4 April 2018 "Safe Return Doubtful"

Shackleton adThis is the ad that legend says Ernest Shackleton set in 1913 looking for volunteers for his expedition to be the first to cross the antarctic continent.

Legend has it that Ernest Shackleton set this ad in “The Times” in London on the 29th of December, 1913 for his planned expedition to be the first to the cross the Antarctic continent. Legend goes on to say that more than 5000 men answered the ad to be a member of his 27 man crew. You can read about this amazing story here.

People have one of two responses when they find out that I’m going to Antarctica to be part of a real scientific research team.

Response #1: “That’s Awesome! I would love to do that!”
Response #2: “Are you nuts!? Why would you want to do something like that?”

And I suspect that regardless of what response they give, they are thinking that I’m just a little bit crazy. Maybe I am a little bit crazy because not only am I going but I can’t wait to be on the Ice with my researchers!

My safe return is all but assured. In Antarctica today, every effort is made by the United State Antarctic Program to ensure that everyone is safe at all times. But it wasn’t always like that. And yet Shackleton had volunteers to go on an expedition where their “safe return” was “doubtful.”

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."

Would you volunteer to be on Shackleton's crew based on this advertisement?

For me, there is something daring, exciting, unique, intrepid and …really…just plain cool about this. Maybe I’m the only one, but if I wasn’t a husband and father and teacher and had to…you know…work for a living, I’d be the kind of guy to answer an ad like this. Or, at least, I would have had I been in London in 1913. I think Robert Frost had it right in his poem The Road Not Taken. 'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.'


Mrs. Chippy

Mike, This is a great journal and introduction to your expedition! You might be interested in reading this book -- Mrs. Chippy's Last Expedition --- it's the expedition from the perspective of the famous cat on board (and yes! there was a cat on the ship). Thanks for the interesting journal. Janet

Mrs. Chippy

Thanks Janet! coincidentally I'd already ordered it from Amazon yesterday! It should be here on Tuesday. It sounds like a book my students would like. Thanks!

C. Benoit
Guest's picture
Wow, Very interesting, Have

Wow, Very interesting, Have fun freezing

C. Benoit

That is the reaction that LOTS of people have! A long time ago, I attended the Army's Arctic training so I feel like I have a good skill set for making sure we are safe and warm. There are several good resources for how to be prepared for the cold like https://www.coolantarctica.com/ and http://dawninantarctica.blogspot.com/. I'm going to rely on Carol Costanza and Dr. Lazarra and George Hademenos from my AWS team for what I'll need in terms of clothing. They have been to Antarctica many times and I'm sure that they will have good advice. We will also be issued a full set of ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear at the US Antarctic Program facilities in Christ Church, New Zealand. I have no intention of freezing!

Guest's picture
What a find

This ad just oozes intrepidness. (it's now a word) I wonder what would happen if that ad were posted today! There is certainly something daring and exciting about it, and I imagine his journey will never be far from your mind as you explore Antarctica in a far less unknown way.

Can't wait to hear about your adventure--I'm excited for you! (and yes, envious, too!)

Re: Wendi commented on 4 April 2018 "Safe Return...


The whole PolarTREC program oozes intrepidness!  Intrepidness is definitely a word (even if my computer disagrees).  

Coral M.
Guest's picture

I am so exited for you to go! I can't wait to hear about all your adventures!

Antarctic Journey

Coral, You will hear all about it. Watch my journals to know where I am and what I'm doing.

Lillie G.
Guest's picture

Have fun!


Lillie, I'm sure that my expedition will be hard work and very challenging but it will be a lot of interesting fun too! Thanks!

Guest's picture
Ernest S.

Good studying! I'll be sad when you leave for Antartica.

Ernest S.

TEC, I'll miss my family, being at home, going to school all of my students and friends while I'm gone. But I'll be back when you come back to school after the winter holidays!

Chloe L.
Guest's picture
Earnest Shackleton

How did you find this?
It sounds cool Hope you have fun
I think you should also bring a Go Pro or something to record your expedition to Antarctica. :)

Earnest Shackelton

Chloe, I have a GoPro and I'll bring another camera and my phone camera. I promise I'll take thousands of pictures!!

calvin vanhartesvelt
Guest's picture

what do you think it would have been like in 1913?


Calvin, We know what it was like! There are some great books written either by the explorers themselves or about them. One book I read recently is about Ernest Shackelton is called "Shackelton" by Roland Huntford. Another is "Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of the World's Most Mysterious Continent" by Gabrielle Walker

Guest's picture

Since their were 5000 people that wanted to be a part of the 27 man crew how did you vote. did you vote by most educated on Antarctica?


Adrianna, I'm not sure how Shackelton chose who would be on his crew. I know that there were very educated and skilled men on the crew. He had plenty to choose from, so I'm sure that they were very well qualified.

Abby Post
Guest's picture

How cold was the coldest temperature ever recorded in Antartica?


Abby, The coldest temperature ever recorded temperature on Earth (-128˚ F) was recorded at a Russian station called "Vostock." It is at a very high elevation (about 4000 meters). It was recorded by Russian scientists and instruments. BUT just this year satellites recorded a temperature of -144˚F at a place near Vostok station called "Dome C."

Guest's picture
Robert falcon scott

has anyone tried to go search for him in the ice to see if he is still there.

Robert Falcon Scott

Cole, I don't think anyone has tried to actually find his body. According to a USA Today Article from January of 2001, "In 2001 glaciologist Charles R. Bentley estimated that the tent with the bodies was under about 75 feet (23 m) of ice and about 30 miles (48 km) from the point where they died; he speculated that in about 275 years the bodies would reach the Ross Sea, and perhaps float away inside an iceberg."


Guest's picture
Your opinion

Hi, I am a students from Dansville schools, I was wondering if you saw the "men wanted" add, would you have gone.

Your Opinion


Hmmmm....that is an interesting question. My first thought is that my wife would NEVER let me go. But, When I was a younger man, I think the answer would have been "Yes!" Now, today...I'm not sure I'd answer that ad. On the other hand, I'm leaving for Antarctica in about a week...so...

Guest's picture
Hello Mr.Penn, i was curious

Hello Mr.Penn, i was curious about what would happen if anyone or you where to find his body?
From: Karley Warvel


Guest, That is an interesting question. Since Antarctica is a desert (very very dry and cold) I think Scott's body would be pretty well preserved and I'd also think that his clothing would be in almost perfect condition. I'm thinking it might look like a mummy from Egypt. There would be almost no decomposition because it is too cold and he would have been buried in the snow almost immediately. I doubt that I or anyone else would accidentally find him though. According to an article in USA Today in January of 2001 "In 2001 glaciologist Charles R. Bentley estimated that the tent with the bodies was under about 75 feet (23 m) of ice and about 30 miles (48 km) from the point where they died; he speculated that in about 275 years the bodies would reach the Ross Sea, and perhaps float away inside an iceberg."

Guest's picture
Robert Scott Falcon

When you came to Dansville I was very intrested in scott where could you find out more information on him besides the internet?

Robert Falcon Scott

Elizabeth, There are a lot of good books written about RFS. One I read a few years ago was "Scotts Last Expedition." It is his own diaries and journals, right up until he died. It is very interesting! Another one is called "The Last Place on Earth" by Roland Huntford.

Guest's picture

When Scott went missing and supposedly froze in an ice burg was there any documentation of which direction he was headed?


Camden. We know exactly the direction that he and his team were headed. They had placed caches of food and supplies on their route home and they were between those points. We know also that they were headed north from the South Pole toward Ross Island where they planned to be met by their ship. You can read Scott's own journals and diaries in a book called "Scotts Last Expedition."

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Journal Details

Location: Shaler Area School District
Latitude: 40° 26' 26.246" N
Longitude: 79° 59' 45.197" W
Weather Summary: Light snow
Temperature: 32°F (-0°C)
Wind Chill: 21°F (-6°C)
Wind Speed: W 18 G 25 mph

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