Shackleton’s cabin donated to Ireland after decades in Norway

A series of coincidences has seen the cabin moved from a remote region of Norway above the Arctic Circle, where it has been since 1922, to Ireland.
Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton became renowned for his voyages of endurance around the Antarctic.

Now the cabin he died in is making an epic journey of its own, to the place of his birth in Athy, County Kildare.

A series of coincidences has seen the cabin moved from a remote region of Norway above the Arctic Circle, where it has been since 1922, to Ireland.

It will form a permanent exhibition at the Athy Heritage Centre museum in 2016.

Charmed existence

In 2008, Eugene Furlong from County Cork was visiting the Nordland region of Norway when the topic of great explorers popped up in conversation. It was mentioned that the cabin Shackleton died in was nearby.

Eventually it led to Eugene contacting the owner of the cabin, Ulfe Bakke, who invited him to see it in 2014.

“It was like stepping into a different world,” said Eugene. “I went from 2014 back to 1922 and with the whole emotion of Shackleton, I was overwhelmed.”

The cabin was originally part of a ship named Quest which Shackleton used on his final voyage. He died of a heart attack on the island of South Georgia in the Southern Atlantic Ocean on 5 January 1922.

While Shackleton was buried on the island, the ship was bought by the Norwegian shipyard owner John Drage. It was repurposed as a sealing vessel but Drage kept the cabin and transported it to the Arctic Circle in Norway, where it remained until earlier this year.

Happy coincidences

“There have been a series of happy coincides connected with getting the cabin to Ireland which ties in with tales of Shackleton’s own life,” according to Kevin Kenny, a committee member of the Shackleton Society in Athy.

Shackleton facts

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland

In 1901, Shackleton was chosen to go on the Antarctic expedition led by British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott

In 1914, Shackleton made his third trip to the Antarctic with the ship, Endurance, planning to cross Antarctica via the South Pole

Early in 1915, Endurance became trapped in the ice, and 10 months later sank

Source: BBC History

“Ulfe Bakke who owns the cabin came to Kildare and was impressed by the community and voluntary spirit of the Shackleton Society.”

Mr Bakke, the great grandson of the John Drage who bought the ship in 1922, agreed to donate the cabin permanently to the Athy Heritage Centre.

Another happy coincidence presented itself when the chief executive of a shipping company turned out to have an avid interest in Shackleton and arranged to ship the cabin to Ireland.

It arrived in Dublin harbour on Saturday 26 September and once it has been cleared by customs it will be transported to Letterfrack in Galway where it will undergo minor restoration work. It is hoped it will go on permanent display in Athy at some stage next year.

Like the intrepid explorer who once spent time in it during his Antarctic expeditions, it has survived some perilous situations. It remained unscathed despite a heavy gun battle taking place around it during World War Two.

The fact that it is still standing today, almost a century after Shackleton died in it, is perhaps its greatest stroke of fortune.

Mr Furlong said: “If it went to a different shipyard it would’ve been made into matchsticks in 1923 but thankfully it went to the right shipyard.”

Thanks to the donation of its owner and work from Kildare County Council, the public will finally get the chance to see the cabin that has remained hidden from the world for almost a century.