The End of the Heroic Era
‘I think this is as the boss would have had it himself, standing lonely on an island far from civilization, surrounded by a stormy tempestuous sea, and in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits.’
The Shackleton-Rowett Antarctic Expedition is remembered for the untimely death of its leader. The proposed programme was ambitious and despite the limitations of an inadequate vessel and the loss of its leader, the expedition persevered and made some useful contributions to the knowledge of little-known places in the South Atlantic.
A hiatus followed the return of Quest, with no significant expeditions to the Antarctic for another seven years; so ended the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. South Georgia was a fitting location for the end of a heroic story. Shackleton’s sudden death in the quiet waters of Grytviken created a dramatic, if premature, finale. His grave in a simple cemetery on a remote and beautiful island, has become a place of pilgrimage where hundreds of visitors gather every year to toast ‘the Boss’.
Macklin recorded in his diary, ‘I think this is as the boss would have had it himself, standing lonely on an island far from civilization, surrounded by a stormy tempestuous sea, and in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits.’
In his own lifetime Sir Ernest Shackleton had won world-renown as an intrepid Antarctic explorer. One hundred years later, his reputation endures as a charismatic leader who was forever loyal to his men. As Apsley Cherry-Garrard, of Scott’s last expedition, wrote shortly after Shackleton’s death:
‘If I am in a devil of a hole and want to get out of it give me Shackleton every time.’