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Interviewing with Shackleton | Introduction (2)

Shackleton was knighted and feted all over the world for the extraordinary accomplishments of his 1907 - 1909 Nimrod expeditions. He had ...charted the Magnetic South Pole, invaluable for navigational charts. He pioneered innovations in exploration packing, clothing, diet, transport, and equipment.

This riff got me thinking about the perspective of the people who applied to go on Endurance.

In 1956, Dr. Alexander Macklin shared memories of applying for a position with Shackleton biographer, James Fisher.

Four New Burlington Street, London - Shackleton's headquarters, Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Macklin: "... I'd always been rather attracted towards that sort of thing. I'd read a lot about Polar exploration, North and South, and was very fascinated by his Heart of the Antarctic, and I always had the feeling that if the chance came I would have a shot at it. And I saw the Endurance expedition being advertised and I wrote a letter asking if I could be interviewed with a view to the job of surgeon to the expedition. I got no reply at all - he was getting thousands of letters, of course, from all sorts of people - and at last I took the bull by the horns and went to see him soon after he'd taken up his office [near] Regent Street."

Fisher: "Did you barge straight in?"

Macklin: "Yes, I went in early in the morning, shortly after nine o'clock, but even then I was a little too late for him. I met him coming down the stairs in a tremendous hurry - he usually was - and I thought 'My goodness, is this my chance slipping away' and I managed to stop him and said I wanted to come as his surgeon, blurted that out, and he said, 'Well, I'm busy just now, but go up and introduce yourself to some of the other fellows up there, and just wait for me.' I waited all that morning, in fact all day, and I think what stood me in good stead was that during the time I was waiting for him I got talking to the other chaps, including Frank Wild, and they went out to lunch and Frank Wild turned to me and said 'Perhaps you'd better come with us.' and I went along with them and went back to the office in the afternoon, and Shackleton came in in a terrific hurry again, went into an inner room, spent about half an hour with Wild. Wild came out and said, 'He'll see you in a minute or two.' and I said, 'Well, will you put in a good word for me?' Whether he did or not, I don't know, but I went in to see Shackleton, he looked me up and down, asked me one of two questions, and just abruptly, like that, said, 'All right, I'll take you.' without any other reference or requirement of any kind at all."

Fisher: "Do you remember what the questions were that he did ask you?"

Macklin: "One question was 'Is your eyesight all right?' I was wearing specs, you see? I said, 'Yes.' 'Why are you wearing spectacles?' For want of anything better, I said, 'Many a wise face would look foolish without spectacles.' and he laughed. He asked me one or two other questions - one was why I wanted to go, a few simple questions of that sort, and that was all."

Fisher: "What was your answer to the question, 'Why do you want to go?' Do you remember?"

Macklin: "I think I just told him I had always been interested in this sort of thing and knew that if a chance came up I should have a shot at it."


Margot: At the time, Macklin had just turned 24. He had "qualified" as a surgeon two years earlier. Shackleton would have been impressed by Macklin's initiative, his determination (waiting all day) and, most especially, that he had gotten to know the others while waiting and had gone out to lunch with them. His primary concern was hiring people who could get along with others during long, cold, dark months of isolation.

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