Ernest Shackleton’s Polar Medal to leave UK unless buyer found there soon

‘Unique artefact’ awarded to Kildare-born explorer expected to sell for more than €2 million

The Polar Medal of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton will leave the UK unless a UK-based buyer is willing to pay about £1.76 million (€2.05 million).

An export bar has been placed on the silver badge, which the British government says is the last of Shackleton’s medals still in the UK.

The Irish explorer, born in Kilkea, Co Kildare in 1874, received the medal in recognition of his three polar expeditions in the 1900s.

The British arts and heritage minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay made the bar on the advice of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest, which found that its departure from the UK would be a misfortune due to the item’s historical significance.


The medal is valued at £1,760,000 (plus VAT of £44,000).

The Polar Medal, formerly named the Arctic Medal, is given to individuals for outstanding service to the field of polar research.

In 1907, Shackleton’s Nimrod expedition aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole – and although it was unsuccessful, it was the first expedition in history to travel within 161km (100 miles) of the South Pole and successfully ascend Mount Erebus.

Lord Parkinson said: “Over the course of three Antarctic expeditions, Sir Ernest Shackleton demonstrated his dedication to polar research, his extraordinary bravery, and a thirst for adventure unrivalled even by many of his contemporaries.

“The admiration and interest which Shackleton’s exploits inspired continues to this day, so it is right that this medal – a recognition of his immense contribution to polar exploration – should be saved for the nation so that it can continue to inspire the public for many years to come.”

Committee chairman Andrew Hochhauser said: “The Polar Medal was instituted in September 1904, at first to reward the participants in Captain Robert F Scott’s successful first expedition to the Antarctic region, and then to reward future expedition members and leaders.

“Besides Captain Scott, its other most distinguished recipient was Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton.

“This is the original, full-sized version of the medal awarded to Shackleton.

“This unique artefact is of outstanding significance as the most important and original of the UK medals to have been awarded to one of Britain’s greatest polar explorers.

“It should go to a UK public institution where it can remind visitors of Shackleton’s extraordinary achievements and inspire future generations of leaders.”

The decision on the badge’s export licence application, a government document that indicates an approval to export specific number of goods to specified countries, will be deferred for a period ending on May 1st, 2024.

At the end of the first deferral period owners will have a consideration period of 15 days to make offers to purchase the medal at the recommended price of £1,760,000.

This will be followed by a second deferral period if an option agreement is signed.