UK Bans Export of Final Shackleton Medal

Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of the most heavily decorated UK explorers of all time — but most of his hardware has vacated the island.

In fact, reports indicate only one of the intrepid polar adventurer’s medals remains in the country. And, at least for now, the British government plans to keep it that way.

shackleton portrait

Ernest Shackleton.


Shackleton’s Polar Medal includes clasps for each of his three major Antarctic expeditions from 1902-1917. The exploits included the famed survival story of the Endurance crew, which lost its ship to sea ice but amazingly, saved themselves with no casualties. In recent years, the epic escape has turned Shackleton into a model of corporate leadership.

Varying reports value the medal at around £1.7 million.

Officials fear that despite its vast symbolic value, it could land on the auction block and wind up in the hands of an international collector. British export authorities stepped in to prevent that outcome, “deferring” a decision on an export license for the medal until May 1, the BBC reported.

Representatives with the Shackleton Museum, located in the explorer’s hometown of Kildare, Ireland, have advocated for Irish state entities to invest in the memento and protect it in its “natural home” in the museum.

Previous auction demand for Shackleton’s medals has proven high. A clutch of awards fetched $580,000 at a Christie’s London event in 2015 — a figure that soared above expectations, auction officials said at the time.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.