Archive Letter: ‘Three Sporty Girls’

In early 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton’s office posted an advertisement worded: Men wanted for hazardous journey. The overwhelming response was not limited to men, but the reply to Shackleton’s office to these ‘three sporty girls’ was one of regret.

  • Words: Pip Harrison

Having secured funding for his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Sir Ernest Shackleton set about rallying a team to crew his two ships, Endurance and Aurora, for a pincer movement attack on the Antarctic continent. In early 1914, so the story goes, Shackleton posted an advertisement worded: Men wanted for hazardous journey.

Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success. The overwhelming response from volunteers was not limited to men, but the reply from Shackleton’s office to these ‘three sporty girls’ was one of regret, writing that there were no vacancies for the opposite sex on the expedition.

Thanks to University of Cambridge, Scott Polar Research Institute

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