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17th Ernest Shackleton Autumn School

Athy Heritage Centre

The 17th Shackleton Autumn School opens on Friday October 27th in Athy Heritage Centre, Emily Square, Athy, Co. Kildare.

Billed as the best event of its type by the influential ‘www.Antarctic-Circle.com’, the School features a mixture of presentations, arts and social events in the historic town of Athy, Co. Kildare.

Its inspiration is drawn from the Kildare born and raised explorer Ernest Shackleton, whose exploits, decision making and leadership have established his global profile.

The arts programme sees the welcome return of Aiden Dooley’s acclaimed ‘Tom Crean, Polar Explorer’ on Sunday 29th October. In addition, the School will feature book launches on polar related topics.

A major feature of this year’s event is US Admiral Richard Byrd’s expeditions to Antarctica. Laura Kissell, director of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Centre at Ohio State University, will present on the significance of Byrd’s expeditions, followed by rare film footage of the 1933-35 expedition.

The importance of Polar exploration to Norway’s national identity will be discussed by Else Berit Ekeland, Norway’s Ambassador to Ireland, while fellow Norwegian Anne Melgard tells the story of the intriguing letter left at the South Pole by Raold Amundsen when he became the first person to attain the Pole in December 1911.

Amundsen’s successful undertaking was inspired by Shackleton’s furthest South of 1909. John Geiger picks up the Shackleton theme in ‘The Third Man Factor – Surviving the Impossible’ , a reference to Shackleton, Crean and Worsley’s belief that they were assisted by a mysterious hand during the voyage of the James Caird and the subsequent crossing of South Georgia.

Shane Murphy is a world renowned expert on the photography of the Endurance expedition, and he reveals previously unknown details of Frank Hurley’s iconic photographs. Meanwhile, Joe O’Farrell will highlight an often forgotten aspect of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 expedition, the Ross Sea Party. In 2016, Enda O’Coineen became the first Irish person to cross the start line of the Vendee Single Handed Round the World yacht race.

A few months later and while making good progress, a freak accident demasted his yacht. Enda’s talk ‘Living on the Edge; In the wake of Shackleton’ gives an insight into the mindset required to surmount overwhelming obstacles from someone who touched Shackleton’s own experiences 100 years earlier.

Mark Pharaoh has travelled from Australia to talk about Douglas Mawson, the Australian hero and leading polar explorer.

Mawson’s first voyage to Antarctica was as a member of Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition where he was part of the first party to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Polar historian Robert Burton meanwhile fills in the little known details of one of the quirkiest polar expeditions, the 1920 Cope expedition.

The highlight of the social programme is the Shackleton dinner which takes place on Saturday night October 28th in the magnificent surroundings of the newly reopened Kilkea Castle, only a stone’s throw from Shackleton’s birthplace.

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