Scientific Exploration: Shackleton’s Balaclava

Produced in collaboration with Silversea’s partner, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the exhibit “Relics of History'” delves deep into the annals of scientific exploration. It showcases the most fascinating artifacts from the Society’s expansive and unique collection, tracing 500 years of geographical discovery and research.

Travel to Antarctica has an otherworldly quality, from the famously rough waters of the Drake Passage to the staggering vastness of the White Continent. Silversea offers comfortable ways to experience an Antarctica voyage today — including the Antarctica Bridge option, which includes a flight over the Drake Passage. Even so, any trip to this part of the world will fill one with respect for the voyagers who braved the region in the early 20th century in pursuit of scientific exploration, armed only with dogged determination and comparatively basic vessels and gear.

One such piece of gear is the Burberry balaclava helmet once owned by Ernest Shackleton, the intrepid English explorer who made several expeditions to Antarctica, in a race to reach the South Pole and to further explore this rugged part of the world. In the video below, Eugene Rae — principal librarian with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) — shares some of Shackleton’s story, including the balaclava that became part of the Society’s collection.

Between expeditions, Shackleton had given his balaclava to a friend, theater producer Frank Thornton. (Fun fact: the balaclava was indeed made by iconic clothier Burberry, which back then specialized in outdoor gear.) Shackleton inscribed the balaclava as follows:

“To Frank Thornton:
I give this helmet though it is not of any use In his combat in ‘When Knights were bold’ it may be liked as it was worn ‘When Nights were Cold’ when the most Southerly point in this world was reached by man,

With kindest wishes
from E.H Shackleton 19/01/1907”

Ernest Shackleton's Endurance ship
The ship Endurance in full sail, in the ice, 1914 © Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Want to embark on your own adventure to the White Continent? Start by browsing Silversea’s expedition cruises to Antarctica, including the Antarctica Bridge option, and learn more about Shackleton’s voyage on the aptly-named ship Endurance.

About Eugene Rae

Eugene Rae, Principal Librarian at the RGS

Eugene Rae is the principal librarian of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). He has worked at the RGS-IBG for 20 years and is part of a team that looks after the two million items contained within the Society’s collections. He has a particular interest in the history of scientific exploration and the instruments used by such explorers.

About Silversea’s collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

Since 2013, Silversea and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) have joined forces to spread knowledge collated from centuries of scientific exploration. Through this partnership, the Society has enriched Silversea guests’ expeditions with over 500 years of travel and discovery.

Founded in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society is a world center for geography: supporting research, education, expeditions and travel. As a charity whose patron is Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, it serves an exceptionally wide range of the public with 16,500 global members. The Society has a historical legacy for supporting expeditions and innovation in scientific research and discovery.

This article has been produced in collaboration with Silversea’s Corporate Business Partner, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). Learn more about Silversea’s partnership with the Royal Geographic Society.