In Shackleton's Footsteps : A Return to the Heart of the Antarctic

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-11-22
  • Publisher: Lyons Press
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On October 29, 1908, a party of four men, led by Ernest Shackleton, set out to be the first to reach the South Pole. Three months later, their mission was in ruins and they faced certain death if they carried on. Just ninety-seven miles from the South Pole, Shackleton turned back. One hundred years later, in October 2008, a team that included descendants of that original party, led by Henry Worsley, set out from Shackleton's hut to celebrate the centenary of his expedition by retracing the exact 870-mile route and going on to finish the last ninety-seven miles. This captivating book explores the history of the original expedition and reasons behind its failure, while capturing the meticulous planning, fundraising, and training for the new expedition. It includes riveting accounts of the team's first days on the ice, Christmas on the polar plateau, the brutal reality of crossing the Beardmore Glacier, and the final miles to the South Pole. In Shackleton's Footstepsis a unique story of adventure, pioneering spirit, settling old family business, and man's triumph over nature.

Author Biography

Henry Worsley is descended from Frank Worsley, the skipper on Shackleton’s ship The Endurance. A lieutenant colonel in the British Army, he helped found the Shackleton Foundation, which supports those who embody the leadership style and spirit of Ernest Shackleton. The author of The Dawn of the English Reformation and The Life of Martin Luther, he lives in London, England.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1: A Family Affair 2: Unfinished Business 3: The Waiting Game 4: The Antarctic Malt Whiskey Appreciation Society 5: Battle with the Blue Ice 6: Masters of our Fate 7: Rendezvous with History 8: Reflections in the Ice


Like Shackleton, our journey was also nearing its end. During the
endless hours of each remaining day I continued to ponder the
significance of arriving at the Pole. As each step took us closer, a fire
deep within me began to take hold and glow, faintly at first but with
increasing intensity as we ticked off the minutes of latitude and
eventually entered the eighty-ninth degree. Nothing could better
what had happened on 9 January, but my enthusiasm for reaching
the South Pole was definitely lifting. We would normally have
celebrated crossing the final degree but the whisky had long since
been finished and what happened instead, after two months on the
Antarctic and with just five days of the journey left, was rather
telling and revealed in a small way just how finished and emotionally
brittle we had become.
It had been a particularly cold day. The wind had been gusting
five to ten knots per hour driving the temperature down to -42°C
and we were all done in. After supper all I wanted to do was get
into my scratcher and sleep, but Henry was still boiling water and
to have bodies lying prostate across the tent would not have been
helpful. We had to do things together in such a cramped space, so
scratcher heaven would simply have to wait.
‘Move over could you, General,’ Will asked, as he unfurled his
sleeping bag. I was not in a good mood. Very tired and irritated that
he couldn’t see the knock-on effect to Henry and I, I snapped back.
‘Hold on Will. Can’t you see that we are not ready? You have a
habit of doing this and I’ve let it pass until now, but it really pisses
me off.’
‘Well it really pisses me off that you keep arriving late,’was his
quick reply. I could see that he was angry with what I had said, but
I was in no mood for a slanging match so late in the day – I sensed
that we had both already said things we didn’t really mean.
Anyway, I just didn’t have the energy to argue, but I was taken
aback with what he had said. Once in the warmth of his sleeping
bag and wired into his ipod, Will turned on his side without saying
a word, leaving me to stew in my own juice.Wisely, Henry had said
nothing at all. Eventually Henry turned off the stove and the tent
was reduced to a heavy silence, save for the wind sweeping past
outside. I couldn’t sleep before I had worked out how to resolve
this petty disagreement. Clearly the air betweenWill and I had to be
cleared as soon as possible otherwise the rest of the journey, and in
particular the confines of the tent, would have been very awkward.
So I resolved to be the first to apologise in the morning.What I had
said was fair I thought, but it was not delivered in a clever way. I
could have made my point just as effectively by making light of the
effect of his actions but fatigue had got the better of me, and I
suspected, of Will as well. But the more I turned his comment over
in my mind the more irked I became. I was confident he would
apologise as well, but I decided to tell him just how out of order I
thought his remarks were. I slept fitfully that night and woke in
good time to make the daily morning call to Patriot Hills. The time
had now come to find out about Shaun Smith’s plans. The plan had
always been that we would film the journey ourselves, but that we
would meet Shaun a few miles out from the Pole, so that he could
do some filming. I had barely given the rendezvous any thought
until now, but the time had come for an update.
Having passed on our position and the distance travelled, we were
updated on Shaun’s plans. ‘Shaun is currently at the Pole with Shaun
Norman and they intend to ski out to meet you so they can film your
final few miles. I will give you their satphone number and they would
like you to call them this time tomorrow morning. They are on the
same time zone as you. You are well inside the final degree now. Not
far to go.’ As I was stowing away the battery and phone I noticed Will
stirring to wake. I waited no more than a minute before speaking.

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