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What Would Irish Explorer Shackleton Do in a Crisis?

7th January 2021
Kildare born adventurer Ernest Shackleton Kildare born adventurer Ernest Shackleton

Pandemic restrictions have forced us all to live like trapped adventurers “on a metaphorical ice floe”, according to the Shackleton Museum in Athy, Co Kildare

And so “What would Shackleton do?” was the title of five podcasts which it released free to the public last year.

The short recordings drew on the Kildare-born adventurer’s key characteristics for successful exploration - optimism, patience, idealism and courage.

An extra one – “kindness” - was added by the museum podcast team, working with producer Dr Juliana Adelman, assistant professor of history at Dublin City University.

Dr Juliana AdelmanDr Juliana Adelman

The series was introduced by the explorer’s cousin, Jonathan Shackleton, and participants included actor John Carty of Sligo’s Blue Raincoat Theatre Company.

When the vessel Endurance hired for Shackleton’s Transantarctic expedition was finally crushed by pack ice in late 1915,” the Boss” painted a cheery vision.

“The ship and the stores are gone, so now we are going home", the explorer told his crew after they had retrieved food, drink, photographs and musical instruments and taken to floating ice.

Time and again, he reinforced this vision, Shackleton Museum director Kevin Kenny explains, and his optimism was perhaps best displayed by his decision to embark with five others on a seemingly desperate 800-mile sea journey to fetch help,

“Patience” – the theme of the second podcast – was the name Shackleton chose for the initial ice floe encampment, fellow museum director and historian Seamus Taaffe notes.

The explorer had no patience when at home, as he could be impetuous and moody, and had a terrible business sense, with a tobacco company, goldmining in central Europe and an attempt to ferry troops to Russia among his failed ventures.

However, Shackleton was “quite a different man on the ice”, and in extreme circumstances, Taaffe says.

His crew nicknamed him “cautious Jack”, and he was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, which he had hung in his ship’s cabin.

Reflecting back on the series, still available to be heard, Dr Adelman spoke to Wavelengths about how it started and why it is still so relevant now.

You can listen to Dr Adelman’s interview on Wavelengths below

The “What would Shackleton do?” podcast series is here

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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