Shackleton beats Neil Armstrong as he is voted the greatest explorer
IRISH polar adventurer Ernest Shackleton has been voted the greatest explorer of the 20th century.
A new BBC series, Icons, is taking on the task of assessing the achievements of the last century’s most important and influential figures by public vote.
Seven well-known advocates each argue the case for four people from different fields – leaders, explorers, scientists, entertainers, sports stars, artists and writers, and activists.
At the end of each documentary, viewers vote for their favourite and the icon who wins the public vote in each category is put through to a live final where the greatest person of the 20th Century will be decided.
The public voted the Kildare man their favourite explorer this week ahead of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, desert explorer Gertrude Bell and Jane Goodall, renowned for her study of chimpanzees.
The legendary Antarctic pioneer will now be in contention with Nelson Mandela, who won the leader category.
The explorer from Kilkea, Co. Kildare, led the famous Endurance expedition to Antarctica in 1914 when he was 40 years old.
Presenter Dermot O’Leary, who presented the explorers’ documentary this week, described Shackleton as a man who was the ‘epitome of courage, survival, leadership and endurance.’
He said: ‘He was born in Ireland and as the son of Irish immigrants myself, a lot of my ancestors worked in the sea, his story has always meant a great deal to me.’
Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition was an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic but the ship and its 28-man crew were trapped in pack ice.
Their ship was crushed and sank on November 21, 1915, stranding the crew on the ice.
Shackleton and five others heroically made an 800-mile open boat journey in tiny lifeboats to reach South Georgia, crossing the island on foot to raise the alarm, before returning to rescue those still stranded. Mr O’Leary said: ‘What Shackleton achieved... hasn’t come close to being surpassed in 100 years.’
tough: Antarctic adventurer Ernest Shackleton made a heroic journey to rescue his crew members
first man on moon: NASA’s Neil Armstrong