The Shackleton Committee, Athy has the pleasure of presenting the 23rd Annual Shackleton Autumn School



Updated 17/10/2023 Friday 20/10/23 – Sunday 22/10/23 Speakers and events. (Subject to change)
All weekend
Autumn School artist in residence Sarah Barnard Shackleton Autumn School 2023 Artist-in-Residence
High Latitude HiTech

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust Virtual Reality Experience

Lesley Johnston

Dr. Ruth Mullett

Immersive Antarctica (IA) brings together technology, storytelling, archival records and data collected from UKAHT bases to make Antarctica accessible in new ways. People will be able to experience bases – 9,000 miles away and 80 years ago!        Click for more information
Polar Market Various Arts and crafts, food, books – all with a Polar theme.
Exhibition Curated by Hugh Turner/ Shackleton Autumn School

 ‘Retraced – The Worst Journey in the World’ :  an exhibition comprising never before displayed items relating to Apsley Cherry Garrard. 2023 marks the 101st anniversary of the publication of the ‘The Worst Journey in the World’,  which recounts a journey that was a tumultuous ‘coming of age’ for its author and the heroic era of polar exploration.

For more information on ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, click here.

Exhibition Curated by the Shackleton Museum ShArtifacts : insights into Ernest Shackleton and his family, through items normally displayed in the Shackleton Museum. As the museum is closed for renovation, this is a unique opportunity to see these items from its collection.
Friday 20th October



Masterclasses – in conjunction with Athy schools and teachers

Mark Richards, Mike Robinson, Hugh Turner, Donald Lamont,

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust VR

  • (confined to school students)
  • Masterclass with a master sculptor
  • Masterclass with Mike (CEO, RSGS)
  • Primary School – ‘Pick up a penguin’
15:00 – 15:45 Medbh Gillard Art workshop with Athy Sing & Sign Group (confined event)
15:30 – 17:00 Polar Bites

Parallel sessions of informal debates on polar related topics. Chaired by your favourite polar experts. All welcome to join in.

Session 1 : The Shackleton Family [Jonathan Shackleton, Michael Rosove]

Session 2: “Was Shackleton lucky?” [Bob Headland, Kevin Kenny]

19:30 Event Formal opening of 23rd Shackleton Autumn School. 
Saturday 21st October
10:00 Doug Cochrane

Airborne in Antarctica

What are the challenges, thrills and spills of piloting a plane in Antarctica? With a career as a pilot in a wide range of settings including seven seasons with the British Antarctic Survey, Doug is well positioned to talk us through the ups and downs of taking to the Antarctic skies.
11:00 Synnøve Marie Kvam Strømsvag

Inspiring Explorers – how explorers have inspired others to break barriers small and large

Over 100 years ago a young boy wrote a letter to the King of England to asking to convince Shackleton to bring him on the upcoming Quest expedition. With this as the starting point, this talk will focus on what it is about explorers that inspires people to make changes, take initiative, grasp opportunities, and take chances. With personal reflections, stories and examples from several individuals, this talk will ‘explore’ what it is that explorers can bring to others, beyond scientific results. Synnøve will also will also give a sneak peak into methods for uncovering information about individuals long gone, and how more readily available archives and documents can shed light on personal lives of the past.
12:00 Michael Rosove Reflections Upon the Centenary of Hugh Robert Mill’s The Life of Sir Ernest Shackleton
14:30 Mike Robinson “Difficulties are just things to be overcome after all – Shackleton’s time in Scotland”
15:30 Hugh Turner Vindicating Cherry, my Curmudgeonly Uncle
16:30 IceBreakers Lots of interesting topics  in a ‘5 slides in 5 minutes’ format presented by energetic, enthusiastic speakers. The most informative, imaginative and entertaining contribution gets the Bob Burton memorial trophy.
20:00 Shackleton Autumn School Dinner
Sunday 22nd October
10:00 Caitlin Brandon The Shoemaker’s Child : Alexander Macklin and the shaping of Shackleton’s expedition narratives
11:00 Nick Cox The Development of Polar Clothing & Equipment
12:00 Mensun Bound

The Endurance: conception, construction, destruction and reconstruction.

Drawing on research conducted on ‘Endurance’ pre and post its rediscovery in March 2022 by the Endurance22 expedition, Mensun, who was director of exploration on that expedition and who has a track record of marine vessel investigations  will take us through the ship, its strengths, areas of vulnerability, and how conditions combined to take down what was reputed to be one of  the strongest  wooden ships ever built. Expect lots of exciting new information to surface.
Afternoon, 15:00 – 17:30

Various parallel events (times to be announced on the day). Some events are limited in number, first come basis.

  • Polar film : “Zero Kelvin”
  • Guided bus tour of Shackleton country
  • ‘We swam in the Griese…and came out dripping’ (surprise event – weather permitting)
  • Walking tour of Mediaeval Athy
  • How to use a compass – workshop
Evening, 19:30 Music / Drama

South, Always South

Originating from “Shackleton’s Endurance”, a work specially commissioned by the Shackleton Museum in 2014 to mark the centenary of the “Endurance Expedition”, see the epic story that unfolded recounted through narrative and music. A moving and emotional experience.


YouthInk performance poster
YouthINK is an organisation with strong connections to South County Kildare. It aims to to encourage writing, storytelling, and self-expression in teenagers. For the Shackleton Autumn School, YouthINK has remained close to its base in Kilkea Castle to dramatise a Shackleton related story – that of the 22 who remained behind on Elephant Island. The YouthINK performance ‘Shelter from the Storm’ will take place in the intimate surroundings of Kilkea Church on Sunday 22nd October, 17:00.
Medbh Gillard,  ‘Endurance Drawings’ exhibition, Athy Community Arts Centre.
21st October – 3rd November.
‘Endurance Drawings’ is a thought-provoking series depicting the individuals who were part of Shackleton’s trans-Antarctic expedition. The artist used archive photographs as reference material. Although some of the crew had their contributions publicly recognised, delivered lectures and published books about their experiences, others were killed during WWI or faded into relative obscurity. This collection represents a subtle act of repatriation and remembrance.

Speaker Biographies

Sarah Barnard
Sarah Barnard is an award winning visual artist specialising in art inspired by polar exploration, history, polar environments and scientific discovery, with a background in environmental science and ocean exploration.
Largely self taught, Sarah has worked full time as a professional artist since 2015, and has supplied artwork for organisations including The Explorers Club and the Mawson’s Huts Foundation.
As well as working to refine her artistic skill, Sarah has prioritised gaining practical knowledge and expertise: including taking part in polar expedition training in Norway, and was a resident artist on the Svalbard-based Arctic Circle expedition residency aboard the barquentine tallship Antigua in 2022.
Twitter: @SarahB_Polar
Mensun Bound
Mensun Bound is a maritime archaeologist born in Stanley, Falkland Islands. He is best known as director of exploration for two expeditions to the Weddell Sea which led to the rediscovery of the Endurance, in which Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men sailed for the Antarctic on the 1914–1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The ship sank after being crushed by the ice on 21 November 1915. It was rediscovered by the Endurance22 expedition on 5 March 2022, 100 years to the day after Shackleton was buried on South Georgia.
He is also known for directing the excavation of an Etruscan 6th-century BC shipwreck off Giglio Island, Italy,[ and the Hoi An Cargo which revolutionized the understanding of Ming-Vietnamese porcelain from Vietnam’s art-historical Golden Age.
In 2014–15, Bound led a search for the Imperial German East Asia Squadron, sunk during the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914. He eventually located the squadron’s flagship, SMS Scharnhorst, in April 2019.
Discovery Channel has called Bound “the Indiana Jones of the Deep”.
Caitlin Brandon
Caitlin Brandon is a California-based office manager who dedicates nearly all of her free time to researching, discussing and writing about polar exploration. One summer holiday, her friends put a copy of Alfred Lansing’s Endurance in her hands, and she hasn’t looked back since. Being part of a new generation of polar enthusiasts is her greatest joy in life. Currently, she co-writes a polar newsletter, Mushroom Harbour, and is heading a research project on the life of Dr. Alexander Macklin, surgeon on the Endurance and Quest expeditions, with the hopes of bringing more attention to one of the quieter but no less influential figures in Shackleton’s life as an explorer.
Newsletter –
Doug Cochrane
I’ve wanted to be a pilot since around the age of three. I’ve been very lucky to be able to realise that childhood dream over a 35-year career in aviation; first as a fighter pilot in the RAF, then an instructor. Then came the really interesting bit…. seven Seasons flying Twin Otter research aircraft on skis in Antarctica with British Antarctic Survey. After that, I spent 4 years working in Canada, testing Twin Otters for the company who built them, before coming home to a job with Loganair landing them on the beach at Barra, in the Western Isles of Scotland. A brief (but incredibly dull) couple of years flying commercial airliners led to me hang up my flying boots last year and I’m now back with BAS working as part of the project team to bring their new Antarctic airbridge aircraft into service.
Nick Cox
Nick Cox has worked in polar regions every year for the past 47 years. He joined the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in 1975 spending three winters and many summers on their bases and in the field. He was a boatman, carpenter, dog driver and spent months in the field guiding scientists while living in tents and travelling on skidoos. He was a base commander (both Arctic and Antarctic) for thirty-five years.
On return from the south Nick would head north spending summer seasons in Svalbard leading Cambridge Arctic Shelf Programme expeditions, he was also their boat skipper spending months at sea deploying geology field camps. During the winter of 1986 (the coldest winter on record in Svalbard) he led a sledging team of surveyors and mountaineers on the east coast of Spitsbergen (the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago).
In 1991 Nick was asked by the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) to establish a research station (now managed by BAS) at Ny-Ålesund in north-west Spitsbergen; he was also closely involved in the development of the international research community there.
Nick has been awarded two Polar Medals and an MBE. In 2021 an Antarctic mountain was named after him as part of the celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the first sighting of the continent. At the time of his retirement from BAS in 2022 the NERC Arctic research station at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard was named after him.
Nick has a wife and two children all of whom have spent time in polar regions.
Lesley Johnston
Lesley is the Narrative Designer for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) and a Research Associate for Anglia Ruskin University. In her role, Lesley is project managing and producing the Immersive Antarctica programme. This programme of work is creatively combining digital data collected from UKAHT’s Antarctic bases with stories and mixed-media content from the archives to make these disparate data sets accessible to new audiences through new digital engagement methodologies.
Donald Lamont
Donald Lamont is the Chairman of the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, organisers of the Endurance22 Expedition that located, filmed and surveyed Shackleton’s Endurance in March 2022.
Donald was in the British Diplomatic Service for 32 years. Highlights were to be in Berlin for the Fall of the Wall in 1989, followed by three years as Ambassador to Uruguay and then three years dealing with British-Irish Affairs in the FCO from 1994 to 1997. After a secondment in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Donald served as Governor of the Falkland Islands and Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (1999 to 2002).
Dr. Ruth Mullett
Ruth is the Head of Buildings and Conservation for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT). In her role, Ruth seeks to ensure that the buildings and artefacts in the care of UKAHT are conserved according to their unique heritage significance. She is responsible for the annual planning and delivery of conservation field seasons in Antarctica, and leads on other projects relating to UKAHT’s role as Statutory Advisor on Antarctic Heritage to the UK Government.
Mark Richards
Mark Richards is a sculptor specialising in fine figurative work. His technique draws on a tradition wherein sculptors receive comprehensive instruction in design, technique and execution and work mainly on commission. He was taught by A J Ayres who, in turn, had worked with Eric Gill.
His preference is to work with people and within supportive, creative environments with the often collaborative nature of working with both committees and individuals.
Mark’s works have a worldwide footprint; in Ireland – Nicky Rackard (Wexford), Big Tom (Monaghan), Roger Casement (Dun Laoghaire), ‘Squires’ Gannon (Kildare) and of course his landmark statue of Ernest Shackleton unveiled in Athy, 30th August 2016, the centenary of the rescue of the Endurance crew from Elephant Island.
Mike Robinson
Mike has been Chief Executive since 2008, overseeing the RSGS move to Perth and rejuvenating the charity’s purpose, positioning and profile – and that of geography and geographers in Scottish civic society too. Through this role – and over the course of the last 25 years – Mike has been instrumental in informing policy through joined-up, collaborative action, particularly in sustainability and climate change.
In 2006 he established Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), the largest coalition ever formed in Scotland, which was so instrumental in delivering the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, the Scottish Climate Justice Fund, and the 2019 Emissions Reduction Targets Act. He is an advisor to Government and trustee on several boards, mostly in the spheres of education, agriculture and transport, and is hosting a series of Climate Emergency Summits with more than 40 organisations to identify suitable responses to the emergency, and to inform government thinking. He is also leading development of a new qualification, Climate Solutions, for business leaders with the University of Stirling and University of Edinburgh Management Schools, and the Institute of Directors. Amongst others, Mike sits on the Board of Transform Scotland, is a member of the Arctic Strategy Forum and is Chair of Perth City Development Board (PCLF) aiming to make Perth the most sustainable small city in Europe.
Michael Rosove
Michael Rosove’s interest in Antarctic history and bibliography dates back to 1979 when Eliot Porter’s photographic work Antarctica sparked his lifelong fascination with the continent. Michael is perhaps best known among Antarcticans for his bibliography of the classical and heroic periods, Antarctica 1772-1922: Freestanding Publications through 1999. His other publications are those from Adélie Books including Rejoice My Heart, his history Let Heroes Speak: Antarctic Explorers, 1772-1922 published by the Naval Institute Press, and original research papers, articles, and book reviews published in Polar Record, Nimrod, and others. He has visited Antarctica and the far south on numerous occasions including as history lecturer on cruise ships. When not writing about the Antarctic, he is a hematologist and Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Synnøve Marie Kvam Strømsvag
Synnøve Marie Kvam Strømsvag is an archaeologist who has branched into multidisciplinary exploration. Through her consultancy company she works as a project coordinator on several exploration related projects, making collaboration between innovators and experts run smoothly. She is partner in UK based Frontier ESG Advisory. She is researcher on a shipwreck project out of Orkney, which started as a small family related project and has developed into a larger international project.
She holds a BA in Archaeology from University College London, and an MA in Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney, as well as security and negotiation related subjects from BI Norwegian Business School. She is the Chapter Chair for the Norway Chapter of The Explorers Club, and has held several positions in the organisation, including serving on the Board of Directors for two terms. Synnøve is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Synnøve is passionate about bringing together people with different skills and resources so they can create even greater impact by combining forces. She is a persistent researcher and takes any hard-to-find piece of information as a challenge to be solved.
Hugh Turner
I am blessed by a total lack of conventional ambition which has left me free to take up whatever way of life, or adventure, offers itself. So instead of pursuing a professional career I helped fly the first hot-air balloons to be seen in Thailand; managed and revived a failing waterway; and spent three glorious years as a Rural Auxiliary Postman cycling fourteen hilly miles a day on my heavy, red bike, among many, many other jobs including acting as Station Master on the Channel Isles’ only railway – but just for one day while the author of The Wombles took a break.
I have been adventuring since I could first ride a pedal car or trike, and although I have not yet reached Antarctica I have made four trips into the Arctic to trek and run in Lapland, the Lofotens and on Mageroya (where the photo was taken). Svalbard is my “Furthest North”.
Married to Caro for 52 years; four children and 9 grandchildren.