Shackleton’s Antarctic Reading List Revealed


Ever wonder what Ernest Shackleton did to pass the time while his ship the Endurance was stranded in the Arctic ice for months on end? As it turns out, he did a lot of reading, and according to the Adventure Journal, the books that he took with him on his fateful journey back in 1914 have been revealed at last.

The contents of Shackleton’s library was determined recently when the Royal Geographical Society commissioned a Dutch tech company to examine a photo of his office. Using digital enhancements, they were able to read the titles of the books for the first time, giving us some insight into what the famous explorer read, and how it would impact his ability to keep his men safe in the Antarctic. For instance, as Adventure Journal points out, one of the books in his collection was The Rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley. This book told the tale of Adolphus Greely, an American explorer whose team ended up stranded in the Arctic back in 18881, leading them to a grueling survival mission that lasted for over three years.

So what else did Shackleton have on his bookshelf? The entire collection has now been revealed. Here is the entire list:

Encyclopedia Britannica
Seven Short Plays by Lady Gregory
Perch of the Devil by Getrude Atherton
Pip by Ian Hey
Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vol 2 Pleasant by G B Shaw
Almayer’s Folly by Joseph Conrad
Dr Brewer’s Readers Handbook
The Brassbounder by David Bone
The Case of Miss Elliott by Emmuska Orczy
Raffles by EW Hornung
The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett
Pros and Cons: a Newspaper Reader’s and Debater’s Guide to the Leading Controversies of the Day by JB Askew

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Woman’s View by Herbert Flowerdew
Thou Fool by JJ Bell
The Message of Fate by Louis Tracy
The Barrier by Rex Beach
Manual of English Grammar and Composition by Nesfield
A Book of Light Verse
Oddsfish by Robert Hugh Benson
Poetical Works of Shelley
Monsieur de Rochefort by H De Vere Stacpoole
Voyage of the Vega by Nordenskjold
The Threshold of the Unknown Region by Clements Markham
Cassell’s Book of Quotations by W Gurney Benham
The Concise Oxford Dictionary
Chambers Biographical Dictionary
Cassell’s New German-English English-German Dictionary
Chambers 20th Century Dictionary
The Northwest Passage by Roald Amundsen
The Voyage of the Fox in Arctic Seas by McClintock
Whitaker’s Almanac
World’s End by Amelie Rives
Potash and Perlmutter by Montague Glass
Round the Horn Before the Mast by A Basil Lubbock
The Witness for the Defence by AEW Mason
Five Years of My Life by Alfred Dreyfuss
The Morals of Marcus Ordeyne by William J Locke
The Rescue of Greely by Commander Winfield Scott Schley
United States Grinnell Expedition by Dr Kane
Three years of Arctic service by Greely
Voyage to the Polar Sea by Nares
Journal of HMS Enterprise by Collinson

That’s it. Start building your own Shackleton book collection today. 
Kraig Becker

3 thoughts on “Shackleton’s Antarctic Reading List Revealed”

  1. He did have a Bible….

    Just a few days after the ship was crushed, Shackleton began one of two aborted attempts to march the men toward safety. But they had to keep the ship's three lifeboats with them and it proved impossible to drag them over the rough ice. The attempts were valiant, and before the first try Shackleton set a startling example when he ordered the men to pare down their personal belongings.

    Shackleton: I tore the flyleaf out of the Bible that Queen Alexandra had given to the ship, with her own writing in it, and also the wonderful page of Job containing the verse:

    Out of whose womb came the ice?
    And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it?
    The waters are hid as with a stone,
    And the face of the deep is frozen.

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