The cabin where Irish adventurer Ernest Shackleton died in the Antarctic Ocean, in 1922, is being shipped to Ireland, for a long-term donation by its Norwegian owner.
Shackleton, born in Athy, County Kildare, died on Jan 5 1922, of a heart attack. His cabin, referred to as the “sea-bedroom” by one of the adventurer’s colleagues has been maintained on a farm in Norway, above the Arctic Circle for many years.
The cabin was part of the Norwegian schooner-rigged steamship, Quest, which Shackleton had bought for his final voyage to try and clear his debts. The Quest went on to be a minesweeper World War II and sank during a seal hunt off the Labrador coast in 1962.
However Johan Drage, the Norwegian who owned the ship at the time, had the cabin removed and transported to a far in a farm at Saltdal, near Rognan, in Norway’s Nordland region. Drage’s grandson, Ulfe Bakke, who played in the cabin as a child has maintained it over the year.
In 2008 a Corkman, Eugene Furlong, was visiting Norway, and heard about the existence of Shackleton’s cabin. He tracked Bakke down and visited. Furlong told the Irish Times he was quite emotional at the thought that he was the first Irishman to enter the cabin since the great explorer’s death.
Later Bakke traveled to Kildare and met with the organizers of the Ernest Shackleton Autumn School. This school celebrates the life and work of the great Antarctic explorer in the area of his birth every year.
Bakke decided that he would donate the cabin to County Kildare. One of the committee members from the School, Joe O’Farrell, travelled the entire journey with the cabin last week.
The cabin will be taken for restoration from Dublin Port to Conservation Letterfrack, in Connemara, Galway. It will then travel to Athy, County Kildare in 2016 where it will become part of a permanent exhibition devoted to the explorer. The exhibition includes an original sledge and harness and a model of Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance.
The cabin will be displayed along with a description of it, by scout James Marr, who traveled with the explorer.
“The door of this cabin opened onto the after-side; and on the port side was the bunk, stretching the entire length of the room, with drawers beneath and a single porthole above,” he wrote.
“A small washstand stood against the forward bulkhead; shelves well-fitted with books on the starboard side, and a small, collapsible chair completed the more elaborate furnishings. In addition . . . was a small white-enameled cabinet fitted with an oval mirror in the door, and an emergency oil-lamp for use when the electric supply gave out.”
Shackleton was born in Co Kildare, Ireland in 1874 and was educated in England after his family moved. He joined the navy at the age of 16 and made his first Antarctic expedition during the 1901 exploration led by Robert Francis Scott.
The Irish adventurer led the expedition aboard the Endurance after completing previous expeditions to Antarctica. Shackleton sailed 800 miles with five other crew members in a whale boat to South Georgia and then crossed the island to a whaling station to seek aid for the remaining crew in the stuck ship. He led four rescue missions and in August 1916 all of them were rescued.
Shackleton published his account of the expedition in his 1919 book titled “South.” On his next mission he sought to circumnavigate the Antarctic coast, but he died of a heart attack off the coast of South Georgia on Jan 22, 1922. He was buried on the island.