In the Footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton
I have long been a fan of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his odyssey in the Antarctic as leader of the 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. In the annals of exploration history, there are few – if any – stories which rival that of the Endurance Expedition for its lessons of heroism, bravery, teamwork, and true leadership. For the men of Shackleton’s expedition, it was a harrowing journey, and one which is well worth a read in Caroline Alexander’s The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition.
My first – and drastically out of place – personal interaction with Shackleton’s story came on a blustery late-April day in, of all places, the Yellow Band on Mount Everest.
Brent Okita and I, members of the 2001 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, were working high on the mountain, setting fixed lines and looking for evidence of Mallory & Irvine. (You can read the full story of that day in my expedition dispatch, here – scroll down for the essay/dispatch.) At any rate, after much work high on the hill, and in deteriorating weather, I managed to re-find the 1933 high camp at 27,700 feet in the Yellow Band. Of the nearly 30 pounds of artifacts I pulled from the camp, the most fascinating to me emerged from a sealed tin canister: two mint-condition (pun intended) Kendall Mint Cakes, the Power Bars of pre-World War II climbing. On the back were the words:
Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition,
Lieut. Sir Ernest Shackleton, C.V.O. Commander
– Mount Everest –
– Expeditions –
1922 and 1924
Brig. General the Hon. C.O. Bruce, C.B. Commander
Brig. Gen. Bruce writes, Nov. 5th, 1924 – “As in 1922 this proved a most excellent form of high altitude Food, and was very popular.”
The Algarsson North Polar Expedition, 1925
What a find! It was truly an artifact within an artifact…and a reminder that product endorsements were
alive and well even back in 1933! (Although I doubt the dollar amounts attached to those endorsements were quite the same as they are today!)
To get on with things, Shackleton’s story had been in my mind long before April 29, 2001, and remained there long after. I hoped to one day see the terrain of South Georgia, and perhaps walk in his team’s famed footsteps.
In 2004, Dave Hahn gave me my chance when he invited me to help him guide a team of 9 climbers from Geographic Expeditions across South Georgia, following the footsteps of Shackleton (and his team of John Vincent, Timothy McCarthy, Thomas Crean, Harry McNish, and Frank Worsley) from King Haakon Bay over the Trident and on to salvation at the whaling village of Stromness.
We had stunning weather for the job (aside from a day of blasting from the fierce katabatic winds), and made the crossing in a beautiful 3 day jaunt. People often ask me what the crossing looked like…so, I put together a slideshow of the adventure.
Watch below, enjoy the journey across South Georgia, and feel free to stop by MountainWorld Photography to see some of these images as still photos. And, if you want a high-res version with far greater clarity on the images, watch it here!
– Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.