leadership skills of Shackleton. Many books have been published over the years about this feat and also about Shackleton and his life.

Set out to cross the Antarctic continent, Shackleton and his men soon lost their ship Endurance in the ice of the Weddell Sea. Shackleton then led his men on an epic journey back to Elephant Island and continued on to South Georgia to get help.
Set out to cross the Antarctic continent, Shackleton and his men soon lost their ship Endurance in the ice of the Weddell Sea. Shackleton then led his men on an epic journey back to Elephant Island and continued on to South Georgia to get help.

Now, a new book, ‘Shackleton: A life in Poetry' by polar expert Jim Mayer, has been published and is a biography of Sir Ernest Shackleton told using the poems he wrote and those by other poets that he loved to read and recite. Shackleton, known as a tough polar explorer and inspirational leader, held the words of poets close to his heart. 'Poetry was his other world and he explored it as eagerly as he did the great Antarctic spaces,' said his friend, Mrs Hope Guthrie.

Jim Mayer has been fascinated for a long time by the Polar Regions and has become a specialist for polar history. He has been working as a polar expedition leader and guide for many years.
Jim Mayer has been fascinated for a long time by the Polar Regions and has become a specialist for polar history. He has been working as a polar expedition leader and guide for many years.

As well as his favourite poems, the biography includes all the poems and poetic diary extracts written by the great explorer himself, each of which sheds light on significant milestones in his life and adventures. Shackleton used poetry as a tool, to encourage and motivate men who were frequently operating close to their physical and psychological limits. The works of Tennyson, Browning and Robert W. Service were, in Shackleton’s own phrase, 'vital mental medicine' throughout his life. Poems influenced his speeches, his letters to his wife and the way he led his men. These verses, selected from his correspondence and other sources, are linked throughout the book to Shackleton's turbulent and restless life, offering fresh insights into his struggles in the Antarctic, his strained but loving marriage and the magnetic attraction of the Polar Regions. Shackleton historian Jonathan Shackleton said of the book: “This is an extremely interesting work on a very important part of Shackleton's character.”

‘Shackleton: A life in Poetry’ is a paperback with 176 pages and was published by Signal Books Ltd on October 6th. ISBN-10: 1909930105 ISBN-13: 978-1909930100
‘Shackleton: A life in Poetry’ is a paperback with 176 pages and was published by Signal Books Ltd on October 6th. ISBN-10: 1909930105 ISBN-13: 978-1909930100

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Source: South Georgia Newsletter