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Working for Shackleton

Shackleton was no pushover as Dr. Macklin recounts in his 1956 interview with biographer James Fisher.

In this section of the interview, Fisher and Macklin discuss what it was like to work for Shackleton. Macklin describes Shackleton's way of teaching his junior officers how to get results.

Note: Endurance left London with most of the crew onboard but Shackleton stayed behind to tie up loose ends and sailed on another ship to Buenos Aires. Macklin didn’t have much contact with Shackleton until they arrived in South Georgia.

Macklin: “… but in S.G., we had a lot to do in the way of preparation. … And very often I was asked to do certain things, some of which were a little difficult. He asked me to get a Norwegian pram - you know, one of those little boats - that he wanted for some purpose. When I went along, the Norwegians said, ‘You can’t have it.’ I accepted this, and just went back and said I’m sorry, the Norwegian just won’t give it to me.’ And he said in what I thought at the time was a very ruthless way, ‘I told you to get that pram and I want it.’ And that was all. I had to go and get it. I got it.”

Fisher: "So he was right."

Macklin: "He was right. I got it. I found later that he was like that. If he gave you work to do, he expected it to be done. He did not interfere with your doing it. He was an awfully good man to work for in that way, and I liked that. I liked knowing that this job was mine and that he wouldn't come along always picking at me, to know why I was doing this and that. And we did have, you know, an awful lot of responsibility, in getting these dog teams into order; because we took no dog drivers with us - they defaulted, didn't arrive - so we had to get down and learn all about them ourselves. Now there, I'd had no previous experience of dogs at all."

Fisher: So one of your earliest impressions of him was his delegating responsibility to you, one of the comparatively junior members of the upper deck, and being somewhat ruthless when you - in that particular instance - weren't quite tough enough. It was his way of criticizing you.

Macklin: Yes, he just made it clear that when he gave you a job he wanted it done.

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