Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874–1922) was a heroic failure. On his first trip to the Antarctic, from 1901–04, with Captain Scott—another heroic failure—he had to go home early because of bad health, even if the team did go farther south than any man before. In his second expedition, from 1907–09, Shackleton got even closer to his goal. Nonetheless, both he and Scott failed to get to the pole, while Roald Amundsen of Norway did, in 1911. Then, when Shackleton tried to go right across Antarctica, in 1914–17, he encountered a new level of disaster—when his ship, Endurance, was trapped and destroyed by pack ice. He triumphed only in averting more failure by leading lifeboats to South Georgia, a horrifying 830-mile journey, dodging killer whales and ice floes. On his final expedition, he died in 1921, aged only forty-seven, of heart failure. At his...


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