Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton (born 1874, Kilkea, Ireland, died 1922, South Georgia, Southern Atlantic) is one of history’s great explorers, a tenacious and charismatic personality who became a dominant figure in Antarctic discovery. His incredible adventures on four expeditions have captivated generations.
He was a restless adventurer from an Irish background with acclaimed leadership skills but he was also a flawed character whose chaotic private life, unfulfilled ambitions and failed business ventures, contrasted with his celebrity status as a leading explorer. Money problems often left his men unpaid and his family with debts.
Michael Smith’s biography draws on extensive research of original diaries, letters and many other publications. It brings a fresh perspective to the heroic age of Polar exploration which was dominated by Shackleton’s complex, compelling and enduringly fascinating story.
Michael Smith is the author of the best-selling book, An Unsung Hero – Tom Crean (The Collins Press, Cork 2000), whose work has been responsible for raising awareness in Ireland of the major contribution made by the Irish to the history of Antarctic and Arctic exploration. His books and frequent lectures on the history of Polar exploration have revealed a largely overlooked chapter in Irish history and brought widespread recognition to a series of forgotten Irish men including Tom Crean, Francis Crozier and Patrick Keohane.
Michael’s biography of Tom Crean was the N°1 best-selling non-fiction book in Ireland and was responsible for Crean’s story being incorporated into the Irish schools’ curriculum for the first time. The book was shortlisted for the Banff Mountain Book Festival 2002 and Tom Crean – An Illustrated Life (The Collins Press, Cork, 2006) was also shortlisted for the Irish-published Book of the Year 2007.
His most recent book is the first comprehensive biography of Sir Ernest Shackleton in a generation, which is entitled Shackleton – By Endurance We Conquer (The Collins Press, Cork, 2014).
His other works are Great Endeavour – Ireland’s Antarctic Explorers (The Collins Press, Cork, 2010); I Am Just Going Outside – Captain Oates (The Collins Press, Cork 2002); Polar Crusader – Sir James Wordie (Birlinn, Edinburgh, 2004); Captain Francis Crozier – Last Man Standing? (The Collins Press, Cork 2006).
Michael has also written two non-fiction books for younger readers: Iceman – Tom Crean (The Collins Press, Cork 2003); Shackleton – The Boss (The Collins Press, Cork, 2004). Iceman has been translated into an Irish language edition, Tom Crean – Fear San Oighear (The Collins Press, Cork, 2009).
He was formerly an award winning business and political journalist with leading British newspapers, including The Guardian and The Observer.
He lives in England but visits Ireland regularly to speak to schools and adults groups about Tom Crean, Ernest Shackleton, Francis Crozier and other Irish figures from the history of Polar exploration.
Michael has lectured extensively at venues which include the National Library of Ireland, National Museum of Ireland, Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace, Queen’s University Belfast, Royal Geographical Society, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge, University College Cork and to over 100 schools throughout Ireland. He spoke about Irish explorer Tom Crean at the Princess Grace Irish Library in November 2015.