Tickets for our event with the Endurance22 expedition crew are available buy now. 

Ernest Shackleton

“He was never tired, always cheerful…”

“…able, zealous, conscientious and energetic…”

“…keen in taking up a new train of thought or line of work, and persevering in carrying it out.”

These are all qualities which we readily associate with Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose courage illuminates one of the most heroic stories in the history of polar exploration. But these tributes are, in fact, quotes from Shackleton’s formal application for the post of Secretary to RSGS, which is dated 4th December 1903, almost 11 years before he embarked on the Endurance expedition.

In January 1904, Shackleton began work at the RSGS offices in Queen Street, Edinburgh. Aged 29, freshly returned from the Antarctic under the command of Robert Falcon Scott, Shackleton embodied a powerful blend of charm and vigour, and he had no patience with time-honoured office practices if they stood in the way of progress. At heart, Shackleton was a communicator, and he applied himself energetically to the task of boosting the Society’s public image.

While membership figures rose and lecture audiences increased, Shackleton’s destiny lay elsewhere, and he knew it. Irresistibly, his thoughts turned back to the Antarctic. In November 1909, in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, RSGS members gathered to witness their former Secretary receiving the Livingstone Medal “in recognition of his Antarctic explorations.” Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition had achieved a new ‘Furthest South’ but it had fallen short of the Pole, and as he graciously accepted the award his secret sense of failure irked him enormously.

Inevitably, five years later the Antarctic drew him back, and this time Shackleton was aiming for more than just the Pole. A map held in RSGS archives clearly illustrates his intention of crossing the entire Antarctic continent. But in November 1915 that dream was crushed in the most graphic way imaginable, and Shackleton could only watch helplessly as his beloved Endurance lost her valiant battle with the ice. In his private diary, he recalled that her stern was the last to go under water. He added, “I cannot write about it.”

For the sake of his men, Shackleton focused on survival. While the ship was stuck fast they had salvaged as much as they could carry, and now they prepared to move on. Shackleton’s family motto, Fortitudine Vincimus (‘By Endurance We Conquer’) was never more fitting; and the optimism which he prized first out of all human qualities was about to come to his aid. His men looked to him for leadership, and he wouldn’t let them down. According to Alexander Macklin, one of the expedition’s surgeons, he told them all calmly: “Ship and stores have gone – so now we’ll go home.”


In March 2022, Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was discovered at the bottom of the Weddell Sea by the Endurance22 expedition ( The ship had not been seen since it was crushed by ice and sank in 1915, forcing Shackleton and his men to make an astonishing escape, spending months in makeshift camps on the ice floes drifting northwards until they reached the inhospitable and uninhabited Elephant Island.

The Endurance22 expedition brought together world-leading marine archaeologists, engineers, technicians, and sea-ice scientists on South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II, one of the largest and most modern polar research vessels in the world. Organised and funded by the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust (FMHT), the team navigated its way through the heavy sea ice, freezing temperatures and harsh weather, in a quest to be the first to successfully locate Endurance.

The ship was located at a depth of 3,008 metres, and was within the search area defined by the expedition team before its departure from Cape Town, and approximately four miles south of the position originally recorded by Captain Worsley. The expedition shared photos of the discovered ship, miraculously well preserved with the name Endurance still clearly visible on the stern, the last thing that Shackleton would have seen before it was lost beneath the ice. The wreck is now protected as an Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty, ensuring that whilst the wreck is being surveyed and filmed it will not be touched or disturbed in any way.

RSGS is hosting a special event at Perth Concert Hall with the team from the Endurance22 Expedition, where We’ll hear first-hand from Expedition Leader Dr John Shears, Subsea Manager Nico Vincent, and Documentary Director Natalie Hewit as they recount their ground-breaking discovery and their journey beneath the ice to video and photograph the legendary ship. Join us on Tuesday 28th March for what will undoubtedly be an incredible story from dedicated experts who have been involved in this monumental discovery and hear first-hand of the challenges of preparing for and filming an expedition of this significance. Tickets are available now.