Ernest Shackleton was born on the 15th of February 1874 in Kilkea House which faces Kilkea Castle in Kildare. He was a member of the famed Quaker family from Ballitor, County Kildare who descended from Ambrahm, the educational pioneer. He was educated in Dulwich College, London, leaving to become a qualified master mariner in the merchant fleet.
Ernest Shackleton is regarded as perhaps the greatest of all Antartic explorers, an assessment based not so much on achievements, but on his qualities as a leader in conditions, which, at times, were the most severe that human beings have had to endure in those icy wastes.
He was part of Captain Scott's Antartic expedition of 1901-1903 in the ship Terra Nova, after failing in a career as a Unionist MP.
In 1907 he led his own expedition to the Antartic and got within 97 miles of the South Pole. On his return in the whaler NIMROD, he was granted £20,000 towards the costs of the expedition.
In 1914, he set out again, this time in Endurance. The ship was trapped in pack ice and nine months later was crushed. Shackleton led his men back to safety in an epic journey.
1921 was to be his final journey, but his death led to the abandonment of the expedition. A monument to him stands in South Georgia. He wrote two books in which his life is recorded:
The Heart of Antartic (1909)