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The cross in its original position overlooking the British Antarctic Survey’s Grytviken station PA
Polar Exploration

Ernest Shackleton’s birth remembered with memorial cross travelling 11,000km

Shackleton was born in Kilkea, Co Kildare, in 1874 and died in January 1922 after suffering a heart attack on board his expedition ship.

A MEMORIAL TO Irish polar explorer Ernest Shackleton will travel more than 11,000 kilometres to Dundee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The wooden cross from Shackleton’s Hope Point memorial will soon be on display at Discovery Point museum in Dundee, where the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery, which first carried Shackleton to Antarctica in 1901, is kept.

Shackleton was born in Kilkea, Ireland, in 1874 and died in January 1922, aged 47, after suffering a heart attack on board his expedition ship, the Quest, in South Georgia, a UK overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Crew members of the Shackleton-Rowett expedition erected a memorial at Hope Point, near to his final resting place in Grytviken Cemetery.

The Hope Cross was constructed at nearby Grytviken whaling station by crew members unable to attend the funeral of their expedition leader, whom they called The Boss.

embedded21919658 Ernest Shackleton on the bridge of the Nimrod, moored on the Thames

The memorial cairn and cross allowed them to pay their respects, placing a signed group photograph between the rocks.

Crafted from wood salvaged from a nearby whaling station, the cross stood at Hope Point for nearly 100 years, before the decision was made in 2018 to remove it and replace it with a replica to preserve it.

Earlier this year, the cross – measuring almost three metres tall and weighing approximately 30 kilogrammes – was loaded aboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough, to begin the 11,000 kilometre journey and is expected to arrive in Dundee in August, where a service is expected to be held to commemorate its arrival at the home of the RRS Discovery.

Bringing the memorial cross to Dundee is a collaboration between the Dundee Heritage Trust (DHT) the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI).

The DHT is appealing to fundraise £10,000 for the care of the cross at Discovery Point.

Laura Willis, chief executive of the islands’ government, said: “This unique object embodies the spirit of exploration and endurance that has defined these islands since their discovery almost 300 years ago, through generations of whalers, adventurers, ecologists and conservationists that continue to push the frontiers of knowledge of the sub-polar regions to the present day.

“We hope that its display to a wider audience will inspire visitors, enthusiasts and future generations to contemplate and appreciate the enduring legacy of one of the world’s greatest explorers, as well as the indomitable strength of human spirit.”

Alison Neil, CEO of the SGHT, said: “When the original Hope Cross was replaced on South Georgia back in 2021, the opportunity arose to share it with the public beyond the sub-Antarctic island’s 15,000 annual visitors.

“We at SGHT and the South Georgia Museum are thrilled that the Hope Cross can be cared for as part of the Discovery Point collection in Dundee, with all of its links to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for many people to encounter the cross and be inspired by the love and loyalty to ‘The Boss’ that caused it to be created and erected by his crew in his memory.

“We’re grateful to GSGSSI, DHT and to BAS for helping to preserve this iconic piece of Shackleton’s legacy, and hope that the public take this chance to see the cross and support its preservation.”

Emma Halford-Forbes, heritage and exhibitions director at DHT said: “We’re pleased to welcome the Hope Cross to Dundee this year and display it to a UK audience for the first time.

“Looking forwards, we have exciting plans for a capital redevelopment of Discovery Point, including a new permanent polar exhibition, Drawn to the Pole.

“Our plan is to display the Hope Cross as part of this new gallery, to make it accessible to a wider audience and create a respectful and reflective opportunity to pause and remember not just Shackleton, but all past Antarctic explorers.”

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