“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
This was the (probably apocryphal) newspaper advertisement allegedly run by legendary early 20th century Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, ahead of another perilous polar expedition. Though its origins are murky, this call-to-action serves as a succinct summation of both the harsh sacrifices and potential for glory involved in a voyage to one of the Earth's extremities — at a time when the frozen continent remained largely unmapped.
Now, over a century after this so-called Heroic Age of Exploration, you've got the chance to discover what life was really like for these intrepid adventurers, at a new exhibition charting the incredible history of polar expeditions.
On Monday 18 November, Bloomsbury auction house Spink launches 200 Years of Polar Exploration, the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of its kind.
View artefacts that have never been on display before, including photographs, equipment, medals and other memorabilia, from the expeditions of Lawrence Oates, Robert Falcon Scott and Shackleton, to 21st century explorations led by the likes of the late Henry Worsley.
The exhibition also shines a spotlight on "unsung hero" Frank Wild, Shackleton's second-in-command who took over the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition of 1921-22 after its leader suffered a fatal heart attack en route.
200 Years of Polar Exhibition is staged in aid of The Endeavour Fund, which helps wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans use sport and adventurous challenge as part of their recovery and onward rehabilitation.
The charity was championed by Henry Worsley, a Lieutenant-Colonel in The Rifles, who followed in the footsteps of Shackleton, successfully retracing the routes of his most famous antarctic expeditions before tragically succumbing to peritonitis while attempting the world's first unaided Antarctic crossing in 2016.
“Few endeavours in human history have called for such commitment in terms of courage, determination, endurance and sacrifice as these polar expeditions, Here, gathered in one space for the first time, are the memories of those exceptional people who claimed their rightful place in history.”
Roan Hackney, polar explorer and co-curator of the exhibition.
200 Years of Polar Exploration at Spink (Bloomsbury), 10am-5pm, 19-24 November 2019.