Shackleton’s Board of Review

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endurance ice

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s board of review for the rank of World Explorer assembled one evening and began reading over his application and supporting documentation.

He earned all of his merit badges on Captain Scott’s Antarctic Discovery Expedition in 1901–04, and clocked his leadership tenure as the leader of British Antarctic Expedition in 1907–09.

For his World Explorer project Shackleton had proposed “The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition”. The project was enthusiastically approved, and it’s progress carefully followed.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition began with great promise but, because of Shackleton’s miscalculations, ended in great difficulty after taking a great deal longer than he had planned.

His project report was a more a tale of endurance than success. In the end it was clear Shackleton’s project failed to reach the goal he had proposed.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was to have made the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent from sea to sea. Funding was secured, a crew selected, and the project was launched. Things went badly when the ship Endurance was frozen in the ice of the Weddell Sea, drifted northward, and spent the winter of 1915 stuck in the pack ice where it was first crushed and then sunk.

Shackleton’s 28-man crew spent months in makeshift camps on the ice. Shackleton and five others had to brave an 800-mile open-boat journey that led to the rescue of the others and brought them home without loss of life.

When the discussion that evening turned to his World Explorer Project the Board was tense, how could they possibly justify approving a project for this august award that, by any objective standard, had failed so completely?

If you were a member of Shackleton’s board of review what would you have asked him? How would you have decided?