skip to primary navigation skip to content

By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men

By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men


22 September 2015 - 3 September 2016

By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men is the major centenary exhibition commemorating Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17.

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17 set out to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. The plan was for the Weddell Sea party to sail on Endurance to Vahsel Bay, where they would establish a base camp from which the crossing party would commence its journey. At the same time the Ross Sea party would sail on Aurora to McMurdo Sound on the other side of the continent to lay supply depots for the crossing party.

However, in 1915 Shackleton and his men were confronted with one of the worst disasters in Antarctic history: Endurance was crushed and sank, the outside world was unaware of their predicament or location, food was scarce, and chance of survival was remote. They were marooned on the sea ice for several months before sailing to Elephant Island, where there was little chance of discovery. The only realistic chance of survival was to sail one of the lifeboats, James Caird, 800 miles across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia in order to arrange a rescue mission.

The exhibition will tell the story of the disaster and how Shackleton and his men overcame the challenges they faced. It will commemorate all 28 men (and Mrs Chippy the cat) from the Weddell Sea party, and will also honour the Ross Sea party and the three men who lost their lives.

The exhibition features a range of objects and archival material from the Scott Polar Research Institute, as well as artefacts from the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and other private collections. These include navigation instruments used on the James Caird on the voyage to South Georgia, the cooking pot used by the three men on the overland crossing of South Georgia, and Ernest Shackleton's pannikin marked with his initials. Archival material includes letters, diaries, and a memory map drawn by Frank Worsley showing the route taken during the South Georgia crossing.

By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men will run until 3 September 2016. It will be followed by a display on the Ross Sea party and will commemorate the centenary of Shackleton's arrival at Cape Evans to rescue the survivors in January 1917. The exhibition runs in tandem with By Endurance We Conquer: the Shackleton Project, which has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and unites the Scott Polar Research Institute's Archive, Museum, Library and Picture Library in a targeted purchasing strategy designed to develop its collection of material relating to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

P66/18/77 E2015/23 MS733/3

Discover more about the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in this essay by Dr Beau Riffenburgh.