The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition brings to life one of the greatest tales of survival in exploration history: the epic story of Shackleton's 1914 voyage. Through diary entries, rare film footage, and 150 extraordinary images by ship photographer Frank Hurley, the exhibit resurrects the forbidding panoramas of Antarctica, the bravery and camaraderie of a valiant crew in extreme adversity, and the miraculous climax of their journey. It is a story that "more than 80 years later, still leaves one gasping," says author and exhibit co-curator Caroline Alexander.

Before the Endurance: The Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration

Ernest Henry Shackleton was 27 years old and an officer in the British Merchant Navy when he volunteered for Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s 1901 Discovery expedition to the South Pole, which launched the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. Though unsuccessful, the journey gave Shackleton a taste for adventure and strengthened his own ideas on how to lead an Antarctic expedition.

By 1907, Shackleton had raised enough money to lead his own expedition on the ship Nimrod to the South Pole. But on the continent, only 100 miles from the South Pole, Shackleton noted his crew’s terrible condition—snow-blindness, hunger, frostbite, and waning supplies—and he made the heartbreaking decision to turn back. A courageous leader who always put his men first, Shackleton returned to England a national hero and was knighted.

His third foray south came in 1914, in the wake of the tragic death of Scott, who had failed in his attempt to beat Norwegian Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. Because England had lost the attainment of both poles to the Norwegians, Shackleton was determined to claim the last prize in polar exploration: crossing the Antarctic continent on foot.

He purchased a 144-foot-long wooden barquentine named Polaris, which he renamed Endurance for his family motto: Fortitudine Vincimus (by endurance we conquer).