Questions of the Day
This adventure featured regular dispatches from Antarctica. Each dispatch included
a "pop" question at the end of it. Some of the questions were simple to answer,
especially if students looked through this site. Others were more open-ended;
there may not have had a "right" answer, although each answer carried different
consequences. Some of these questions were answered by noted polar explorers and
historians. We also posted selected answers sent in by our audience. The answer to
each question appeared in the following day's dispatch. You can use these with your
students to learn additional information about Antarctica and Shackleton's legendary voyage.
send in a question
Question 19: After 18 months, you reach civilization and organize a rescue. It's time to go
home to your family and enjoy a nice long vacation—or is it?
Answer from book author Caroline Alexander:
Shackleton did not return home to England until May 1917—18 months after the
Endurance had been crushed and nearly three years since his expedition
had set forth from England. Surely he would now return home, rest, spend time
with his family and reflect on all he had accomplished against such odds. But
he did not do this. Instead, he began agitating for a commission of some kind
in the war effort. Eventually he landed a post in Archangel, Russia, a place
that must have been as bleak in its way as the Antarctic, and without its beauty.
Shackleton returned to a world at war—and not just any war, but the war
that changed Europe forever. He was keenly conscious that he had missed out
on military action; in fact, all his men who were able enlisted, and several
lost their lives in action, including Alf Cheetham and Tim McCarthy, who had so
valiantly served the James Caird. It is perhaps difficult in the cynical
1990's to conjure up the feelings of shame, honor, patriotism, and duty that
impelled Shackleton and his men into the war after all they had gone through.
There is also the question of Shackleton's temperament. He was not particularly
suited to civilian life and was restless and unhappy at home with his family,
whom he nonetheless undoubtedly loved. As he himself once said, he was far
happier being off in the wilds with his men. After the Endurance, this
must have been especially true; no one in domestic, civilian life could
comprehend the battles Shackleton and his men fought and won.
—Caroline Alexander is the author of The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Knopf, 1998), upon which the NOVA/White Mountain Films films are based.
Question 18: After your 800-mile open boat journey, you land on South Georgia. But you've
landed on the south side, and the populated harbors are on the north side—on the other side of glaciers and mountains which have never been crossed before.
Should you try and hike it or sail around the island?
Answer from expedition leader Frank Nugent:
Shackleton and Worsley were quite happy to land anywhere on South Georgia.
They had been there before and knew the basic layout of the island. Their
initial relief in getting ashore in one piece and finding the sheltered Cave
Camp gave them time to locate themselves and consider their options, of which
going back out to sea with two sick men figured quite low.
In Tom Crean, Shackleton had a courageous and most experienced glacial
traveller, a veteran of the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions,
and in Frank Worsley, he had an exceptional navigator to lead the way. Using their
sea chart, they had only to find Possession Bay and then pick off Antarctic Bay,
Fortuna Bay, and then Stromness Bay, where they were confident at least one of the
whaling stations would be in production. In Shackleton's position, I too would have hiked!
#8212;Frank Nugent was joint leader of the South Aris -
Irish Antarctic Adventure, which tried in January 1997 to repeat Shackleton's crossing
from Elephant Island to South Georgia. They were forced to abandon their boat,
a replica of the James Caird that they christened the Tom Crean, when
they ran into a sustained Force 10 storm, which capsized them three times in 30 hours.
Nugent went on to complete a repeat of Shackleton's glacial traverse from King
Haakon Bay to Stromness in February 1997.
Question 17: You've got a discontented crew member. You're worried his attitude will hurt morale.
Do you leave him on Elephant Island when you try to sail to South Georgia, or take
him with you on this arduous journey?
Answer from polar trekker Gareth Wood:
A leader must think of the welfare of the large team, including those to stay behind
on Elephant Island. Perhaps an obvious decision might be to take the best team on the
boat journey. After all, this would be a bold venture requiring daring and skillful
seamanship. Shackleton clearly saw the big picture and held as primary importance
the welfare and morale of his men. It was not just a case of taking the best team.
He had to leave the remaining team in the best possible position to attempt their
own rescue should he fail. In addition, Shackleton, always the image of optimism
himself, worked tirelessly at maintaining the morale and keeping the men busy in
I believe Shackleton determined that if in Vincent there was the risk of unruliness
and a challenge to authority, then he, Shackleton, should be the one to deal with it—and he was a force to be reckoned with! Would I have made the same decision when
so much depended on the success of the boat journey? I'd like to think so, but I
might have chosen another seaman for such an important voyage and left Vincent for Wild to manage.
#8212;In 1985-86 Gareth Wood and two British companions
became the first people to trek unsupported to the South Pole, a feat Outside
magazine described as "one of the ten greatest feats of the decade." For more
information, see www.garethwood.com.
Question 16: You successfully land on Elephant Island, but your captain reminds you that it is not in
shipping lanes and your party will likely never be found there. What do you do?
Answer from expedition traveler Trevor Potts:
I think Shackleton did precisely the right thing. Picture the scene: A sailing ship's
crew of 28 men trapped in the ice pack for over a year. They were camped on the sea
ice for months, ever since their ship, the Endurance, was crushed and sank.
The ice rafted them over a thousand miles from where they had intended to land. After
a few days in three tiny, open boats, they finally managed to make a landfall on
Elephant Island on the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula. All were frozen, several
had badly frostbitten feet, and some were mentally at the end of their reserves.
But all were ecstatic at having reached land for the first time in over a year.
Yet in reality, they were not much better off. They had no fuel and only a few
weeks' worth of food; their only shelter was the upturned boats. This land was
not land as we know it. They were confined to a few hundred yards of a pebbly beach
fringed with vertical rock capped with ice. They were understandably becoming
frightened and demoralized, and the future was bleak, with another ferocious winter
fast approaching. They must have known that many would not survive, and only a
miracle could save those that did.
Shackleton was faced with a
stark choice: He could passively wait for rescue in the hope that a passing whaling
ship would find them the following summer. (It was too late in the season for ships
that year.) In my experience, having been in a real life-threatening situation,
one must be proactive to survive. Shackleton was a proactive leader; indeed, he
had made his decision well before they landed on Elephant Island. He had already
modified the largest of their boats, the James Caird, by raising her
topsides whilst they still had timber from the wrecked Endurance. He made sure
that he took other materials, such as timber and canvas to enable the James Caird
to be partially decked, in preparation for a possible rescue mission.
Shackleton was a planner, a forward thinker as well as being a great motivator.
He never gave any indication that they were in a seemingly hopeless situation.
He was a leader by example, who had to rationalize the risk in his own mind and
then make a carefully calculated decision. He had to weigh the possible loss of
himself and his ship's captain, Frank Worsley,
along with four other crewmembers against the gain of rescuing his entire crew
from almost certain death. It was not luck that saved them, but meticulous
planning and teamwork. He left behind his trusted deputy, Frank Wild,
who he knew would keep the crew motivated to survive during months of severe
hardships. He took with him Worsley, a professional navigator who would have
the best chance of finding South Georgia. Shackleton even took with him a
potential troublemaker to ease the strain of those left behind. The whole
ship's crew survived because of excellent teamwork inspired by a great leader.
#8212;Trevor Potts sailed a replica of the
James Caird with three others in an unsupported re-enactment of Shackleton's
journey to South Georgia. A teacher and expedition traveler, he lives in northwest Scotland.
Question 15: Your ship has sunk. Your expedition is not expected back from the Antarctic until
1916. It would take several months after that for a rescue party to be mounted, and
many more months for it to arrive in polar regions to begin the search. Do you make
for land, or try to live on the ice floes?
Answer from oceanography professor Arnold L. Gordon:
Shackleton had a choice: remain on the sea ice floe or set out by foot in some
direction in hopes of reaching land from which they could be rescued. As he knew the
Antarctic Peninsula was to his west and that no land lay to his east, he might have
thought of hiking westward. Trekking over sea ice, with its pressure ridges and open
leads, would be dangerous and draining of the group's resources. In addition, as
sea ice would be expected to be present all year along the coast of the Antarctic
Peninsula, rescue by ship, even if anyone knew where they were, was unlikely.
Staying with the ice floe would have been easier, but how would that have helped
the rescue effort? Shackleton couldn't have been sure; however, by the time the Endurance
broke apart and sank under the sea-ice pressure, Shackleton knew that they were drifting
northward. From their drift and strong winds out of the south, he could be fairly safe in
assuming that the northward drift would continue. He would conclude that eventually the
ice floe might make it to the northern fringes of the sea ice, from which point they
could use the Endurance's small boats, the James Caird, the Dudley Docker,
and the Stancomb Wills, to sail to the islands that were known to exist
off the north coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. These islands were much more
accessible by boat, and whalers frequented the region. If the sea ice broke
apart before easy access to the ocean was possible, they might have climbed to
the top of one of the tabular icebergs, though it would be most difficult to scale
the nearly vertical walls of ice. What if the sea ice drift turned eastward? They
might have found themselves drifting in their small boats in the middle of a vast
ocean, far from land.
Staying with the ice floe was risky but the best option available, and it
In 1992, 77 years after the Endurance drift, I led a project involving the
first intentional scientific Southern Ocean ice drift station. It was named
Ice Station Weddell (ISW) and was situated in the western Weddell Sea. ISW, a
joint effort of the United States and Russia, followed closely along the track of
the Endurance. Twenty-three people occupied an ice floe of approximately
50,000 square feet, consisting of a mixture of ice types, ranging from about
28-inch-thick ice on two refrozen leads, to over six and a half feet of
ice that is believed to have formed from rafting events. The snow cover was
between eight and 28 inches deep. The ISW drift started on February 11, 1992
at 71°7'S, 51°6'W, ending on June 9, 1992 at 65°63'S, 52°41'W.
Two icebreaker research vessels, the R/V Akademik Federov of Russia
and the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer of the U.S., carried out deployment
and recovery. The total drift was 465 nautical miles at a mean speed of 4.1 miles per day.
ISW gathered an impressive array of data from the ice floe and from helicopters
that carried the scientists dozens of miles to the east and west of the ice
floe, in this largely unexplored corner of the Southern Ocean, the western
edge of the Weddell Sea. In reference to Shackleton, we found that west of
the Endurance drift, over the continental slope of the Antarctic
Peninsula, strong shear produced a rough sea ice surface, with many upturned
ice floes. Passage through this region would have been very difficult for
Shackleton and his team. Also, at the site where Endurance was
crushed (on October 7, 1915 at 69°W, 51°W), the ISW ice floe experienced
great pressure from the sides, losing a large flat part of the ice floe that
was used for aircraft landing. After that point, the ISW's only contact was by icebreakers.
#8212;Arnold L. Gordon is a professor of oceanography at Columbia University and on the research staff at the university's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. His research deals with the Southern Ocean's role in governing the Earth's climate.
Question 14: You're camped on pack ice. You know polar bears only live in the Arctic, so you
figure predators are the least of your problems. Or are they?
You're got more in store than you can imagine. Leopard seals and killer whales
usually prey on seals and penguins, but they've been known to pursue humans as
Thomas Orde-Lees discovered
when a leopard seal chased him across the floes. Check out
Danger on the Ice
for a sampling of other hazards of south polar exploration.
Question 13: A crewman is questioning your decisions. One day, he even refuses to carry out
your orders. He is clearly under stress. How do you handle it?
Answer from polar trekker Gareth Wood:
I speak from experience when I say we often underestimate the psychological
challenge of such adventures. Clearly Shackleton was keenly aware of how
fragile the integrity of his team was in such trying and desperate circumstances.
But he was determined to pull through—with all his men—and he was always on
guard for signs of flagging morale. Shackleton paid attention to people. He took
the time to "touch base" regularly with each individual and acknowledge his role.
He developed a good understanding for each member's strengths, demeanor, needs,
and weaknesses. He leveraged that knowledge to maintain morale and keep people busy.
Shackleton was a dynamic and persuasive personality. Playing to people's emotions
and talents, he was not only able to build commitment and passion around a vision
but, through a genuine concern for his men, was able to forge a trust. When
McNeish challenged that foundation, Shackleton gambled that the rest remained
committed. He acted quickly and decisively to isolate McNeish and to maintain the
integrity and focus of the team. In the era of Edwardian England and the supremacy
of the Royal Navy, it was not good enough to be in command. One had to be seen
to be in command. Would I have made the same decision? I think yes, but with a
tendency to move quickly to task I often forget to build the commitment and trust
in my team. At the end of it all, I may not have come away with the same support
Shackleton had, and my leadership might have been in question.
Finally, I think it is important to remember that McNeish played a pivotal role
in the success of the expedition. His temperament and personality need to be
considered in the context of what he contributed.
#8212; In 1985-86 Gareth Wood and two British companions
became the first people to trek unsupported to the South Pole, a feat Outside
magazine described as "One of the ten greatest feats of the decade." (www.garethwood.com)
Your Answers to Question 13:
The dilemma is an interesting one. Of course it's much easier for the armchair adventurer to answer than for the man on the spot. And times have changed, so what was proper 100 years ago or so may not be proper today. Nonetheless, I cannot fail to be reminded of how my hero, John Wesley Powell, handled such emergencies on his epic expedition down the Colorado and through the Grand Canyon in 1869, the first in history. He would explain the logical reasons for obeying the orders. Then, if necessary, he would threaten to kill the mutineers. Finally, on the last two days of the expedition, he did allow three members of the party to leave on their own. As we know, they were all killed by Indians or possibly white bandits shortly thereafter.
I would confine the crewmember to quarters for a period of a day or two and then reintroduce duties on a limited but low level of responsibility. The isolation would provide some relief from the stress and also serve to clarify priorities for the individual. The need to belong and participate as an integral member of the team would be the tool I would use to get the crewmember back on track.
I would let the crewmember help make the decisions—trying to relieve the stress by keeping them involved and focused on the common goals. I would also try to see that they got enough water, sleep, and nutrition to help ease their stress.
Cow's Creek, KY
Instilling and maintaining a positive attitude is very important in survival situations. For this reason, I would first separate the crew member from the rest of the crew. I would assign another officer to stay with the crew member so he is not alone, and without forcing the issue, have the officer try to communicate and determine the root of the problem. Hopefully the crew member's outlook would brighten in a relatively short time. If he returns to duty, a period of close observation would be necessary to ensure that the rest of the crew wasn't affected by contact with a poor attitude towards leadership.
If the situation did not improve, the crew member would need to be kept separated, with the rest of the crew advised of the reasons.
Kevin C. Murphy
Question 12: Your ship is sinking. What kind of supplies do you try to salvage from the ship first?
Answer from Lt. Jonathan Fuller, Royal Navy:
When Sir Ernest Shackleton abandoned the first Endurance, he calculated that
the ship was in excess of 500 miles from civilization and more than 350 miles from
the nearest land. His priority was survival and eventual escape to civilization.
Yet he realized that his means of survival would be entirely of his own making.
There would be no rescue party dispatched to find him. In the early part of the
20th century, communication technology was limited. Shackleton and his party were
completely alone, their precise location would not have been known outside the
ship. Their isolation and complete self-dependency were the elements that made
surviving then so difficult, in comparison to being rescued today. For today,
communications are such that a modern ship operating in Antarctic waters could
be in daily contact with support groups ashore. While the loss of a ship would
still represent a supreme test of human resources, the dispatch of rescue teams
would at least be assured.
During the days of October 1915 when the Endurance began to break up,
Shackleton must have assessed his priorities and calculated which items of
equipment would serve him most usefully. Boats and sledges for transport,
tents and bedding for shelter, navigational charts and instruments, food for
survival, and clothing for warmth were the priorities. When the Endurance was
finally abandoned and Ocean Camp was established, personal effects were strictly
limited. Each man was limited to two pounds of personal possessions, and, acting
as an example, Shackleton discarded a handful of gold sovereigns and his gold
watch on the ice. Only those items considered useful for survival and escape
to civilization would be taken. The attitude of the team and the belief that
they would survive was also crucial to their success.
If a ship were to founder or be crushed in the ice today, the initial priorities
would be similar to those of Shackleton. Small boats, shelter, bedding,
navigation equipment, food, and clothing would all be needed. However,
those items of the highest priority would be communications equipment and
especially items of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. GMDSS
is an international safety system ensuring that all vessels, wherever they
are in the world, can immediately summon help and assistance in times of
emergency. While rescue in the icy wastes of Antarctica may well take some
time, the survivors of an accident today would only have to cope for a matter
of days rather than months, and assistance would be dispatched immediately.
The book South by Ernest Shackleton recounts the epic struggle of Shackleton
and his team in their quest for survival. Their story rivals any ever written
and stands as a testament to their strength of will and the power of human
endurance. It is probably their willpower and self belief, more than any
item recovered from the sinking Endurance, which enabled them to survive.
After abandoning Endurance on October 27, 1915, the majority of the
crew were only finally rescued from Elephant Island on August 30, 1916. For
in excess of 10 months this small group of men survived against all odds
on a diet primarily of penguins and seals, with no outside support and no
guarantee of rescue. That feat of survival was their success, the like of
which will probably never be repeated. It is possible that modern-day
explorers could survive for the short number of days prior to being rescued,
but it is arguable that only someone of Shackleton's character could instill
the belief required to survive for longer.
#8212; Lt. Jonathan Fuller, RN is the Hydrographic Survey Operations Officer aboard
HMS Endurance, a modern British naval icebreaker.
Question 11: Your ship is sinking. The commander of the expedition allows each crewmember to take two
pounds of personal items each, in addition to essential clothing. What do you take with you?
Knowing how difficult it would be for his men to discard precious possessions, Shackleton set
an example at the outset. With his men assembled around him, he threw his gold watch and several
gold coins onto the ice, along with his silver brushes and dressing cases. He even discarded
the ship's Bible, having torn out the Twenty-third Psalm and the following verses from Job:
Out of whose womb came the ice?
And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone
And the face of the deep is frozen.
Question 10: You're not feeling so well. You have a burning sensation in your eyes. What's wrong?
Snowblindness. It's a good idea to wear high ultraviolet A and B blocking sunglasses or
goggles in the Antarctic that also protect your peripheral vision. And use some high SPF
sun cream while you're at it!
Question 9: You're navigating the modern British naval icebreaker, HMS Endurance. You've got to pilot the ship through brash ice or passed a tabular berg. Which do you choose?
Sailing through pack ice is all in a day's work for the icebreaker HMS Endurance. But
close encounters with a tabular berg possibly weighing millions of tons is to be avoided.
Before it started breaking apart, a berg floating off the coast of Tierra del Fuego was the
size of Rhode Island. It's still so big—and dangerous - that authorities have instructed
the Shuleykin and all other ships to steer at least 15 miles clear of it.
Check out Kingdom of Ice and know your ice, so
you'll be in for smooth sailing. (Requires Flash Plugin)
Question 8: Your transcontinental journey will be 1,700 miles. The maximum daily distance traveled by the most accomplished explorers is 15-20 miles. The daily food supply for a dog sled party of three men weighs exactly two pounds per man. Your team will also need to pull a sled and essential equipment weighing 180 pounds. Past expeditions have found that the maximum weight a dog sled party can carry is 150 pounds. Is this a good plan? If you don't think so, what would you try?
The math will give you a head start in figuring out what you'll need:
1,700 miles/15 miles per day=113 days
6 lbs. x 113 days = 678 lbs. + 180 = 858 lbs./3 men = 286 lbs. per man.
1,700 miles/20 miles per day=85 days
6 lbs. x 85 days = 510 lbs. + 180 = 690 lbs./3 men = 230 lbs. per man.
Many polar explorers have relied on a second party to lay depots up to the Pole so that they can travel with fewer supplies and hence less weight. This was Shackleton's Ross Sea party plan (see Shackleton's Lost Men), and also the strategy of Sir Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary for their successful transcontinental crossing.
Question 7: What kind of ship will you sail to the Antarctic to withstand the pack ice
and high seas?
Answer from Lt. Stuart Long, Royal Navy:
For a vessel to operate effectively in Antarctic waters, one should consider
a number of factors regarding the ship's construction. Wooden vessels
constructed for ice work, such as the one used by Shackleton, were different
in design and could therefore enter hummocked pack ice, which would be
dangerous for a modern steel vessel, even if reinforced for icework. Wooden
vessels constructed for ice work have a rounded bow, which is reinforced
internally, permitting the vessel to ram, bore, and slew through the pack
ice without damage. The resiliency of the structure and, in many cases, the
hull section, with its sharp, dead rise and rounded bilge, makes it possible
for the vessel to withstand considerable pressure in the pack. For sailing
vessels, the exposed martingale and jib-boom (strengthening wire and support
located beneath the bowsprit) must be kept clear of high ice, since damage
to the bowsprit would remove the head-stays, thereby depriving the vessel of
headsails and, hence, maneuverability. However, the most vital parts of any
ship working in ice are the propellers and rudders, and when working the
ship through the ice, one must take care to avoid swinging the stern too
much, as submerged ice tongues can cause severe damage to delicate
underwater fittings positioned in the after part of the vessel.
Modern icebreakers are designed with a bluff, stepped stem and may have an
intricate tank system in the bow and stern. With empty ballast tanks, the
ship charges the ice, rising up onto it until the forward motion has ceased.
The forward tanks may then be flooded, and the concentrated weight usually
breaks the ice floes, allowing the vessel to proceed. The bow tanks would
then be emptied, and the process repeated. The design of the bows also aids
the break-up of the ice. The reinforced plating, both above and below the
waterline, the stepped bow, and the ice knife below the waterline, allow the
ship to ride up onto the ice floes and then cut down into the ice with
greater ease. This bow design, combined with the ballast system, enables
such ships to make progress through ice fields devoid of leads.
Should a modern icebreaker become stuck in ice, the intricate ballast system
can assist in freeing it. Quickly transferring large amounts of
fuel/oil/water from one side to the other in a short period of time
(typically 275 tons in 90 secs), sets up a rocking motion that helps the
ship to break free from the ice. If fitted with bow and stern thrusters, the
ship is also able to induce a yawing movement that can also assist escape.
#8212; Lt. Stuart Long RN is currently serving as the Meteorological Officer
onboard HMS Endurance, the British Royal Navy icebreaker serving in the Antarctic.
Question 6: Past expeditions have traveled on foot, dog sled, skis, wind-power, the
newly invented motor car, ponies, and even bicycles, and each had their
drawbacks. What method of travel will you choose for your expedition?
Answer from polar explorer Will Steger:
I led the first dog-sled expedition that crossed Antarctica. This was
Shackleton's dream in 1915, but he was stopped when his ship the Endurance
was crushed in the sea ice. I choose the longest route, which was just a few
miles short of 3,800 miles. We left in the northernmost region of the
Antarctic Peninsula on July 27, 1989, and arrived over 220 days later on the
eastern side of Antarctica at the Russian Base of Mirny on March 3, 1990.
We left in mid-winter and traveled through spring, summer, fall and into the
beginning of the winter season of 1990.
On my dog-sled expedition of 1989-1990, I chose an international team of
five other men. We were all from different countries—Quin Dahe (Peoples
Republic of China), Keizo Funatsu (Japan), Jean-Louis Etienne (France),
Victor Boyarsky (Soviet Union), Geoff Somers (Great Britain), and myself
from the United States. Our average age was over forty, and we were all
experienced in cold weather. Also there were 30 dogs. We traveled on skis
with three dog sleds; each one was pulled by ten dogs. We trained
extensively before the expedition, and we all had lived together during this
long training period. The dogs also went through a long training period. The
success and safety of an expedition depends on this training.
#8212; Will Steger is a polar explorer and author who led the first
transcontinental dog-sled expedition that crossed Antarctica.
Your Answers to Question 6:
It would depend entirely upon the goal of the expedition, and might include several types, perhaps beginning with boat, then foot or bike (if on land) and for the snow covered-areas snowshoes, skiis and sleds might be best.
I will be traveling there next December for one of the first commercialized recreational dive trips....ever. We plan on departing from the southern tip of Argentina, traveling (by boat) to the Antarctic Peninsula, then returning.
Whatever the goal/purpose of the expedition is, the Antarctic must be one of the most exciting and adventurous places on the globe to explore!
(name withheld by request)
I would choose dog sled to reach to pole. Dogs are hard working and love to pull. They also can be fed with penguins and seals.
Question 5: What kind of people will you choose for your crew? What kind of training
will you give them?
Answer from polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes:
Shackleton's choice of men was excellent. This was surely proved by their
performance and their hardiness throughout the whole amazing journey. Were I
to face such a journey, I could not do better than to emulate his selection
#8212; Sir Ranulph Fiennes led the British Transglobe Expedition in Antarctica and
crossed Antarctica on foot in 1992.
Your Answers to Question 5
Our first criteria would be to select individuals we could trust and depend on. We would take two doctors and a geologist. Our scientists would include a marine biologist, oceanographer, and meteorologist. Other staff would include a cook, photographer, writer, and a boat repairman. Of course, they would all be hard workers.
I would choose for my crew young people (18 to 29 years old) from Inuit lands, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland. I would have them trained in the appropriate seamanship skills: Navigation, sailing, maintenance, communications (smoke signals?), and snow camping. In addition, I would have two experienced medical officers, three nurses, two engineers, one artist, one musician, one journalist, and three chefs (all under 35).
University of California (Berkeley campus)
The kind of people I would choose for my crew would be strong, tough, smart go-getters with good survival skills. I would put them in the Navy Seals Training Program so they can be all of the above.
If I were on the Shackleton expedition I would choose the most fearless people you could think of. People who could stand a lot of cold weather, people that were aware of the dangers that they were walking into, and people that could work as a team.
The people on board would have CPR training, navigational training, doctor training, captain training, and they would need someone with Navy Seal training and life-support training.
(name withheld by request)
Question 4: You hope to be the first explorer to cross the continent of Antarctica.
Where does your trip start and end? What time of year will you travel?
Answer from polar explorer Borge Ousland:
I have skied across Antarctica along the same route as Shackleton intended
to take: from Berkner Island via the South Pole to McMurdo Sound. This is a
good route but hard, because the use of windpower is limited. The other
option is from Queen Maud Land, which I probably would choose if I were ever
to do it again. It's longer, but winds are more favorable almost all the way
to McMurdo (except the first part up through the mountains). The route would
be via the South Pole and down either Beardmore or Axel Heiberg glaciers to
There's no point starting too early. It's cold in October; best to start in
the beginning of November. But I would not like to start any later than 15th
November, if I planned to finish in about three months, which should be
sufficient. If you start too late, you'll run into bad weather and low
temperatures at the other end, which is not good when you're worn out.
take the bad weather at the start.
#8212; Borge Ousland crossed Antarctica unsupported along Shackleton's intended
route in 1996-97.
Question 3: Mapmakers in the 16th century didn't even know if Antarctica existed. But
they had a name for it anyway. What was it?
Answer from NOVA correspondent Kelly Tyler:
In his map of 1531, Oronce Finé called it terra australis recenter invento
sed nondum plene cognita, "the southern land newly discovered but not yet
fully known," and later maps also named it terra australis incognita.
Did Shackleton take a gaffer or a bo'sun with him to Antarctica?
Answer from NOVA correspondent Kelly Tyler:
Able seaman John Vincent served as bo'sun, slang for boatswain, aboard the
Endurance. He was in charge of the lifeboats and sails. Photographer Frank
Hurley may have liked to have a gaffer at his service, but he didn't. The
gaffer on our current expedition is in charge of film lighting and
Question 1: It's 1914. Your rival made it to the South Pole and back before you. What
Antarctic "first" will you try to claim?
Answer from NOVA correspondent Kelly Tyler:
According to Shackleton, "After the conquest of the South Pole by Amundsen who, by a narrow margin of a few days only, was in advance of the British Expedition under Scott, there remained but one great main object of Antarctic journeyings—the crossing of the South Polar continent from sea to sea." Since then, explorers have achieved new firsts. In 1993, Ann Bancroft led the American Women's Expedition to become the first woman to reach the South Pole. Admiral Richard Byrd was the first to fly to the South Pole in 1929. But maybe there's more to Antarctica than racing across it. What would you do?
Your Answers to Question 1:
I will cross Africa.
I would try to be the first one to ride my ship around the continent.
I would sail the seven seas.
I would try to be the first person to cross the Antarctic continent. I would also try to discover a new form of life.
(name withheld by request)
We would choose to be the first to go across Antarctica, past the pole to the other side.
Mr. Wilson's Grade Three Students
Field, BC CANADA
The Antarctic "first" I would try to claim would be crossing the Weddell Sea.
North Richland Hills, TX
I would try to attempt the first ever complete land-crossing of the Antarctic continent - from one shore to the another.
New York, NY
To circumnavigate the polar ice cap.
Since my rival made it to the South Pole and back, I (Shackleton) will try to cross the Antarctic continent.
Attempt the first transcontinental exploration of Antarctica.
Cross Antartica on foot.
David G. Smith
Although Roald Amundsen and Shackleton were rivals in the broadest sense of the word I believe Shackleton's true rival was the one who didn't make it back from the South pole.
In 1914, six men, led by Shackleton, planned to be the first people to walk 2900 kilometres (1800 miles) across the Antarctic continent. The 'first crossing of the last continent'.
Shackleton's Expedition |
Surviving Antarctica |
Explore Antarctic Islands
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