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

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A memorial to polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton will travel more than 7,000 miles to Scotland to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his birth.

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

Shackleton was born in Kilkea, Ireland, in 1874. 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 nearby Grytviken whaling station by crew members unable to attend the funeral of their expedition leader, whom they called The Boss.

The memorial cairn and cross allowed them to pay their respects, placing a signed group photograph between the rocks.

The cross stood at Hope Point for nearly 100 years, before the decision was made in 2018 to remove it for preservation. It was replaced with a replica.

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.

Image:
The RRS Discovery in Dundee. Pic: PA

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).

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

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Laura Willis, chief executive of the islands’ government, said: “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.

“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.”

Emma Halford-Forbes, heritage and exhibitions director at DHT, said the trust has “exciting plans” for a capital redevelopment of Discovery Point, including a new permanent polar exhibition, Drawn to the Pole.

She added: “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.”

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