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Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was a key player in the Heroic Era of Antarctic exploration. An Irish-born merchant seaman, entrepreneur, lover of poetry and a born leader, he inspired the men who travelled with him on British expeditions to Antarctica. Douglas Mawson, then a young lecturer in geology from South Australia, was so inspired that he organised his own expedition, but with a greater scientific focus, to the southernmost continent. This carefully-researched essay explores Shackleton's role in launching Mawson's first expedition to an unknown and treacherous region of Antarctica in 1911. His experience and list of contacts were invaluable to the novice, and Shackleton was generous with his advice. Shackleton continues to inspire a broad spectrum of humanity: from those who live every moment of his exploration through his published books or through the interpretations of film-makers and historians, to those Antarctic adventurers who continue to push all the boundaries to the extreme limits of physical, mental and emotional endurance, as he did.

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