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While many recall the heroic exploits associated with Ernest Shackleton, few realize that he was one of the most unusual travel publishers in history. Born in Ireland in 1874, Shackleton joined the Royal Navy at an early age and later volunteered to become a member of Captain Scott’s voyage to Antarctica. In 1907 Shackleton chose to lead his own expedition back to the frozen continent. But before he and his crew embarked on the Nimrod, Shackleton packed a small printing press, as well as the other materials needed to compose and produce one of the world’s most unique travel books. Because of his previous experience, Shackleton knew that the morale of his team of explorers would be severely tested during the long, dark winter months in which the team would be forced to survive in a single wooden hut. It was in order to keep boredom at bay that Shackleton urged his men to write, illustrate and produce a book recalling their adventures. The result of this team effort was entitled Aurora Australis.
Shackleton’s career as an explorer included his famous second journey aboard the Endurance, the ship which was trapped and crushed in the frozen sea ice in 1914. Though Ernest Shackleton was later knighted for having led his men to back to safety against impossible odds, the publication of this matchless book is an important landmark in exploration history.
The royalties on this book will be donated to the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust which promotes the restoration, preservation and protection of the structures, artefacts and records which reflect the history of human endeavour in Antarctica.
For more information about Shackleton, please visit The James Caird Society.
Summer 2008: Nick Smith reviews Aurora Australis for the Newsletter of The James Caird Society.