Ernest Shackleton: Freedom in Frostbite


By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

It's a rare human that develops an obsession with blizzards and icebergs, but Ernest Shackleton was no ordinary man. He was built for adventure and had little use for civilized society -- so he set sail for the coldest place on Earth. How much do you know about Shackleton and his epic journeys?

Ernest Shackleton is best known for exploring which area?

He was captivated by the polar regions and particularly the South Pole. He became an integral part of multiple major Antarctic expeditions.


Ernest loved the cold. Where did he grow up?

Shackleton grew up in the suburbs of London at the end of the 1800s. But he dreamed of adventure in faraway places.


How did Shackleton first manage to travel the world?

At just 16 he joined the merchant navy and sailed the world while learning the craft of survival at sea. He eventually put all of those lessons to good use.


Ernest's father wanted him to take up which profession?

His father was a doctor … and he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. But Ernest was far too restless to sit and study medicine, so he took to the oceans instead.


The ice-loving boy was raised in England ... but Shackleton was actually born where?

He was Irish through and through. He was born in 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland.


Shackleton was made part of the Discovery Expedition, which launched in 1901. What was the purpose of the expedition?

The mission's purpose was adventurous, but it was more geared towards exploration and discovery (hence the name). The men didn't intend to reach the South Pole.


Ernest was the leader of the Discovery Expedition.

Robert Falcon Scott, with whom Ernest would develop a roller-coaster relationship, was the leader of Discovery. Shackleton, however, brought his seafaring experience to the table and made himself virtually indispensable to the mission.


As part of the journey, three men (including Shackleton) left the ship to explore for several months. How did Ernest fare?

The three men suffered -- all of their sled dogs died -- and they endured terrible physical hardship. Shackleton fared worst and was falling apart by the time they returned to the ship.


Which health problem was affecting all three of the men?

All three men were suffering from the effects of scurvy, a lack of Vitamin C. Shackleton was so weak that he couldn't pull his weight as part of the group.


Shackleton was sent home to recover from the expedition. What occupation did he pursue?

For a short time, he tried his hand at journalism for a literary periodical called "The Royal Magazine." He soon gave it up and began plotting an expedition of his own.


What was the name of the expedition that Ernest launched in 1907?

The first expedition that Shackleton led was the Nimrod Expedition. The crew sailed the appropriately named ship Nimrod into the Antarctic's frigid waters.


The ship left England on January 1, 1908. How much time passed before the men set foot on Antarctica to begin their journey to the South Pole?

Just getting to Antarctica was an adventure. It took them 11 months to arrive and then prepare for the journey to the Pole.


The Nimrod Expedition reached the South Pole.

Four men left the ship and headed towards the Pole. They established a new record by getting within 112 miles of the South Pole, but they didn't quite reach their final goal before turning back for the ship.


The men didn’t reach the pole, but they did accomplish which feat?

Shackleton and three other men climbed one of highest points in Antarctica -- Mount Erebus, which is more than 12,000 feet high.


Shackleton was the first polar explorer to use which animals for an expedition?

Ernest decided to use stout ponies to help carry the team's gear. The ponies did well in points but struggled with the harsh, frozen environment. Some of them wound up as food.


Following the Nimrod Expedition, Shackleton returned to England. How was he received?

The public was enthralled with Shackelton's feats and the government was, too. He was knighted, becoming Sir Ernest Shackleton.


The adventurer never settled down long enough to marry.

He married and had three children with a woman named Emily Dorman. But Shackleton was widely known as a serial philanderer.


After the Nimrod Expedition, Shackleton was preoccupied with which activity?

He was broke after the expensive expedition, so he spent his time leveraging his newfound fame for cash. Most of his income wound up coming from speeches that he gave regarding his adventures.


Shackleton eventually became the first man to reach the South Pole.

Ernest wanted to be first to the pole, but in 1911, Roald Amundsen beat him to it, leaving Shackleton to devise another Antarctic goal.


After Amundsen beat him to the South Pole, which challenge did Shackleton decide to attempt?

With his goal of winning the race to the South Pole thwarted, Shackleton decided to attempt the first transcontinental crossing -- the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It was an audacious and treacherous undertaking.


Shackleton left England for Antarctica on August 1, 1914. What else happened on that day?

It was a historic day in more ways than one. On the same day, Germany declared war on Russia and World War I began. The men left behind a civilization that was rending itself to pieces, yet the crew received very little information about the war.


The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was also known as what?

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was also known as the Endurance Expedition. Ernest posted an ad for capable men and received more than 5,000 applications from people wanting to attempt the adventure.


How did Shackleton get the money to fund the Endurance Expedition?

Shackleton pleaded for money from wealthy acquaintances, who eventually coughed up the huge sums of money necessary for a multi-year journey.


The team reached the area of Antarctica in January 1915 (summertime at the South Pole). Then what happened?

The sea was clogged with blocks of ice that made the going impossibly slow. And then … the ship was completely trapped in the ice, forcing the crew to set up shelters on the floes.


The ship was trapped in January and the men were left drifting for 10 months. What happened next?

After 10 months of being stuck in the ice, the ice finally won -- crushing the ship and filling it with frigid water. The men evacuated the ship and pondered their grim circumstances.


After the ship sank, on which task what did the men decide to focus their efforts?

Without a ship, the original aims of the expedition were lost. Ernest and his men were left in a desperate bid for survival in one of the most inhospitable parts of the world. They couldn't begin to anticipate the hardships they'd soon endure.


Ice conditions were so bad that the men couldn't even march to safety, so they made camp and waited. What did they eat?

The men relied heavily on seals for food. They ate their sled dogs, too, in part because the canines devoured so much seal meat.


Shackleton's men needed months to finally find safety. What sort of civilization did they locate?

Part of the crew stayed behind on an island and the other men, including Ernest, finally reached a whaling station on South Georgia island. Then they set out to rescue the men they'd left behind.


Of the 28 men who set out at the beginning of the expedition, how many survived the years-long ordeal?

It was a perilous, epic journey full of suffering and hunger, but Shackleton had a knack for keeping men motivated and moving. All 28 of the men survived and returned home.


How did Shackleton die?

A lifetime of hard living finally caught up to Shackleton in 1922, when was just 47 years old. After Endurance, he decided to attempt one last adventure, but he suffered a heart attack and died.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!