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Shackleton was indeed a larger-than-life figure. But do not forget the incredible feat of his navigator, Frank Worsley. He guided an open lifeboat 800 miles (1300 km) in heavy, stormy seas directly to a relatively small island out in the South Atlantic using only a sextant, chronometer and almanac. He then hiked over icy mountains with Shackleton and Tom Crean for 36 hours to get help for the rest of the crew still stranded on Elephant Island. Without Worsley's navigational skills, all of the men (including Shackleton himself) would almost certainly have perished. Instead, they were all rescued.

 

He also sank a U-boat in WWI.

 

(Note: as a celestial navigation enthusiast, I might be a little biased. ;) )

 

 

Edited by Lt DeFault
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Note that the lifeboat was sailing through the worst seas that this planet has to offer (the screaming sixties, mostly), and that the boat was prone to icing. They had to climb on top of it in constant 6...10m seas with non-stop gale force winds to hack the ice off the tarp cover without damaging the tarp, while having, well, wool and leather clothing mostly. And probably some awesome beards, with icicles.

Also, they had but a single try to land on South Georgia due to wind strength and currents, approached a steep cliff coast at high velocity, at night, without sinking their boat. And none of the two trails across the islands were known at the time. The two found the more difficult route. Then they had to walk it back, to get the other men. And walk it one more time to bring everybody to the whaling station. And then organize the rescue ship to Elephant Island. Which took seveal attempts due to the hazardous ice conditions. And only then it was over.

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