The Shackleton Company’s business and products are built on the powerful shoulders of Sir Ernest Shackleton, with the invaluable support and involvement of the Shackleton family, notably his granddaughter The Hon. Alexandra Shackleton.
The achievements and magnetic personality of “The Boss” are legendary. He had a unique ability to inspire others to achieve the apparently impossible. 100 years after his greatest endeavours, the world still marvels at Shackleton’s life and character. New books are still written about him; academics from the world's best universities decode his techniques; business experts teach leadership courses founded on his intuitive genius.
The Company believes that the modern world needs his inspiration as much today as his men did a century ago. That’s why the Shackleton Company’s purpose is to inspire and equip men of action to endeavour greatly for the next 100 years. This adventure has begun with a range of high-quality clothing and equipment that has already been deployed and enjoyed across continents and expeditions. More will follow.
"I hold that a man should strive to the uttermost for his life’s set prize."
This is carved in granite on Shackleton's gravestone. It informs everything the Company makes and does.
Sir Ernest Shackleton
Shackleton lived his life in a forthright and directed way. He was utterly determined. He knew what he wanted and strived to the uttermost to make it happen - whether chasing the south pole for Britain & Empire or saving the souls of every one of his men in the worst possible circumstances.
Shackleton is one of the trio of great names from the ‘Heroic Age of Polar Exploration’, alongside Scott (UK) and Amundsen (Norway). Superficially Shackleton seems to have failed in his adventures where they succeeded. Amundsen was first to the South Pole and travelled there and back, safely, and with extraordinary efficiency, using Arctic experience with sled dogs, and a Norwegian’s understanding of cold and appropriate clothing. Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911, with Scott arriving weeks later, but, famously, Scott and his men died in their blizzard-bound tent on their return. Fashionably heroic in the immediate pre-WW1 years, Scott represented a glorious hangover of Victorian establishment heroism.
Shackleton was different from either man. He was merchant navy (not Royal Navy) from his teenage years. He was born in Ireland and educated in England. He was a romantic, he survived on his wits and incredible personal charisma. Thoroughly non-establishment, and with no real Polar training, he nevertheless had a remarkably human touch and earthy personality which made him extraordinarily popular and which managed to impress backers for his vision of achievement and endeavour. His well-documented style of inspirational leadership is still taught today at Harvard Business School.
"For scientific leadership, give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but when you are in a hopeless situation, when there seems to be no way out, get on your knees and pray for Shackleton."Fellow explorer Sir Raymond Priestly
Shackleton was relentlessly optimistic (saying “optimism is true moral courage”) but not reckless: he was known as “Old Cautious” by his men and well known for weighing up options in every situation.
Most notably Shackleton demonstrated a very modern pragmatism. Turning back from the South Pole two years before Amundsen achieved it (only 97 miles short of his goal) because he knew that if the goal was achieved then he and his men would perish on the return, Shackleton wrote to his wife that he thought she would “rather have a live donkey than a dead lion”. Two years later Scott became that dead lion.
And on his greatest adventure, the Endurance expedition, Shackleton again adjusted his objective: from crossing the entire Antarctic continent (never achieved on foot to this day) to bringing all his men home alive when Endurance sank through the ice and the crew were stranded on the ice floe with apparently certain death ahead to look forward to.
The ‘James Caird’ lifeboat journey over 800 miles of tempestuous Southern Ocean (and subsequent crossing of uncharted South Georgia) still ranks as one of the all-time great stories of courage and survival against the odds.
Shackleton’s genius was to be an optimist about outcomes but a realist about circumstances. It was because he loved life and adventure that he always wanted to live to fight another day. He was a common man, not a wealthy or an aristocratic one. He was flawed, he made mistakes, and he achieved few of his dreams. But he never gave up, he never once put himself before his men, and he won the admiration and devotion of all of those who flocked to join his expeditions.