Shackleton Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Date in the current year: May 20, 2024

Shackleton Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Despite having no permanent population, the British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) has its own public holidays. One of them is Shackleton Day, which commemorates the arrival of the James Caird at South Georgia during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Sir Ernest Shackleton was an Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer who is widely regarded as one of the key figures of the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration which began in the late 19th century and ended after World War I. He participated in three British expeditions to the Antarctic and led three of them.

Ernest Shackleton was born in Kilkea, Ireland on February 15, 1874. When he was ten years old, his family moved to London. Although Shackleton was an avid reader, he was bored by formal education, and his parents allowed him to leave school at age 16 and become an apprentice on a sailing ship to satisfy his passion for adventure.

Shackleton’s first Antarctic expedition was the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904 led by Robert Falcon Scott. During the expedition, Scott, Shackleton and Edward Wilson participated in a southern journey towards the pole and set a new Farthest South. Sadly, the journey severely affected Shackleton’s health, and he had to be sent home on a relief ship in February 1903.

After a period of shore work, Shackleton became the leader of the Nimrod Expedition of 1907-1909. Although the expedition did not achieve its main goal of being the first to reach the South Pole, its southern march did reach a new Farthest South latitude. On his return home, Shackleton was greeted with great enthusiasm and became a public hero.

In December 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his for companions became the first people to arrive at the South Pole. Shortly after, Shackleton came up with a new goal of Antarctic exploration: to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent. He called his new endeavor the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Shackleton’s ship Endurance set sail from Plymouth on August 8, 1914; several months later, she became trapped in the pack ice. The crew stayed on the drifting ship for eight months, but eventually she was crushed and sank on November 21, 1915. Using the three boats they managed to salvage, Shackleton’s crew reached the remote Elephant Island that became their temporary haven.

Shackleton decided to sail one of the boats, the James Caird, to South Georgia to seek help. The 17-day voyage of the James Caird was filled with dangers (one time the boat nearly capsized), but it ended well: on May 20, 1916, Shackleton and his small crew arrived at Stromness in South Georgia. The anniversary of their arrival is celebrated in South Georgia as Shackleton Day. Thanks to the James Caird’s successful journey, the entire crew of Endurance was rescued from Elephant Island and survived the expedition.

Shackleton died of a heart attack on January 5, 1922 during his final expedition to the Antarctic (the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition, which ended the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration). He passed away shortly after the expedition’s arrival at South Georgia and was buried on the island. Although it was originally planned to escort Shackleton’s body back to England, his widow insisted that the explorer be buried at Grytviken. In 2011, the ashes of Shackleton’s right-hand man, Frank Wild, were interned on the right-hand side of his grave.

Remind me with Google Calendar


Public Holidays



Shackleton Day in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, holidays in SGSSI, public holidays, Ernest Shackleton