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Audio Alexandra Shackleton discusses Ernest Shackleton, 2005

TLF ID R8827

This is an edited sound recording of the Hon Alexandra Shackleton, grand-daughter of the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. She recounts aspects of his leadership of a 1907-09 expedition to Antarctica, relating how, for the sake of the survival of his team, he abandoned his bid to be the first to reach the geographic South Pole and won the lifelong allegiance of one crew member for giving him his biscuits when they both faced starvation. The recording was made in November 2005 and lasts for 1 min 14 s.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The recording relates to Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), one of the dominant figures in the 'heroic era' of Antarctic exploration. After taking part in one British Antarctic expedition in 1901-04, the Irish-born Shackleton led other British scientific and exploratory expeditions to the continent (1907-09, 1914-16 and 1921-22). During the last of these expeditions, he died aboard a ship and was buried on South Georgia Island in the Falklands.
  • In the recording, Alexandra Shackleton describes aspects of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-09 led by Ernest Shackleton, also known as the 'Nimrod expedition' from the name of the ship used. Early in 1909, exhausted and starving, Shackleton and three others reached the furthest south anyone had ever been - 88 degrees 23 min south - but Shackleton decided to abandon the stated aim of reaching the geographic South Pole just 156 km short of it.
  • Alexandra Shackleton states in this recording how she believes her grandfather's decision to turn back was because of concerns for the welfare of his expedition team, and thus displayed his leadership qualities. She also tells how her grandfather later wrote to his wife, Emily: 'I thought you would rather have a live donkey than a dead lion'. The expedition was still regarded as a success and on his return to England Shackleton was knighted.
  • Alexandra Shackleton also quotes the grateful words of Frank Wild (1873-1939) after her grandfather had given him his biscuit ration. Wild later joined two other expeditions to Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton. On one expedition, in 1914-16, he was second-in-command. On the next expedition, in 1921-22, Wild took command after Shackleton died.
  • The most significant scientific achievement during the Nimrod expedition was the discovery of the location of the 'magnetic South Pole'. Different from the geographic South Pole, the magnetic pole is the point at which the Earth's magnetic field lines are oriented vertically.
Year level

6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Hon Alexandra Shackleton
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Audio
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.