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“Enduring” Lessons in Leadership from Ernest Shackleton for Modern Explorers

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This guest post is by Lee Ann Potter, Director of Educational Outreach at the Library of Congress.

A small collection of 14 black and white photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress offers a seemingly simple starting point for engaging lessons and activities on a wide range of subjects, and may well inform, inspire, and motivate students.

Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic Endurance after ice pressure was released

Men who endeavored to cross Antarctica on wooden skis are featured in the photos taken nearly 100 years ago by one man, Frank Hurley.  They were part of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.  Although their attempt to cross the icy continent failed, every member of the expedition team survived and their heroic efforts have inspired another team of modern day explorers.

Members of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition of 2014 visited the Library of Congress on February 20, 2013, and described their plans to re-create the journey that Shackleton and his men set out to accomplish.  The Science, Technology, and Business Division of the Library sponsored a program titled “By Endurance, We Conquer:  Ernest Shackleton and Lessons of Leadership for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition 2014.”  Joanne Davies, Stewart Stirling, and Glenn Stein not only described their plans, but also explained their motivation and responded to questions.  The program is now available online from the Library.

Anticipating temperatures ranging from -40° to 40° F. and high winds, the team is determined to ski and kite-ski the 1700 miles in approximately 85 days.  They expect to consume between 8,000 and 10,000 calories per day, and plan to carry their gear on sleds. They are excited to finish the job that Shackleton began.  According to expedition leader Joanne Davies, they have found great inspiration in his story, describing him as a good researcher, well-informed about technologies of his day, fair, tenacious, and someone who learned from his mistakes.

Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic ice hole on Elephant Island where the lost party first attempted to live

Colleagues from MacNeil/Lehrer Productions attended the presentation and produced a short film featuring additional footage from the Library’s collections.

Encourage students to study the photographs and create a narrative as to what they think happened.  Next show them the MacNeil/Lehrer clip and ask them to compare their narratives with what actually happened.   Ask if they might have an interest in crossing Antarctica!

What do the photographs make you want to know about Shackleton and the upcoming 2014 expedition?

Comments (3)

  1. “by endurance we conquer,” This was Shackelton’s family motto. I love for my students to learn about this famous explorer of the early 1900’s! Thanks for the great resources!

  2. Thank you for these great resources. It should help my students to visualize and think what they might do when confronted with problems.

  3. This group of photographs and the accompanying resources and lessons are robust and complete. I intend to use the resources as a basis of a stellar leadership example, which I will share with secondary education students at our University’s Leadership Institute this summer.

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