Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition

Shackleton attempted a second expedition to the Pole in 1908. His Nimrod expedition was a close scrape with death, part of an emerging pattern for South Polar exploration. Shackleton, with Eric Marshall, Jameson Adams and Frank Wild, pioneered the route up to the Polar Plateau (which he claimed, and named, for King Edward VII) via the Beardmore Glacier, named for the expedition’s patron.

By January 9, 1909, the foursome had trudged to within 180km of the Pole before being forced to turn back by dangerously dwindling food supplies. It was the hardest decision of Shackleton’s life. He told his wife, Emily, later: ‘I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.’ The men returned to their base at Ross Island in extremely poor condition and with all their supplies exhausted.

Still, they had achieved a remarkable run, beating Scott’s furthest south by 589km, discovering almost 800km of new mountain range, and showing the way to anyone attempting the Pole after them. They also found coal and fossils at Mt Buckley at the top of the Beardmore Glacier.

It was generally believed that the next expedition to tackle the Pole, strengthened by the knowledge gained from previous attempts, would most likely reach it.