June 14th 2021

David Booth

Today Senator Alice Mary Higgins will be talking about “The Climate and Peace”

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
June 16th Quiz night in aid of the Dolly Parton Book initiative.
June 21st Claire Casey of the Childhood Development Initiative will speak on the topic of
"Restorative Practices in Schools".
Jun 28th Club Assembly.
Jul 5th Presidential Handover
Jul 12th Patrick Hamilton Walsh, former member, speaking from Stockholm.
Jul 19th David Ellis – How Rotary is perceived by the public.
Jul 26th Gavin Walker, Rotary Club Bangor “Lend with Care, microfinance”
Aug 9th Eamonn Allen

President Alan was in the Chair at our last Zoom meeting. There were 16 members present.
Visitors and Apologies

7 guests joined us on the day. 4 were from the Rotary Club of Bonn – Seven Mountains as follows: Franz-Michael Rouwen, Matthias Dempfle, Jurgen Meyer, and Michael Neubrand. Our three other guests were Peter Hallberg, from Sweden, Marie-Louise Mueller and Tony Kirwan. They were introduced by PP Tom O'Neill.
Apologies were received from Delma Sweeney, Eamonn Allen, PP Ethna Fitzgerald, IPP Mariandy Lennon, PP Paul Martin, PP Derek Griffith and David Horkan.
Rotary Rangers Schedule
Rotary Rangers have recommenced weekly walks under the resourceful guidance of PP Brian George.

Thought for the Day – President Alan

The President
President Alan wished to thank Vienna Rotary for virtually hosting the Leonardo Da Vinci meeting after two valiant attempts at getting us to wallow in the cultural capital of Europe for a prize-giving weekend. The prize this year was awarded to a brilliant young pianist/composer who no doubt we will hear much more of in the future. Next year it is the turn of the Copenhagen club to host the prestigious event and they outlined their programme which they have already organised to the last detail and amazingly will be graced with an appearance from the Danish royal family. That will be a hard act for Dublin to follow in 2023.

Members wishing to speak
• Franz Michael (who said he only uses his double name when he is surrounded by all the other Michael’s in the Bonn rotary) said he was delighted to be leading a group of Bonn Rotarians to join us on Zoom for the first time. His memories of Dublin are all sweetened by a pleasant haze of whiskey and fine beers and they all look forward to coming and sampling more in our good company. In the hope that Dublin will reciprocate Bonn Rotary’s wish to formalise twinning arrangements with Dublin Rotary he invites as many of us as possible to come to Bonn for a joint shindig with our twin club of Tours sometime in March next year, Covid permitting. Herbert, the former German ambassador to the Phillippines and Japan, and Michael Neuberger spoke kindly of previous visits to Ireland. Michael is no stranger to Ireland, having spent his first and second honeymoon here, as well as coming over for Mariandy’s President’s night Dinner.
• President Alan has vivid memories of a night in Bonn during Carnival and lamented that we had nothing quite so wild and entertaining on this island.
• Mary O said that she had managed to get in to St. Louis’s school just before they closed for the summer and speak to some of the girls involved in Interact. While they had been locked out of school for much of the year they had been able to build a raised flowerbed as part of their peace and wellness garden but hadn’t had time to plant anything. They were glad to have been able to raise money for Doctors without Borders. Our club has been contacted by an Interact Club in India asking to be put in contact with a club in Ireland. Would St. Louis’ be interested? President Alan thanked her for her continuing efforts to support Interact.
• Bernadette Mulvey is promoting a book exchange in aid of the Dolly Parton book initiative. She proposes that we rummage around in our piles of old books and bookshelves at home and come up with a pack of 20 books. She will arrange collection and in return she will ask you for €20 for six random books from her ever growing collection. You never know, you might find one or two surprisingly good reads in that lot.

Our speaker for the day

The subject 'Shackleton's expeditions to Antarctica - including Endurance.'

Kevin McAnallan introduced us to an old friend of his who rejoices under the name of Shackleton, John Shackleton, a distant relative of the great man. Kevin met him 13 years ago, walking with the Rotary Ramblers and fascinated Kevin with stories of the Antarctic. Like many larger than life characters he went to Portora Royal School in Enniskillen and has had an illustrious legal career, most recently in arbitration.

Where does SHACKLETON’S name fit into our history? (Editor’s note)
He was a hero and born in Kildare we like to think of him as our hero. He was one of the last great explorers. He was a leader who inspired total trust in his men and made sure that they all came back alive in an age when the risks were enormous and the technology and even the clothing were primitive. While we were going through all the death and destruction of 1916 and the First World War he was tackling the last, pristine but hostile, unexplored territory on earth.

You can listen to a fascinating 3 minute recording of him speaking about ‘My South Polar Expedition’ 1907(on the Britannica.com website) where he talks about losing a pony in a crevasse.

Others have said:
There is something fascinating and macabre about the journeys of those who went exploring in the most difficult and dangerous places on earth. The narratives of Arctic and Antarctic exploration unfold with a certain formal inevitability. The fitting and provisioning of a stout vessel, the gala departure, the fruitless exploration of blind bays and dead islands, the fading hopes, the trapping of the ship in pack ice, the fatal nightmare of cold and starvation. Finally, as an epilogue, a new expedition sets out in search of the first, and the cycle starts again.

We know little about the voyage begun in 1845 under the command of Sir John Franklin in search of the North West Passage – the way presumed to be possible from the north Atlantic, across the north of Canada, to the Pacific Ocean. He and his crew were never seen again.

Who has heard of the U.S.S. Jeannette which left San Francisco in 1879 headed for the North Pole. This expedition was sponsored by the newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett, who had had some luck with this kind of thing before: he’s the one who sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingstone. The Jeanette was heated and insulated. Its hull was reinforced with trusses and beams to withstand the pressure of Arctic pack ice. It carried a set of arc lights supplied by Thomas Edison; its telephones and telegraph were from Alexander Graham Bell. Its hold was stuffed with provisions for three years. It never came back. (based on an article in Time magazine by Lev Grossman)

1895 was the beginning of the great age of Arctic exploration. It was the last unknown continent. The heroic figure of Fridtjof Nansen – every inch a brooding Scandanavian giant – inspired British imitators. One of those was an obscure officer in the Merchant Marine, Ernest Shackleton, and the other a naval officer called Robert Falcon Scott. The two were to partner each other in Scott’s first expedition and then become bitter rivals. Scott was always the Establishment man, and it was the Establishment that covered up his many weaknesses and idolised his futile death in the race to the Pole. Shackleton was the outsider, marginalised by the shady financial dealings of his brother Frank and his own constant recklessness and unsettled nature.

But these .British expeditions had a quixotic feel. The lessons the Norwegians had to teach – the professionalism and caution they lived by, the seriousness of their scientific purpose – were overruled in a spirit of Boy’s Own bravado. In the grandiosely named British Antarctic Expedition, Shackleton proposed to drive across the Antarctic! He tried to use ponies! Neither he nor Scott had any idea how to use dog teams and they only practised skiing on arrival. Their boats were unsuitable and their back-up ill thought through. Yet while these were the similarities there was one crucial difference between Shackleton and Scott: Shackleton looked after his men; Scott sacrificed them in pursuit of a dream. Shackleton was loved during his lifetime; it was death that was to transform Scott.

As an explorer Shackleton’s record is one of heroic failure. None of his three expeditions succeeded (though the Norwegians felt that his first could have reached the Pole if it had been properly equipped). It was in the act of trying that he achieved his stature. And this is perhaps a summary of Shackleton’s life. He failed – but on what a scale!

In this land of the long horizon he revelled in the solving of immediate problems, in the instantaneous reaction, in the situation which called for instant leadership. It was planning and the long view that caused him problems. At home the mundane problems of everyday life alternately bored and overwhelmed him. He drank too much, he smoked too much, had numerous affairs, abused his benefactors shamelessly (but with hypnotic charisma) for more cash, and planned his next expeditions in anarchic conditions. But in the ice, where survival lay on the edge, he was transformed.

(from Hugh Andrew’s introduction to ‘Shackleton’s Boat Journey’ by F.A.Worsley (Captain of the Endurance)

Back to John Shackleton and his talk:

Ernest Henry Shackleton, ‘the Boss’, was born near Athy in 1874, one of 10 children (8 sisters and 1 brother (no wonder he wanted to get away – ed). His brother Frank was implicated in the theft of the Irish Crown Jewels. The family moved to England and Ernest went to school at Dulwich College, London. He joined the Merchant Navy and had a fascination with the Antarctic. The Antarctic, interestingly enough, is hardly shown on most world maps. It’s about 4000 kilometers across with a mountain range down the middle. Europe would fit neatly on top of it. It’s covered by ice which can be up to 3 kilometers thick. It’s surrounded by icy, turbulent water and the winds usually roar around it in an anti-clockwise direction. Temperatures average minus 30 degrees C and the coldest temperature recorded there is -89.6 degrees C.

Shackleton led three Antarctic expeditions and did another one with Scott. These expeditions are often named after the ship that carried them there. From 1901 – 1904 he was on the Discovery with Scott and Tom Crean and the object was to go as far south as possible, starting from the McMurdo Sound. In 1902 they built a winter station to wait out the coldest months from April to July. In total darkness for months they lived off penguins, enjoyed sledging and ski races and even tried a bit of ballooning. They celebrated mid-winter in July with a special dinner. By 30th December they had walked 500 miles south to latitude 88, 23 mins south and might have made the Pole if they had had more food. They were only 180 kilometers short. This was by far the longest southern polar journey to that date The round trip was 960 miles in very tough conditions. Shackleton became sick and was invalided home in 1903. He felt well enough to get married a year later but in 1907 he was asked to lead the Nimrod expedition, joining the ship in Argentina.

They headed out into the wildest sea in the world made it to Scott’s old base and set out from there towards the South Pole. They had brought motorised sledges, Manchurian ponies and sled dogs, none of which were a great success but were later copied by Scott on his ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition. One of the ponies fell down a crevasse and they lost a lot of much needed provisions so they did not have enough food to reach the South Pole and make it back to base. However, they reached the Magnetic South Pole and were the first to climb the Mount Erebus, Antarctica’s second highest volcano. They carried out extensive geological, zoological and meteorological work and Shackleton returned a hero and was knighted by King Edward VII. His wife was among the huge crowd that came to greet him on his return to Charing Cross Station.
1911 – 12 were the fateful years of the Scott / Amundsen race to the Pole.
Then, in 1914 – 1916, Shackleton led a Trans Antarctica expedition, joining the ship Endurance in Buenos Aires and sailing to South Georgia. From there the plan was to make landfall on Antarctica at Vahsel Bay (discovered by an earlier German expedition) and cross the continent from there. They encountered heavy pack ice and could only sail about 50 kms a day. Then, just 200 miles from their destination the ice closed in around them and they could go no further. John showed us an awe- inspiring collection of photographs taken by their expedition photographer, Frank Hurley, including the ghostly shot of Endurance lit up by flashbulbs at night. They drifted for 9 months, doing scientific experiments, walking the dogs, playing cards and board games and hoping the ice would break up and set them free. But it only got worse and slowly the Endurance was crushed, the mast collapsed and all hope of it taking them home disappeared. It’s hard to imagine the feelings of 28 men out of touch with the world with no radio and no way of telling anyone where they were. They were left with 3 rowing boats which they had to drag for 6 days to the sea. The nearest human settlement was the whaling station on South Georgia and Shackleton decided that six of them would try and reach it and get help. They set off in Easter week 1916; Shackleton, Worsley (the Capt), Tom Crean, McNeish, Macarty and Vincent, taking the ‘James Caird’ boat which had been built with especially high sides. They suffered hunger, thirst and freezing temperatures, compounded by the cramped conditions on the tiny lifeboat and monstrous waves. When they miraculously found South Georgia 14 days and 800 miles later they realised they were on the wrong side from the whaling station and were too exhausted to sail any further. Instead Shackleton took Crean and Worsley with him on a 36 hour marathon crossing of the island’s mountains to arrive haggard and terrifying looking to surprised whalers. It took 4 attempts and another 100 days to get back to where the other 22 men were waiting on Elephant Island. Not a man lost on the whole expedition. The ‘James Caird’ now rests in a place of honour in Dulwich College.

Shackleton was out of funds for mounting his own expeditions but he made his way to New Zealand at the end of 1916 and was taken aboard the Aurora for a rescue mission of 10 men of the Australian Ross Sea Party who had been left stranded when their ship was blown away in a blizzard. One of their party died on a 1000 mile trek and two others died in a blizzard. Shackleton and the Aurora found and rescued the other 7 in 1917.

Shackleton joined the lecture circuit and published his own account of the Endurance expedition ‘South’. Restless to get back to the strange beauty of the Antarctic he raised money from a former school friend for a final voyage, to explore the eastern side of Antarctica and in January 1922 he set out for Rio de Janeiro and on to South Georgia. It was here, on 5th January 1922 that Shackleton died of a heart attack at the age of 48. 10,000 people turned out for the arrival of his body in Montevideo. His wife requested that he be buried in South Georgia and in his diary, the expedition’s doctor wrote ‘I think this is as ‘the Boss’ would have had it himself, standing lonely in an island far from civilisation, surrounded by stormy seas, and in the vicinity of one of his greatest exploits.’

John told us that he had been to Antarctica twice, in 1997 and again in 2009. The jump off point is the bottom of South America into very rough seas and force 10 winds. What left an indelible impression? Seeing albatrosses, with wingspans of up to 4 meters, passing icebergs 200 meters long and 40 meters high and seeing how deep they go below the waterline, the fantastic scenery, chinstrap penguins and having emperor penguins coming right up to you without fear, elephant seals (males reaching 4-5 tonnes), seeing and smelling half a million penguins (you get used to the stench but not the noise). It really is life in the freezer. He visited the cross Shackleton’s men erected in his memory. The Strongness whaling station on South Georgia is now sealed up because it is full of asbestos. He saw Mount Erebus which is almost 5,000 meters high and close to Mount Vinson which is a little higher and is one of the 7 peaks on 7 continents that some extreme climbers aim to conquer. He has a cousin who climbed Mt. Erebus.

Frank Bannister’s favourite quote about Shackleton was the one made by Sir Raymond Priestly, Antarctic explorer and geologist – ‘For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.’ It was true, John said, that Shackleton could manage people; he could keep them onside. Scott was a Royal Naval officer who believed in discipline and in eating separately from the men. Amundsen had learned by living with the eskimos in Canada and watching how they worked with dogs. Scott believed instead of man-hauling boats across the ice. John had the privilege of being invited for a dinner aboard the Discovey in Scotland.
Tom O’Neill asked how John would rate Tom Crean. John felt that you couldn’t single out one person. The men on those expeditions were all exceptional and accepted hardship as a part of life.
Frank wondered if Shackleton saw himself as Irish or British. John explained that we were all one when Shackleton was growing up and the idea of Irishness was probably not high on his agenda.
Alexander Kopf gave the vote of thanks for a fascinating insight into the life of a great man told by his grandson. The selection of photographs was superb and along with maps and routes taken brought the whole saga to life. Alexander hadn’t mentioned it before but said that his own grandfather had been on the German Antartic expedition to the other side of that continent from 1901-1903. (Now that’s one for another day – ed.) He asked President Alan to pass on our sincerest thanks.