The Shackleton shorthand notes have been deciphered

Back in 2017, Shorthand carried a story about the Royal Scottish Geographical Society seeking help to unlock the mystery of some shorthand thought to belong to Sir Ernest Shackleton. The notation was found in the society’s collections by its Writer in Residence, Jo Woolf.

The society told how the shorthand was found on “the CV of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was applying (successfully!) for the post of Secretary in 1903.

Shackleton-RSGS-CV-shorthand
Shackleton shorthand

In 1903, Shackleton had just returned from his first Antarctic expedition with Captain Robert Falcon Scott on board the Discovery and was seeking employment while planning his next venture.

His CV was beautifully prepared and printed, and contained testimonials from his most influential friends, among them Sir Clements Markham, secretary of the Royal Geographical Society in London who described him as “able, zealous, conscientious and energetic”.

Thanks to help from the Dundee Courier and its readers, the shorthand has now been deciphered.

It reads:

  • Member Very popular in geographical circles in London
  • Later completed long course training designed for navigation 
  • We probably all share his enthusiasm for next Antarctic visit 
  • Considerable experience as a journalist down south [Antarctic] 
  • Various relevant certificates

RSGS chief executive Mike Robinson told the Courier: “When we found Shackleton’s CV in the bottom of a box in our archive, we were very excited.

“It is a great insight to the man – showing his appreciation for careful presentation and good publicity, and the networks at his disposal.

“Getting the shorthand deciphered has been fascinating, and we are grateful to the various Courier readers who have come forward to help piece the mystery together.”


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