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An Irishman in Antarctica
Jonathan Shackleton and John MacKenna

"By endurance we conquer."—Shackleton family motto

Eighty years after Ernest Shackleton's death, his legend and the extraordinary story of the Endurance South Pole expedition still hold a grip on the public imagination.

Trapped in drifting polar pack-ice for ten months, Ernest Shackleton and his crew fought for survival against all the odds. When the Endurance was finally crushed, they were stranded on ice floes for more than a year before reaching Elephant Island. From there Shackleton; and five of his men embarked on the most remarkable rescue mission in maritime history, sailing in a small open boat to South Georgia Island across eight hundred miles of the world's roughest seas to bring help to the others.

Though he failed to reach the South Pole, Shackleton's story lives on because of his unique qualities of leadership and the extraordinary fact that all of his men survived. This compelling narrative probes the profound influence of Shackleton's Irish and Quaker roots in the making of a great leader. It offers a vivid portrait of a man at odds with the world and with himself, whose ambition was tempered by his flawed humanity and egalitarianism. Here too are the untold stories of Shackleton's upbringing in Kildare, his time in the Merchant Navy, his 1901 voyage on the Discovery with Robert Falcon Scott, his 1907 Nimrod expedition, his marriage and love affairs, his life as a public figure and politician, and the haunting story of his final, fatal expedition on the Quest.

Drawing on family records, diaries, and letters—and hitherto unpublished photographs and archive material—this mesmerizing book takes us beyond the myth to Shackleton; the man, for whom "optimism is true moral courage," and whose greatest triumph was that of life over death.

Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica is lavishly illustrated with more than a hundred photographs, maps, and engravings, some of them appearing in print for the first time.

Shackleton: An Irishman in Antarctica, copublished by the Lilliput Press in Dublin and the University of Wisconsin Press, presents Shackleton family history with a particular focus on the explorer.  

Jonathan Shackleton, cousin of explorer Ernest Shackleton, is an Antarctic specialist. Born in Ireland, he earned degrees from Trinity College in Dublin and Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He currently lives in Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland, with his wife Daphne and their three children. A devoted Antarctic enthusiast, lecturer, traveler, and book collector, Jonathan also serves as family historian of the Irish branch of the Shackleton family that moved to Ireland from West Yorkshire in 1720. Jonathan Shackleton has traveled to the Antarctic seven times, as a lecturer and guide on the ships Molchanov, Multanovsky, Shuleykin (three trips), Orlova, and the Polar Star (two trips). He has landed on the Antarctic Peninsula, Elephant Island, and South Georgia where Ernest Shackleton is buried. In December 2000, he accompanied a group of Canadian high school students, the first ever group of young people to visit Antarctica. He returned in December 2001 as leader of a group of Irish students and teachers. And in December 2002, with another Students on Ice group, Jonathan was able to land at Point Wild on Elephant Island, a feat that is usually impossible. For more information about the student trips, visit

John MacKenna is an award-winning short-story writer, novelist, biographer, and broadcaster. He is author of The Fallen and Other Stories, Clare, A Year of Our Lives, The Last Fine Summer, The Occasional Optimist, The Lost Village, and A Haunted Heart.

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cover of Shackleton book shows old photo of explorer

February 2003
208 pp. 7 x 9   
98 b/w photos, 2 maps, 11 illus.

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Cloth $29.95 t
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Copublished with Lilliput Press, Dublin

Wisconsin edition for sale only in North America, U.S. dependencies, and the Phillipines

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Updated March 28, 2011

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