The Hope Cross. Credit: Dundee Heritage Trust.
The Hope Cross. Credit: Dundee Heritage Trust.

Hope Cross erected in memory of Sir Ernest Shackleton to travel 7,000 miles to Dundee

A memorial in memory of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton will travel more than 7,000 miles from South Georgia to Dundee to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth. 

The wooden cross from Shackleton’s Hope Point memorial will soon be on display at Discovery Point where the Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery, which first carried the explorer to Antarctica in 1901, is kept.

Born in Kilkea, in 1874, Shackleton is best known for leading three British expeditions to the Antarctic.

He died in January 1922, aged 47, after suffering a heart attack on board his expedition ship, the Quest, in South Georgia, a UK overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

Crew members of the Shackleton-Rowett expedition erected a memorial at Hope Point, near to his final resting place in Grytviken Cemetery.

The Hope Cross was constructed at Grytviken whaling station, South Georgia, by crew members of the Quest as a monument to Sir Ernest Shackleton following his death in 1922.

The crew of Quest were unable to attend the funeral of their Expedition leader, having begun a journey south.

The building of the memorial cairn and Hope Cross allowed them to pay their respects and reflect, placing a signed group photograph between the rocks of the cairn.

Sir Ernest Shackleton. Credit: Dundee Heritage Trust

Crafted from wood salvaged from a nearby whaling station and set upon a stone cairn, the Cross stood on Hope Point for close to a century, before the decision was made in 2018, by the owners GSGSSI, to remove the Cross and replace it with a replica, to protect its poignant legacy.

The original cross – measuring almost three metres tall and weighing approximately 30kg – was loaded aboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough earlier this year to begin the 7,000-mile journey and is expected to arrive in Dundee in August, where a service will be held to commemorate its arrival at the home of the RRS Discovery.

The voyage is a collaboration between the Dundee Heritage Trust (DHT), the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI).

‘We’re pleased to welcome the Hope Cross to Dundee this year and display it to a UK audience for the first time,’ said Emma Halford-Forbes, Heritage & Exhibitions Director at Dundee Heritage Trust.

‘Our plan is to display the Hope Cross as part of this new gallery, to make it accessible to a wider audience and create a respectful and reflective opportunity to pause and remember not just Shackleton, but all past Antarctic explorers.’

The DHT is appealing to fundraise £10,000 for the care of the cross at Discovery Point.

‘This unique object embodies the spirit of exploration and endurance that has defined these islands since their discovery almost 300 years ago, through generations of whalers, adventurers, ecologists and conservationists that continue to push the frontiers of knowledge of the sub-polar regions to the present day,’ said Laura Willis, Chief Executive of Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

‘We hope that its display to a wider audience will inspire visitors, enthusiasts and future generations to contemplate and appreciate the enduring legacy of one of the world’s greatest explorers, as well as the indomitable strength of human spirit.’


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