A Last Thought from Charlton Shackleton
Executive Director of the Shackleton Research Trust
I often look at headlines like these and wonder how the people featured arrived at this point. Robert Frost and The Road Not Taken often come to mind: “and that has made all the difference.” Sometimes you have to leave the safety of the classroom and take the road less traveled to make meaningful and impactful contributions to history. After 106 years, and on the centennial anniversary of the death of Sir Ernest Shackleton, history was made when his marque ship was located. This discovery was led by a global team of researchers, academics, seafarers, and a network of supporters who believed in pushing the edge of technology, science, and the human spirit.
Firstly, I would like to thank Capt. Knowledge Bengu, Capt. Michael Mdluli, Ice Pilot Captain Freddie Ligthelm, Chief Officer Reagan Paul, Chief Engineer Themba Tshongweni and the crew of the S.A. Agulhas II. These seafarers, from the proud nation of South Africa, risked their lives in the same manner as Ernest Shackleton a century ago. I regularly followed their movements in the Wendell Sea and marveled at the technological advances since the end of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. To see the crew use a crane on the front of the vessel to swing a counterweight side to side to release the Agulhas II from the ice, the reason the Endurance scuttled on its last voyage, brought home just how far we have come.
Secondly, I would like to thank the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust for spearheading this expedition, Reach The World and the Royal Geographical Society for connecting this experience to the next generation, and Saab Underwater Systems for the remotely operated vehicle that confirmed the find with stunning photos seen around the world.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate Mensun Bound, Dr. John Shears, Nico Vincent, Dr Lasse Rabenstein, and other expedition members for a job well done! Your dedication to leadership, organization, and scientific pursuits has led to the recovery of one of the notable maritime legends.
This great achievement could not have been accomplished without the combined efforts of many, taking their skills from the classroom, boardroom and beyond out into the field in an effort to recapture lost history. As this latest edition of Poplar & Ivy exhibits, a curious mind combined with technical abilities, applied to real world settings provides limitless inspiration to achieve what many may think is impossible. As we seek to deal with complex issues surrounding our humanity it will take countless explorers working together, reaching beyond themselves to make a difference. As Shackleton has stated: “I chose life over death for myself and my friends... I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all.”