Dundee Heritage Trust displays Shackleton Memorial Cross

Dundee Heritage Trust
Dundee Heritage Trust

Dundee Heritage Trust (DHT) has announced the forthcoming display of the Shackleton Memorial Cross, fondly referred to as ‘The Boss’ Memorial Cross. This significant initiative, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s birth, is a collaborative effort between DHT, the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI).

As a charity, DHT is appealing to visitors, Shackleton enthusiasts and Polar exploration fans in an effort to fundraise for the Cross’ care at Discovery Point so that may be shown to generations of young Polar explorers in the years to come, preserving not only Shackleton’s legacy, but that of the early age of Polar exploration. The Trust hope to fundraise £10,000.

The announcement comes as the 150th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s birth is celebrated across the globe, with events, conferences and celebrations planned throughout 2024.

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.

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.

SGHT approached DHT and proposed the Cross’s display and care at Discovery Point in Dundee alongside Shackleton’s first Antarctic ship, the RRS Discovery, so that the Cross be publicly displayed in an accessible place whilst being expertly cared for. It is hoped that the display of the Cross in Dundee will invite a wider audience to view this important piece of Antarctic heritage and pay its respects to a Polar explorer whose stories are revered the world over. The exhibition in Dundee also contributes to the GSGSSI’s aim that the public benefit from heritage objects on South Georgia and they be brought to a wider audience; not just those visiting South Georgia.

Laura Willis, Chief Executive of the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands said, “As custodians of our rich cultural and industrial heritage, the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands were delighted to work with the curatorial team from the South Georgia Heritage Trust to facilitate the loan of the Shackleton Cross to Dundee Heritage Trust. 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.”

DHT is the only independent charity in Scotland that cares for two nationally significant collections while operating two visitor attractions. The Trust is currently undertaking major conservation work on the RRS Discovery, supported by funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Despite this funding, it remains a critical time for the charity’s fundraising efforts to ensure the continued care of the RRS Discovery.

The Trust hopes to raise £10,000 to create a fitting display for the Cross, honouring one of history’s most revered Polar explorers and allowing enthusiasts worldwide to pay their respects. The announcement is accompanied by an appeal for donations from those who wish to pay homage to Sir Ernest Shackleton and become part of his legacy.

Donations can be made online and allow the chance to leave a message of respect to ‘The Boss’, just as his crew did in 1922.

Emma Halford-Forbes, Heritage & Exhibitions Director at Dundee Heritage Trust said, “We’re pleased to welcome the Hope Cross to Dundee this year and display it to a UK audience for the first time. Looking forwards, we have exciting plans for a capital redevelopment of Discovery Point, including a new permanent Polar exhibition, ‘Drawn to the Pole’. 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.”

Click here to find out more about Dundee Heritage Trust.