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"We Are All on a Metaphorical Ice Floe..." Co Kildare Museum Releases Podcasts on Shackleton to Boost Morale

18th May 2020
Ernest Shackleton - key characteristics for successful exploration-optimism, patience, idealism and courage Ernest Shackleton - key characteristics for successful exploration-optimism, patience, idealism and courage

“For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton..”

The words of British geologist Raymond Priestley, who spent time in Antarctica with both Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, underpin a Co Kildare museum's bid to boost national morale during the pandemic, the Times Ireland reports.

“What would Shackleton do?” is the title of five podcasts which the museums’ voluntary board is releasing free to the public.

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

An extra one – “kindness”, as shown by health workers and other frontline staff – has been added by the museum podcast team, working with producer Dr Juliana Adelman, assistant professor of history at Dublin City University.

Optimism is the theme of the first podcast, introduced by the explorer’s cousin, Jonathan Shackleton. 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 taken to the ice with food, drink, photographs and musical instruments retrieved from the ship.

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 tells Prof Adelman.

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, gold mining 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 - and managed to take with him on his epic sea journey.

Read The Times report here As one of the museum's directors observes, pandemic restrictions have forced us all to live like trapped adventurers “on a metaphorical ice floe”.

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

Published in Historic Boats
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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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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