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Sir Earnest Shackleton's Grave

November 19, 2017

Sir Earnest Shackleton's Grave

The importance of Ernest Shackleton in early exploration of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions is hugely significant. Having attended lectures on the subject during my trip it was interesting to visit the place where he was laid to rest and the historic stories behind it. It's just ten minutes walk from the Grytviken Whaling Station to Sir Earnest Shackleton's Grave, and even if you're not an Antarctic history buff, or the weather is not ideal, it's worth the ten minutes or so walk along the shore to the grave site. Ernest Shackleton died in Grytviken but his body was transported to Montevideo (Uruguay) before word from the wife suggested Grytviken as the final resting place. His is the only grave of significance (although Frank worth is buried alongside). Tradition is to share a whiskey with him at graveside - but do remember he was born in Ireland (whilst it was still part of the UK) and hence should be Irish whiskey not scotch, Bourbon or anything from Japan.

What Guests Say about it is as follows 

Paying respects to a true adventurer and leader

We landed near the old whaling town of Grytviken on South Georgia to visit the museum and to pay our respects to Sir Ernest Shackleton at his gravesite just outside of town. Having passed the inspection of our boots to make sure we were not bringing any bad “stuff” from the Falklands, we walked along the shoreline past fur seals, one of which was displaying some decidedly non-PC behavior, squashing and biting a tiny female with his aggressive mating behavior. The fur seals were interspersed with a few king penguins and elephant seals as we made our pilgrimage up the slope to the whaler’s cemetery. You must read the entire story of the Shackleton expedition (1914-1917) to appreciate the remarkable strength and leadership that he displayed to get all of his men safely through the journey. I recommend Alfred Lansing’s “Endurance” as a spellbinding read that will leave you in awe of this remarkable feat. After an unbelievable journey across the most treacherous waters in the world in a craft basically the size of a lifeboat, Shackleton climbed over the high jagged and unexplored peaks of South Georgia and found his way to Grytviken to seek a rescue party for his men left back on a tiny spit of land called Elephant Island. There in sight of the town of his rescue, we gathered along the cemetery fence, standing at the ready with our glasses of Jameson whiskey to pay our respects. One of our expedition’s bird experts was quite the raconteur, and he of course was the one to propose the toast. It was a stirring toast and one that really summarized the greatness of the man. His gravestone marked him simply as an Explorer, but he was so much more. There in this humble, but incredibly beautiful setting, near to his long-sought Grytviken, Shackleton had been laid to a well-deserved peace. It is entirely fitting that by his side is buried Frank Wild, his right-hand man as noted on his gravestone, and the one who kept the larger contingent of the men safe for 105 days on Elephant Island, waiting for Shackleton’s return. It was especially poignant to our cruise that we were there as the world celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the expedition.  His loyal friend, Frank White, is also buried here. A fittingly remote place for these intrepid men to rest in peace. The main reason for coming to South Georgia though, is the penguins. Thousands of them and also the comical elephant seals.

Realisation of a lifetime dream

Having read as a kid the story of Shackleton and his crew, it was always a dream of mine to be able to visit his grave. The dream was realised in late January this year (2016) when together with my wife, we were able to join a tour ship that gave us 5 days on and around South Georgia. Standing at Shackelton's grave was an emotional moment as I thought of the history represented at this spot and this story as part of the heroic age of exploration. A truly moving experience at the bottom (almost) of the world.

A Privilege to Visit Sir Ernest Shackleton's Final Resting Place

I have read many, many books on Sir Ernest Shackleton and I admire the leadership and courage he showed in bringing all his men back alive after their ship, Endurance, was captured in the ice. To me and to many others I am sure, he was a true hero and leader of men.

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