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Shackleton's "Crow's Nest" from his Last Ship Loaned to Irish Museum For His Centenary

27th October 2021
Frank Wild, who took over the leadership of Shackleton’s last expedition after he died, climbing to the crow’s nest on the ship Quest
Frank Wild, who took over the leadership of Shackleton’s last expedition after he died, climbing to the crow’s nest on the ship Quest" title="crow’s nest on the ship Quest Credit: State Library of New South Wales

When Irish adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton was asked to give his expertise at the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic, he singled out the need to slow down through the ice and the value of a ship’s lookout or “crow’s nest”.

Now the crow’s nest from his own last polar ship, Quest, has been given on loan to the Shackleton Museum in Athy, Co Kildare which is preparing to mark the centenary of his death next year.

The “crow’s nest” - a type of barrel in which a look-out stood at the top of a mast- was essential for ships travelling in the ice to spot leads or routes through ice fields.

The Quest’s “crow’s nest” was heated through an internal piping system, reflecting Shackleton’s belief that his crew would endure more hardship if they had the best working conditions possible.

The adventurer also believed that while a “crow’s nest” could fit two, only one person should ever be on duty.

The crow's nest or lookout from The Quest, Shackleton's last shipThe crow's nest or lookout from The Quest, Shackleton's last ship

“One man gives more attention to the work in hand than two men,” Shackleton advised the Titanic inquiry.

The “crow’s nest” is one of only two surviving items from The Quest, which Shackleton died of a heart attack on while in Antarctic’s South Georgia on January 5th, 1922.

The ship’s cabin in which he lay has been undergoing restoration in Ireland, having been donated to the Kildare museum by Norwegian Ulfe Bakke whose family had maintained it since 1922.

The “crow’s nest” from the ship was given to the church of All Hallows by the Tower in London.

“The church authorities at All Hallows by the Tower have facilitated the loan to the Athy museum for the centenary year, given that Kildare was Shackleton’s birthplace,”Kevin Kenny of the Shackleton Autumn School explained.

The artefact will be on display for the next few months in Athy, and will then travel later in the year on loan to South Georgia.

The Athy museum has many other items relating to Shackleton, including an original sledge and harness from his Antarctic expeditions.

The New Zealand government facilitated the donation of the sledging harness to Kildare County Council in 1923, the year after Shackleton’s death.

The annual autumn school, Virtually Shackleton 2021, takes place this Saturday (Oct 30), and speakers will include Jan Chojecki, a grandson of John Quiller Rowett who sponsored Shackleton’s final expedition, the Shackleton Rowett expedition.

Virtually Shackleton 2021 is free of charge, but registration is required 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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