The Story of My First Success

E. H. SHACKLETON September 1 1909

The Story of My First Success

E. H. SHACKLETON September 1 1909

The Story of My First Success


From. M. A. P.

I REALLY do not know anything of a first success, though I am quite well aware that the people who have been good enough to concern themselves with my work would consider that I ought to regard my Anarctic expedition in that light. And, indeed, I feel that it has been successful, but it was not the work of a moment.

Success in an expedition o f that sort can only be gained by two great forces. The first of these is attention to detail a n d organization, and the second to the co-operation of good men. The good men I certainly had with me, so that if the expedition is m\ share it with me.

All success, however, has its limitations, and a man may do good work without of necessity consider ing that it is a 1'irst” success. Emmy own part, 1 believe that when a man begins his life work young, and 124

rsl success, tliev

has the definite carrying out of an object in \dew for Avhich he feels fitted, his success must come gradually and be quite unlike that indefinite thing which is the result say, of putting one’s money on a race-horse or into a gold mine and saying that that speculation o r investment was one’s first success.

I know that t h e expedition has been successful, but I should be inclined to say that my first success c a m e when I read in the Geographical Journal that t h e National Antarctic expedition was going to start. I mean the first expedition that went out under the command of Captain Scott. At that time I was on board a troopship conveying troops to South Africa. During a period of eight or nine months, whenever l returned home. 1 tried to become a member ot that expedition.

Eventually, as you know, my application was accepted, and 1 was

taken on. As you ask, I may tell you it was no new-born or sudden desire, for I have always been interested in Polar exploration. I can date my first interest in the subject to the time when I was about ten. So great was my interest that 1 had read almost everything about North and South Polar exploration.

When, therefore, this opportunity of going with Captain Scott presented itself, I naturally tried to take advantage of it. One thing in my favor was that I had been a sailor since I was sixteen. I had been all over the world in all sorts of ships—sailing ships, tramp steamers, troopships, mailboats, ships carrying submarine cable, and so on. I had, in fact, been round the world four times, and could also claim to know something of navigation, having navigated a tramp steamer twice round the world.

In my early seafaring days 1 had learnt to handle boats on the coast of Chili, where we had to go through the surf, which was very heavy, and where the rocks are very dangerous. This experience I found very useful when, in the middle of the night on March nth, 1902, I had to take a boat to find a party of our men who had been lost in a blizzard. We set out in the middle of the night, with a very cold temperature, and the sea all massed up with broken ice.

In connection with my South African troopship work, it may interest you to know I made my first plunge into literary work by writing a book on the transport service. It was called “O.H.M.S.,” and it had a practical bearing on my life, and I may, therefore, refer to it here in this very personal record which T make under a certain feeling not of compulsion, yet of regard for the firm which publishes M.A.P. The public will readily understand what this feeling is when I explain certain facts.

I was selected to go on the Southern journey towards the barrier with

Captain Scott and Captain Wilson, when we were away for ninety-three days and reached the most southerly point up to that time. Scurvy broke out and affected me so badly that I was invalided home. I should like to pause here for a moment to set right a matter which has often been wrongly written about.

Certain papers have said that on the return journey I was hauled back on the sledge. This is not so. I vras very much “knocked out,” and it was always on the cards that I should not get through. In spite of my illness, however, T managed to march back. I could not pull my load, and so could not ease the burden of my comrades.

This time, on my own expedition, except for an attack of dvsentry and heart failure, from the effects of falling one night, on a glacier, I was absolutely all right and as fit as could be when I got to the end of the journey, though T had lost three stones in weight from the time I had set out. In that, however, T was not singular, for every one of the men with me also lost weight.

After T was invalided home, 1 became assistant editor of the Royal Magazine, which is published by Messrs. Pearson, who also publish M.A.P., and it is this feeling of loyalty to the firm I served which has overcome my scruples about talking of such a thing as personal success. After leaving Messrs Pearson, I was appointed secretary and treasurer of the Royal Scotch Geographical Society. T, however, gave up this post on being asked to contest Dundee at the last General Election. It was a forlorn hope, but was amusing in many ways, for the Dundee people are noted hecklers. Throughout the whole of the contest I received the utmost courtesy from the opposite side.

On one occasion when I had to address a meeting I missed my train, and had to take a special to get

through. I arived at the hall just in time to hear the chairman apologising for mv absence. J, however, made my speech. What my opponents thought of it was voiced by one of them, who got up and said: ‘‘lie took a special train to get here, and when he got here what did he say? nothing.”

1 need scarcely remind you that T was defeated, and I became personal assistant to Mr. W illiam Beardmore, the head of the firm of great armourplate makers and batteship builders, and he was one of mv princinal supporters in the expedition, and helped me in financing it.

The financing of the expedition was no easy matter, and getting the money for it might almost be regarded as my first sucess. 1 wore out a good deal of shoe-leather in London and elsewhere, going to see people, and I spent many postage stamps in writing letters to get others to help the new expedition. T, however, obtained little assistance from most of those to whom I applied. I was sufficienti}fortunate, however, to find enough people to believe in me and to guarantee me a large part of the money required for the enterprise. d hese guarantees will now be paid off by me. This, I hone, will be done by my lectures and bv the sale of my book which will be published later in the vear.

Some other monev I obtained from relations and friends, but the old}public assistance 1 received were sums of £5,000 from Ihe Commonwealth Barhamen! of Australia, and £1,000 from the New Zealand Government. In addition to the £1,000, the New Zealand Government paid half the towage of the Nimrod from New Zealand to the ice, and gave Iree port dues and everv possible assistance to the ex pedition. I lie interest and enlluis ¡asm displaced in Australia and New Zealand towards our work were among the most marked feature of

the whole expedition, and we who took part in it will never cease to appreciate them.

( tn these guarantees and the funds I have mentioned, I opened a little office in London, and, with the assistance of one man, Mr. Alfred Reich I set about preparing the expedition. I laving the equipment in our own hands and not having to wait for committees, we naturallv got ahead very quickly. The formal announcement that the Antarctic expedition was to start was made cm February 12th. and on the following August 6th we sailed from Cowes, after their Majesties had inspected the ship and the Queen had entrusted to us her Union Jack to carrv to the South. On January ist. 190S. at 4 p.m. we cast oft’ from New Zealand.

1 naturall}' cannot go into the details of the expedition here. The work that has been done is aireadv known in outline, and the full narrative will appear before the end of the year. \ he scientific results will take longer to prepare, and therefore to publish : but, in talking of the success of the expedition. I must mention that it is not mv success alone, for I am not “the onlv pebble on the beach.” It was due to the unit}' of purpose, the irregardlessness of self, the desire to give and take of the fourteen men who were on the shore party with me. and the twentv-two men on the ship which made the expedition as successful as it has been generously described to me bv the world.

If I went into the recital of the work and energy, the thought and endeavors, of mv comrades. I could till pages of M. A. R. before 1 did justice to them. Here, 1 can onlv say I owe them a debt of gratitude as the leader of the party: and the world, which will profit in future from the scientific work done on the expedition, will recognize that they are responsible in the greatest pos-

sible measure for the work which was carried through. With regard to the success, I recognize, as every man must recognize, that the pioneer of every movement is largely responsible for the success of those who follow him.

Captain Scott was the pioneer of Antarctic travel, and the experience gained with him proved most useful to me, though my course lay well to the cast of the Discovery’s journey. Still, the barrier surface presented somewhat similar features to what it did on the last Southern journey I was on, though the snow was undoubtedly deeper this time.

Tennyson says in "Ulysses”;

"All experience is an arch where through,

Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.”

Our southern work, based on the experience of the past, proves the truth enshrined in those words. It also proved our indebtedness to Dr. Nansen. He was the inventor of the sledge, which, with slight modifications, we used, and he ivas the inventor of the cooker we took with us.

It only weighed about 15 lbs.., and 94 per cent, of the heat generated was used. Indeed, while Nansen may be said to be directly responsible for the large amount of knowledge we have of the North Polar regions, he is indirectly responsible for the length of journeys, dependent on efficiency of equipment in the South Polar regions.

Down south every man had his own cubicle which he decorated in his own particular way. One of them was exceedingly devoted to the career of Napoleon, and was a great authority on the Napoleonic period. He decorated the partition of his cubicle with a. portrait of his hero. When we returned from one journey

he found that an artist had made Napoleon s nose red and had painted fires about his teet. When the owner of the cubicle returned and saw the changes that had been made, he promptly renamed the picture Sir Hudson Lowe.

Many people have naturally been curious about our going without a bath for over 120 days. To a certain extent we were prepared for this, for in the hut we washed only once a week, if as often. On the march we had no inclination to wash, even if we could have done so. The cold, however, prevented that. Indeed, we never took our clothes off during the whole time. You must remember that one does not need washing in the Antarctic, for there is no dust, and we never got dirty. We might have washed our hands and face, but we didn't, for it was much too cold, and it would have used up our valuable oil.

The question of temperature natutrally suggests that of food. I have been asked very often whether our appetites increased as we went south. Our rations certainly decreased. We started out with ninety-one days’ provisions, and we spun this out for 126 days. In the original ration with which we began we had thirty-two ounces. Meat, however, did not play a very large part in it. The instinct in the Antarctic is for heating foods—Plasmon chocolate, cheese, butter. We also took pemmican, which was made in Copenhagen, where they probably know more about it than anywhere else. Nansen’s and the National Antarctic expeditions’ pemmican was made there.

On the march, for lunch, we used to have chocolate four days a week and cheese three days. We all much preferred the chocolate days, and greatly enjoyed our two sticks, which was our ration, and which we found highly nutritious. One point which struck us all was how man’s

attitude towards food alters as he goes south. At the beginning, a man might have been something of an epicure, but we fourni that before he got very far even raw horsemeat tasted very good.

It may interest you to hear that in Sydney on my return from this expedition I had a very large audience—over 4,000 people in the town hall—and this is a contrast to a lecture I gave in Leith a few years ago. 1 hired the hall and advertised my lecture. On the evening of the day I drove from my house in Edinburgh, and, instead of finding the place full, as T hoped, I saw one drunken man, two old women, and a couple of boys assembled to hear me.

1 went down stairs and asked the cabman whether he would not like to come to the lecture, lie thanked me, but assured me that he would rather not, as he was "very comfortable where he was.”

Eventually about twenty people turned up, and to them I delivered my lecture. When 1 went home I related my experience to my wife, and we went into a calculation that I had spent something like seven pounds in hiring the hall and advertising the lecture, and that all I was likely to receive was twenty-five shillings. "No.” said my wife, “you won’t get as much, for I sent the maid and the cook to hear you : so that is two shillings off.”