Triumph Against All Odds: The Shackleton Endurance Exhibition

The Shackleton Endurance Exhibition is currently running at Dun Laoghaire pier (until 2014). Find out what Jill and her family thought of the Exhibition:

Both of our daughters know a little about the Antarctic from school both from a geography point of view and having learned the story of Tom Crean. Tom-Creans-Rabbit

The excellent picture book Tom Crean’s Rabbit: A True Story from Scott’s Last Voyage was a favourite when they were younger.

And last year we had been to see Aidan Dooley’s brillian one-man play Tom Crean (catch this if you can when it next tours near you).

I had read and watched some TV programmes about Ernest Shackleton. So it was with interest that we visited the Shackleton Endurance Exhibition at Dun Laoghaire pier last Sunday.

What’s in the Exhibition

John O’Reilly, the managing director of the  Exhibition happened to be covering the desk that day, so he gave a very good introduction to the story of Shackleton’s expedition, standing in front of a map of the Antarctica and of Elephant Island and South Georgia, which helped you to understand the scale of what Shackleton attempted and what he achieved in the end.

For kids there’s a Quiz Sheet for them to take around and answer questions.

You follow the footsteps around the exhibition space. On the walls are photographs taken by Frank Hurley, the expedition photographer. These alone are worth the visit from an artistic and photographic point of view, they are stunning. He managed to capture the Antarctic but also the men on the expedition brilliantly so you can spend quite a bit of time looking at the detail and the photographs really help bring it all to life. shackleton-exhibition

In between the photos are explanations of the key points along the journey, as well as audio-visual with film clips taken by Hurley interwoven with modern animation. So for example, when the Endurance was crushed in the ice finally and keels over, you can watch clips of film and then the animation shows you how the ice affected the ship.

There is a replica of the James Caird boat that Shackleton and 4 others set off in to find help for the rest of the men. Particularly effective is a screen of the sea with huge waves rolling behind the boat so that when you stand in front you realise how small the boat was compared to the ocean they were sailing in.

There is a sextant that you can try out for yourself, showing how the navigator (Frank Worsley in the case of the voyage of the James Caird) can navigate a boat depending on the sun – on that particular journey there were only 4 times he was able to take a reading and when you look at the journey the small boat makes, you can see why that journey is considered one of the most amazing feats of navigation ever.

There’s a replica of the clothes the men wore and also some artifacts such as letters and brochures at the end in a case to pore over.

The Verdict


The men waving farewell to the James Caird

For anyone with an interest in history (or photography) this is a must-see. It’s a well laid out exhibition, there is plenty of material to look at and read to help you understand the story.

The Quiz sheet was good for our 8 & 12 year olds. I would say that for younger kids there is less to capture their imagination, although the photos of the dogs and Mrs Chippy, the ship’s cat, and the occasional penguin would probably interest them.  Maybe some colouring sheets and pencils for younger kids would help amuse them while the older kids and mum and dad are browsing.  Or a dressing up corner to let them try on some replica clothes would be fun too.

The kids both enjoyed the exhibition particularly seeing the replica boat and clothing that the men would have worn.

One comment I would make is having a few clipboards for the kids to lean on for the quiz would be better than having to warn them not to lean on the glass (which always makes this mum nervous).

It’s good value too at €12 for a family ticket.

All in all, this is a good exhibition about an amazing event. I found myself almost emotional looking at some of the photos and understanding how it must have felt to wave goodbye to your leader as he set off in the James Caird to find help, not knowing if they would be rescued or not.

And imagine the scene when the rescue ship finally did come back with them and Shackleton turned to his colleague and said “They are all there”… shackleton-adI mentioned to my brother that we had been to seen the Exhibition and he shared the ad that Ernest Shackleton placed in the paper. Says it all really.

Have you been to see the Shackleton Endurance Exhibition? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls