Standing on a niche on a red-bricked Victorian building on Kensington Gore is a curious statue of a man. The figure wears an open-faced balaclava and bundles of loose-fitting clothes. A pair of fur mittens hang around his neck, and fur-lined boots cover his feet.
At first glance, this unassuming figure may look like an eccentrically dressed homeless person, contrasting sharply with London’s more bombastic statues. However, the figure portrayed is none other than the famous polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, a key figure in what’s known as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.”
The Royal Geographical Society sponsored many of Shackleton’s most challenging expeditions, including his last and fateful expedition to Antarctica, where he died at the age of 47. So it makes sense that the society would honor Shackleton outside the building that houses its headquarters.
The creator of this sculpture was the renowned artist Charles Sargeant Jagger, who also produced many of London’s most impressive World War I monuments. The Shackleton statue was commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society roughly five years after the explorer died during his last Antarctic expedition in 1922.
Originally, Jagger had wanted to create an ornate base to the sculpture that depicted an epic scene of Shackleton’s sledding across an Antarctic landscape. However, the society rejected this idea, opting instead for a more minimalistic depiction.
Know Before You Go
The statue can be seen for free, as it is located on the exterior of the Royal Geographical Society building. It stands on a niche where it faces Exhibition Road, Kensington Gore.