The ultimate survival story

About the Exhibition

See over 100 photographs, diary excerpts, the James Caird lifeboat replica and an interactive sextant. Our exhibition captures the compelling spirit of Shackleton’s crew and their ship, the Endurance. Discover the truth behind the perilous beauty of the White Continent, the sinking of the ship, living on the ice, and treacherous journeys in this feat of survival.


The Journey

The Endurance exhibition was originally curated by the American Museum of Natural History, New York in 2000. Like Shackleton, the exhibition is well travelled, formerly residing in the U.S.A, Spain, the UK and now Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. The exhibition provides a remarkable insight into the lives of those who lived through the horrors of the expedition, including three Irishmen, Ernest Shackleton from Kildare, Tom Crean from Kerry and Tim McCarthy from Cork.

A New Challenge

After seeing rival explorers reach the South Pole before him, Shackleton wanted to go one step further and become the first person to cross the entire continent of Antarctica. His plan involved two ships, the Endurance and the Aurora. The Aurora would lead the way, leaving a trail of food & supplies for the Endurance crew, who would collect it on their trek from the opposite side of the continent.

The Power of the Ice

Whalers in South Georgia warned Shackleton of the pack ice (the frozen layer of water on the surface of the ocean), remarking that it was the worst they had seen in years. During the summer, the ice hadn’t broken up as expected, creating treacherous conditions for the explorers. However, in December 1914, Shackleton set off to Antarctica. The team quickly realised the ice wasn’t breaking up, but they persisted in their efforts to find a base. Disaster struck in early 1915 when distant storms pushed currents that compressed the pack ice together, trapping the Endurance in the ice.

Finding Land

Over the next month, the ship was crushed by the ice and slowly sank into the sea as the team was forced to camp on the ice. Knowing the ice would melt, the 28 men piled into three life boats set on a course for Elephant Island, 100 miles north. Braving the severe weather, they reached Elephant Island. Shackleton realised they would never be rescued from Elephant Island, Shackleton made a momentous decision:


Shackleton and five of the toughest seamen, Worsley, Crean, McNish, McCarthy, and Vincent set sail the in the James Caird lifeboat across 800 miles of treacherous ocean to reach the whaling stations of South Georgia island. Visit our exhibition to find out what happened next and learn the fate of the crew stranded on Elephant Island.


Shackleton celebrated in London

Following his return from his Nimrod Antarctic expedition, Ernest Henry Shackleton was in demand from high society. The Royal Societies Club gave a luncheon in his honour on 15 June, 1909.

Shackleton, 1909, Nasjonalbiblioteket
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