Belfast Telegraph

Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton unimpressed by Falkland islanders

Wartime tensions and the stress of trying to rescue his stranded crew left polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton feeling embittered and under-appreciated in the Falkland Islands, his granddaughter Alexandra said.

The Antarctic traveller was launching the first land crossing of the continent when his ship the Endurance was crushed by ice and marooned near Elephant Island.

Sir Ernest made it to the safety of the Falklands in 1916 and tried to enlist help to save his men. Many in the British overseas territory in the South Atlantic were focused on the First World War and the Navy was concentrating on war tasks.

Alexandra Shackleton said: "He was there at a time of great stress when he was trying to arrange to rescue his men from Elephant Island. As some of you will know, it took him four attempts and he was getting more and more worried about his men.

"He felt the Falkland islanders did not understand his anxiety and did not really appreciate him being there."

After one of the failed attempts he was forced to come back to the Falklands and he "bitterly" wrote: "The only thing they have to do at the Falklands is to go on a walk. This is from the graveyard to the abattoir and then back again."

Eventually he sought help in Chile and was able to rescue his men.

The explorer was born in Co Kildare in Ireland but moved to London with his family as a boy and went on to lead British expeditions to Antarctica.

Ms Shackleton told a meeting of the Northern Ireland regional branch of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) that he stayed in the governor's house in the Falklands while trying to drum up support for the rescue mission.

A memorable moment was when he and the Endurance's captain, Frank Worsley, decided to rebel against the "rather austere" governor.

"When he had gone to bed, they climbed out a window and set off to the pub. Unfortunately before they got back it snowed and their footprints were traced."

One room there was supposed to be haunted by him.

His granddaughter said: "I can only say I have stayed there several times and the ghost has never taken any notice of me."

Professor Jim McAdam, an expert in the Falklands, said: "There would really have been very little appetite in that colony for trying to rescue these men who they saw were not involved in the war, they were down stuck in the ice, and that may have generated antipathy towards Shackleton."

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