Sir Ernest Shackleton (15 February 1874 – 5 January 1922) was a famous polar explorer. He led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He failed to become the first to reach the south pole. That honour went to Amundsen a Norwegian who used dogs in 1911. Shackleton was knighted for getting to within 112 miles of the south pole in 19092.
Shackleton returned to Antarctica to try and cross it from sea to sea via the pole (1914-1917). Unfortunately he lost his ship, Endurance, in pack ice. The ship was crushed. He appears to have been less successful and less heroic than we are led to believe.
Apparently, this icon of British heroism was an appalling commander1. Firstly he lost his ship, destroyed by the ice, as mentioned. He watched his ship “reduced to matchwood”1. For a captain to lose his ship this way was an embarrassment.
He then proceeded to personally “murder” the ship’s cat, Mrs Chippy, because there was not enough food for the cat and the sailors. Mrs Chippy was actually a tomcat.
Sailors don’t like the loss of the ship’s cats because it brings bad luck. It also has an effect on morale1.
Well, as far as I am concerned he is no hero to me, solely on the basis that he personally killed Mrs Chippy!
This is just a little snippet of cat history.
P.S. Please read Andrew’s lengthy comment by clicking on this link. It is great and adds detail to this article.
Associated: Cats in the Navy (by Elisa)
- Letters to the Times by Ralph lloyd-Jones 19th August 2013.