Journal

With their ship lost, strangled and stuck fast in the closing ice, Ernest Shackleton's men
started their long trek across Antarctica in the desperate hope of rescue. Our team spend a night
on the ice with one of Shackleton's descendants to feel that same cold and isolation first-hand...

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Shackleton threw the fistful of gold sovereigns into the snow. The Endurance was gone; if they had any hope of making it back to civilisation alive, they would need to travel as lightly as possible. The Boss allowed each man to carry just two pounds of personal belongings for the life or death trek ahead of them. The sovereigns were quickly lost: covered by a pile of uniforms, scientific equipment and all manner of personal effects from rare books to pocket watches. The hoard was worth a small fortune - but it was all deadweight now.


Only one exception was made: Shackleton ordered Hussey, the expedition's popular young meteorologist, to pack his banjo, as a "vital mental tonic". The plan was to advance across the sea ice, with some of the party driving dog sleds, while the majority pulled the three tiny lifeboats on ropes behind them. The men would sleep in tents on the sea ice, huddled under Jaeger blankets and sleeping bags as they fought their way towards land - and the hope of rescue.

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Today we have the rare opportunity to experience a night on the polar ice ourselves. And it's a particularly poignant occasion, because our guide is a relative of the great man himself: the historian Jonathan Shackleton."Ernest had a huge amount of charisma and energy. He was a natural leader of men," says Shackleton, the Boss's cousin twice removed. "It was all about that lure of the wild for him, that venturing into the unknown. And to a large extent, that's what's still attracting people to Antarctica today."

Like his namesake, the younger Shackleton is dressed in Jaeger for his sojourn on the ice - right down to his merino wool underwear. "It was

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important for Ernest to have the right kit: he was meticulous about his preparation and chose only the best stuff," says Jonathan, who has also brought a replica of the flag Ernest carried to Antarctica, bearing their family motto: 'By Endurance We Conquer.'

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Together, we prepare for our night on the ice: digging shallow pits or "graves" for our bivvy bags while chubby Weddell Seals snort and snooze nearby. "This is an environment that Ernest would have experienced countless times," says Jonathan, passing me the shovel. "100 years ago, the drama unfolded on the other side of that peninsula, just over those mountains."

The sky blushes pink and then deep crimson, but the sun never fully turns its back on us. January is the height of Antarctic summer, and the first conventional "night" is still weeks away. By 5am, when the Zodiacs arrive to rescue our group for some heartening breakfast, it's already high in the sky again. For the men of the Endurance, breakfast on the ice was already starting to include penguin meat and dog rations. They were freezing, they were hungry and they were scared. All of the gold sovereigns in the world couldn't buy them out of their predicament - but the sheer force of Shackleton's will drove them on. That family motto wasn't just sewn onto that flag, it was stamped throughout Shackleton's DNA: By Endurance We Conquer.

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